Latin IS English!

November 13, 2008

The Latin VERB & Its “Principal Parts”

When beginning to formally study Latin verbs, not simply for vocabulary purposes but also for their grammatical structures (i.e., Tense, Voice, Mode, Person and Number), it’s important to pay attention to, even memorize the various “principal parts” or appearances of the the verb. There are generally four principal parts of a given Latin verb. These four principal parts are the four basic structures of the verb from which all of its various forms are derived.

By way of example, let’s look at the four “principal parts” of a normal 1st conjugation Latin verb like laudo—


_____________________________________________________________________________________________

1st Prin. Part (Present Act.) 2nd Prin. Part (Infinitive) 3rd Prin. Part (Perfect Act.) 4th Prin. Part (Participle)

         laudo                  laudare                 laudavī          laudatus, –a, –um

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Since the first Latin tense studied is normally the Present tense (1st principal part, above), it’s important to know that this tense of the Latin verb actually derives its base or “stem” from the “Infinitive” form (2nd principal part) by removing the Infinitive’s ending (-re). So, 1st Conjugation Latin verbs are also known as “a-stems,” since the stem is lauda|… ending with an “a” (see above).

You might say, “But I don’t see the “a” on the end of the Present tense (1st principal part) of the verb!” True enough.  It’s actually hidden, superceded by the addition of the verb’s 1st person singular personal ending (“o“). Or, as I like to say, it’s been “swallowed up like Jonah inside the whale.” However, the “a-stem” immediately reappears as the verb proceeds through its conjugation:


laudo          =  I praise

laudas =  you praise

laudat =  he/she/it praises

——————————

laudamus    =  we praise

laudatis =  you (pl.) praise

laudant =  they praise        

 

While there are four (4) main conjugations of Latin verbs, with some “irregularities” or variations from the above paradigm that occur, this is the “model” or norm for how Latin verbs derive their various forms.

 

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2 Comments »

  1. Thank you sooo much, this is really helpful. I do well in class, but our teacher keeps jumping from subject to subject to quickly!

    Comment by Latin Student — March 3, 2009 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

    • You’re welcome. Glad it helps. Keep working and it will continue to open up to you.

      Comment by Robert Wermuth — March 3, 2009 @ 10:17 pm | Reply


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