LATIN - The easy way
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(c) 1999 by C.J. Cherryh

Now that you know the ACTOR/ACTEE pattern, let's work on ACTION.

ACTIONS generally end in -t. It can be -at, -et, or -it, depending on 'class' [spelling group] of the word in question. Don't worry about WHEN a thing happened; let's assume everything we talk about happens now before our eyes. We'll not say "Brutus killed Caesar" but rather "Brutus is killing Caesar." "Caesar sees Brutus." The is or the ...s form is the simplest form: think of it as newspaper headlines...or the report from that frantic fellow running toward you down the street.....


<Marcus Brutus/Caesarem> <OCCID-it.> Marcus Brutus Caesarem occidit! Marcus Brutus kills/is-killing/murders Caesar!

<Femina/Marcum Brutum> <VID-et> A woman sees/spots Marcus Brutus.

<Marcus Brutus/Caesarem> <NEC-at>. Marcus Brutus slays/slaughters/messily-kills Caesar!

Three different ACTION words in three different spelling classes. There are OCCIDere types, VIDére types, AUDire types and NECare types. How to tell the ending to use, whether it's -it, -et, or -at? Well, you'll notice for one thing the endings don't sound much different. Romans regularly misspelled them. [If you mistake them, no one's going to notice if you're speaking. Writing, well, I don't expect you to do too much better than the Romans.]

But here's the way you tell: NECare type verbs use -at; OCCIDere and AUDíre types use -it, and VIDére types use -et. The dictionary always lists verbs with the -o form and with the -[*]re form, plus two others. Take the capitalized part of the word, put the correct ending on it, and [trumpet fanfare] you've got it.

A sample of how to do this?

occido...occidere [kill/murder] say: OK-kee-doh...ok-KEE-deh-reh [no mark on the e. I hate to break the news that the Romans didn't use those pesky marks, but they didn't. They did it all by ear. If there's no accent mark, the accent goes BEFORE the -ere ending. If there is one, it goes ON the -ére. The other two kinds, the íre and the áre types, are always long: it's only the 'e' that can be one or the other. The worst you'll do is have -it when you should have -et. If you have to pick fast, pick -it: why? There are more of that kind of verb!

So occido...occidere becomes: occidit. [kills, murders, does in, slays]

habeo...habére becomes habet. [has, owns]

amo...amare becomes amat. [likes, loves]

Got it?

video...vidére...[see, spot] say: WEE-day-oh...wee-DAY-reh [that accent mark drags the accent back to the é] Latin is pronounced a lot like Italian, by the way. [No surprise!] Which is why the -e- sound is -ay- , particularly to the American ear. But why is the -v- pronounced 'wa'? It always is.

neco...necáre [kill messily/slaughter] say: NAY-ko...nay-KAH-reh

Let's learn some more cheerful actions:

amo...amáre [love] AH-mo...ah...MAH...reh

capio...capere [catch/take/pick up/snatch/arrest/understand, as in gotcha!] KAP-ee-oh....KAP-ayr-reh

audio...audíre [hear, listen to, pay attention to] OW-dee-oh, ow-DEE-reh

teneo...tenére [get/understand/hold/have] TAYN-ay-oh...tayn-AY-reh

Review: Mechanics: To make the -it/-et/-at form: cut off the -ere/-are/-ire/-ére from the second form of each ACTION...and put on -et for the -ére types; -at for the áre types, -it for all the others. Do not double i's, a's or e's.

Correct answers? : occidit, videt, necat, amat, capit, audit, tenet. Kills, sees, slaughters, loves, takes, hears, has.

[tenére and habére mean very close to the same thing. Both mean 'have', but tenet besides meaning 'has' can mean 'hangs on to.' And habet can mean, in street slang, "he's kilt the guy!" As you know from English, where 'get down' has quite a few meanings, what happens to those words 'on the street' may be something quite different than you see in the average dictionary.

Mistakes? Figure out why the right answer is the right answer. Look closely at those accent marks.

<Marcus Brutus Caesarem> <audit.>

Caesar Marcum Brutum amat.

Femina Marcum Brutum capit.

Make up your own.

Want a few exclamations to enliven your language? Try:

Ecce! [AY-kay] Wow! or Look! or Yipes! Also: Lookoutforthatchariot! Pay attention!

and the more somber: eheu! [EH-hew] which can be translated as an expression ranging from oh, dear! to: s--t!


You've just learned every plain action in the language. If you want to, find Cassell's Latin Dictionary at your friendly newsstand, and you can handle any plain ACTION in that very thick book. When you look up an action, learn both forms. Say them to yourself aloud. This will be useful.

Caution: those of you taking Latin in school: my methods are decidedly unorthodox. If your teacher tells you differently, respect what your teacher is telling you and do things his way: he's giving you the grades! My way is simpler, and quite different, intended to get you speaking first, knowing grammar second. But I don't want to confuse you. We end up saying exactly the same words; only our routes [and rules!] are different.

And please don't repeat the bad words.

Next - Part 3


Above, I've given you the third person singular verb of all 4 'conjugations' or verb 'classes' and shown you how to derive the 'root' from the 'infinitive [-re form]...1st conjugation verbs are the -are's, and always use -at. 2nd conj. verbs are the -ére's and always use -et. 3rd conj. verbs are always -ere and use -it. 4thd conj. verbs are always -íre and also use -it.


[The standard method is to derive the 'stem!' from the infinitive, taking off only the -re, and adding -t, then for 3rd and 4th classes, making transformational changes] Why do I use this unorthodox method? Because when in future, imperfect, and other forms, the student can always use the same 'root', with infixes, without the additional changes and vowel shifts the 'stem' requires. For the student struggling with the early forms, I've found it easier to explain, easier to do, easier to memorize, because there's no change in the root.]