Latin IS English!

May 16, 2009

The States of Being of the Latin “State of Being” Verb: “sum” (6 Tenses)

As with all languages, there are a handful of verbs that, not being “active” (transitive) toward a “direct object” in their meanings and usage, they therefore fall into a category of verbs commonly known as “state of being” verbs, also referred to as “linking” or “intransitive” verbs.  Also, in each of the languages I’ve studied (and surely in many more), the “to be” verb always falls into an “irregular” category of verb structures.  The Latin verb sum = I am . . . is no exception.  Not to worry though, because there are still patterns of “constants” that may be observed among the variables, making this irregular verb more manageable for memorization. So, let’s observe the chart of “The Six (6) tenses of the Latin Verb sum” (PDF also available from sidebar) followed by some comments (below)—

The Six Tenses of the Latin Verb sum

First, it is helpful to notice—via the aid of color—that all but one of the six tenses of sum utilize the same “personal endings” (with the frequent alternation of -o / -m in the 1st person singular).  The Latin “Perfect” tense is the only tense revealing a unique grouping of verb endings (i.e.— ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt). Meanwhile, it stays easy. The “Imperfect,” being a past time tense, conveniently throws us back into that former “era” (verb stem) when things were quite different.  Put the personal endings on, and it’s a done deal! Similarly with the “Future” tense, with a verb stem “eri,” which shows all through the conjugation except in the 1st person singular where, like Jonah inside the whale, the “i” gets swallowed up by the “o” ending.  It’s there (like Jonah); you just can’t see it (him)!

On to the “Perfect system,” which includes all three: the “Perfect,” the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect”—all noticeably formed off the third principal part of this verb . . . Let’s see . . . uh . . . that would be . . . uh . . . Oh, “phooey!” — I can never remember it!  Wait! That’s it! The third principal part isfuī (pronounced “foo-ee”).  So then, the stem used is simply:fu-.  As noted about, the “Perfect” adds to this stem the uniquely used endings: ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt, leaving you with two clues or “flags” to tell you what tense it is.  And finally, utilizing the same fu- stem, the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect” simply add on the “Imperfect” conjugation of sum: eram . . . and the “Future” conjugation of sum: ero . . . , respectively.

So, observe; use discernment; think logically; look for structural patterns and consistencies. If you do, the irregularities of this “irregular” verb will seem less ominous to you.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

July 26, 2008

“What You See is What You Get!” —OR— “A Satellite View of Latin Verbs”

Based on my prior study of and longevity teaching another “inflected” language (Koiné Greek) that has many close structural parallels with Latin, it has long been my belief that students of beginning Latin grammar seek a systematic way to study and retain the structural elements of the various grammatical components of the language. Over many years as a New Testament Greek language instructor, and in more recent years Latin, my observation has been that many students have tried, in a sense, to “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to memory systems or paradigms for these ancient verbs, nouns, participles and the like.  Thanks to one of my former language instructors, I can offer you what I think works for almost any language to help promote memory work of structures via paradigms—in this case, Latin Indicative Verb formations in the “active” and “passive” voices.

latin-indicative-verbs-chart1

Built upon a “numbering” system for verb endings, coupled with the “stem” (or “base” quality) of model verbs representative of all four Latin Indicative Mode (or Mood) verb conjugations, with the various tenses (other than the Present tense) governed by “tense signs” (e.g. “-ba-” for the Imperfect, or “-v-” for the Perfect, etc.), one can readily see the relationships, the constants and the variables that exist within the entire verbs formation paradigm, below.  Right-click on image to save to your desktop.

The above paradigm reflects the last screen of a multiple click-through PowerPoint presentation of all four Latin Verb Conjugations.  To download the PowerPoint, click here.  For a 7-page PDF of the same, click here or download either from the sidebar (opposite).

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

May 28, 2008

Wermuth’s “Famous Quotes & Memory Joggers”

Here is an initial listing of classroom teaching quotes or “memory joggers” that are helpful over the entire course of Latin language study. I will add to this list from time to time, and I will also post revised PDF versions of it on the sidebar (opposite).

  1. Always study vocabulary and grammatical structures first before translating exercises.
  2. Make your own vocabulary cards. Write the Latin word not only on the front of the card, but also on the back of the card just above the definition.  This will instill in you a “conditioned” remembrance between the Latin word and its English meaning.  You may also want to include the “conjugation” (if a verb) or the “declension” (if a noun) from which the word originates.
  3. Neuter Latin nouns always repeat their Nominative endings in the Accusative (singular and plural, respectively).
  4. The Latin declined ending “ī” shows up in two declensions (2nd and 3rd) and in three different cases:  Genitive singular (2nd declension masc. & neuter), Nominative plural (2nd declension masc.), and Dative singular (3rd declension, all genders).  Look at the declensions side by side and you’ll readily notice this.  (Of course, what declension the word originates in plus the sentence’s context will help the reader determine which case is occurring.)
  5. The main characteristic (irregularity) of  a 3rd Declension Latin noun is that its true stem does not appear within the vocabulary word (Nom. sing.) itself, but first reveals itself within the Genitive singular form.  (Example:  lex, legis . . .)
  6. When translating Latin sentences, identify and translate in the following order whenever possible: (1) Subject (Nominative case), then (2) Verb, and (3) Direct Object (Accusative case).
  7. “Stick to your cases!” (when translating Latin sentences)
  8. Q. When you can’t find a subject (Nominative) noun or an adjective functioning as the subject (Nominative “substantive”) of the sentence, where can you always still locate the subject of a Latin sentence?  A. Hanging off the end of the verbal form (i.e., the personal ending) as the subject of the verb and also of the entire sentence!
  9. Don’t be intimidated by grammatical terminology.  For example, “transitive” verbs (Lat. trans = across, over) are verbs that have “action” (i.e. they’re “moving” toward an object).  As a result, we have the “direct object,” which receives the action of these verbs of motion.  Or, as one of my students brilliantly (and simply) stated:  “The subject ‘verbs’ the object.”
  10. Remember, transitive Latin verbs most often are positioned at the end of the sentence (or individual clauses within the sentence).
  11. 1st Conjugation Latin verbs are also known as “a-stems.”  In the 1st person singular, the “a” of the stem is swallowed up by the personal ending “o” (kind of like Jonah inside the whale; he’s there . . . you just can’t see him!)
  12. 2nd Conjugation Latin verbs could very well be termed “e-stems.”
  13. 3rd Conjugation Latin verbs (e.g., mitto, mittis, mittit, mittimus, mittitis, mittunt) present a thematic “i” in their Present Indicative stems, except in the 1st person singular and 3rd person plural. In this respect, they could be called “i-stems.”
  14. The “tense sign” indicator for all conjugations of Imperfect tense Latin Indicative verbs is -ba-.
  15. The “tense sign” indicator for Future tense Latin 1st & 2nd Conjugation Indicative verbs is -bi-.
  16. The “tense sign” indicator for Future tense Latin 3rd & 4th Conjugation Indicative verbs is a thematic “e,”  except for the 1st person singular, where it is an “a.”
  17. Remember:  All  Latin Indicative mode verb tenses except one (the Perfect tense) utilize  the Latin verb endings:    -[or] -m ,  -s,  -t,  -mus,  -tis, -nt in their formation.   Meanwhile, the Perfect Active Indicative utilizes the following endings:  -i,  -isti,  -it,  -imus,  -istis,  -erunt.
  18. There is a significance to the Latin word order within a sentence.  Words at the beginning and end—Subject and Verb, respectively—obviously have prominence. For example, “Genitive” case words (showing possession or description), when moved in front of a word instead of their normal position following the word, signify greater emphasis.  So: “Deus, Pater hominum . . .” ( = “God, the Father of men . . . ”) would be even stronger written “Deus, hominum Pater . . .”

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

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