Latin grammar

From Academic Kids

Latin has a very flexible word order, unlike English, because the language is highly inflected.

In Latin there is no indefinite or definite article- 'a' or 'the'. They can be replaced by other adjectivals such as ille (forms of ille gradually changed into simply le or la like what we have in the modern Romance languages today), haec, ea, id, is etc.




On the noun tables there are usually 5 (sometimes 6) cases:

  • Nominative: indicates the subject of the sentence, or a predicate nominative: Cornelia is a girl.
  • Vocative: case of direct address: Cornelia, go outside. This generally looks exactly like Nominative, except in second declension masculine nouns ending in "us" where the "us" is turned to an "e", and second declension masculine nouns ending in "ius", where the "ius" is turned into a long "i". E.g., "servus" becomes "serve", and "filius" becomes "fili". The only nouns with a distinct vocative case ending are those in the second declension and those third declension nouns borrowed from Ancient Greek (where the final syllable is often shortened).
  • Genitive: indicates possession (most of the time): The hair of Cornelia is long.

There are also the uses:

    • genitive of description: A man of great courage
    • partitive genitive: Many of my friends went to the city.
  • Dative: indicates an indirect object: He gave the cookie to the boy.

Other uses:

    • Dative of agent: Expresses agent when used with the future passive periphrastic, also known as the gerundive: The boy must do the work. (translated literally as "The work must be done by the boy")
    • Dative of Reference often used with Dative of Purpose (named collectively as the Double Dative): The general sent troops as aid (for the purpose of aid) for the general (with reference to the general).
    • Dative of Possession: Mihi pecunia est. I have money. Literally: "The money is to me."
  • Accusative: indicates a direct object: Cornelia killed Marcus. Also can be used with a preposition: We went into the bedroom.

The accusative may also indicate the extent of time or space.

  • Ablative: many uses, including conditions where English would use a preposition instead
    • the object of a preposition: He is inside the palace.
    • time: At the tenth hour he died.
    • means: He beat me with a stick. OR He yelled with a great voice.
    • agent of a passive verb: The cookie was thrown by Cornelia across the room.
  • Locative: used to describe the location of something. However, only a few nouns survived (such as domus).


Case General Usage Note
Nominative Subject  
Vocative Direct address Only sometimes shown as a case
Genitive Possessive  
Dative Indirect object  
Accusative Direct object  
Ablative Varied uses  


There are 5 declensions (Latin: declinatio). Most nouns in the 1st are feminine, most in the 2nd are masculine and neuter (usually distinguished by the m. -us and n. -um endings), 3rd can either be masculine, feminine, or neuter, 4th is either masculine or neuter, and 5th is usually feminine with a couple masculine. It is necessary to learn the gender of each noun for it is often impossible to discern the gender from the word itself. One must also memorize to which declension each noun belongs in order to be able to decline it.

First declension

singular plural
Nominative puella puellae
Genitive puellae puellārum
Dative puellae puellīs
Accusative puellam puellās
Ablative puellā puellīs

Note: The words dea, goddess, and filia, daughter, take the ending ābus instead of īs in the dative and ablative plural; otherwise they would look exactly the same as god and son.

Second declension

singular plural
Nominative amicus amicī
Genitive amicī amicōrum
Dative amicō amicīs
Accusative amicum amicōs
Ablative amicō amicīs

Second declension - neuter nouns

singular plural
Nominative verbum verba
Genitive verbī verbōrum
Dative verbō verbīs
Accusative verbum verba
Ablative verbō verbīs

Third declension

singular plural
Nominative rēx rēgēs
Genitive rēgis rēgum
Dative rēgī rēgibus
Accusative rēgem rēgēs
Ablative rēge rēgibus

Third declension - neuter nouns

singular plural
Nominative nōmen nōmina
Genitive nōminis nōminum
Dative nōmini nōminibus
Accusative nōmen nōmina
Ablative nōmine nōminibus

Fourth declension

singular plural
Nominative spīritus spīritūs
Genitive spīritūs spīrituum
Dative spīrit spīritibus
Accusative spīritum spīritūs
Ablative spīritū spīritibus

Fourth declension - neuter nouns

singular plural
Nominative cornu cornua
Genitive cornus cornuum
Dative cornu cornibus
Accusative cornu cornua
Ablative cornu cornibus

Fifth declension

singular plural
Nominative diēs diēs
Genitive dieī diērum
Dative dieī diēbus
Accusative diem diēs
Ablative diē diēbus


All adjectives must agree with the noun they describe in number, case and gender. All nouns are either feminine, masculine, or neuter. Genders are grammatical, and do not necessarily correspond to the sex of the object.

Adjectives are either 1/2nd declension or 3rd declension. In 1/2nd declensions, -a endings are treated as feminine and are declined like 1st declension nouns, and -us endings are treated as masculine, and -um endings are treated as neuter and both are declined like second declension nouns.

For example:

  • Cornelia bona (feminine) (good Cornelia)
  • Cornelius bonus (masculine) (good Cornelius)
  • bellum bonum (neuter) (good war)

In 3rd declension adjectives, for masculine and feminine, most of the time there are no changes which are needed to be made to match gender as both masculine and feminine decline the same (make note that in the ablative usually you use an -i instead of -e as most 3rd declension adjectives are -i stemmed.). Neuter has one important difference, as nominative and accusative in all declensions are the same (-um for 2nd etc.) and for plural nominative and accusative have -a (all neuters in all declensions do this as well).

Adjectives can also have comparative forms and superlative forms. Fortior is 'braver' (comparative). Fortissimus is 'bravest' (superlative). Basically, you drop the ending (-a, -us, -um) and place -ior to get the comparative ('braver') or add -issimus to make 'most brave'.

  • Cornelia est fortior quam Cornelio.

Cornelia is braver than Cornelius. (quam after a comparative is 'than', otherwise it usually is feminine singular relative pronoun).

  • Cornelia est fortissima. (Cornelia is the bravest.)


There are four conjugations in Latin. A verb either falls into one of these conjugations or is considered irregular. In Latin, a verb is defined by its person, number, tense, mood and voice. This gives rise to a large number of forms of each verb - 120, in fact. They are generally learnt in groups of 6, corresponding to a particular mood, tense, and voice. Each verb has two stems - a present stem and a perfect stem, to which various endings are added to make individual forms of verbs.

Uses of the tenses

There are six tenses (Latin: tempus) in Latin. They are:

  • Present, (Latin: praesens) indicates actions happening at the time of speaking: The slave carries the wine jar
  • Imperfect, (Latin: imperfectum) describes actions which were going on over a period of time: The crowd was cheering the gladiators
  • Future, (Latin: futurum primum) used for actions which have not yet taken place, but will do so at some point: He will write the letter tomorrow
  • Perfect, (Latin: perfectum) describes actions in the past which have finished: He has taught the boy
  • Pluperfect, (Latin: plusquamperfectum) describes actions further in the past: He had taught the boy - notice the difference, it's important
  • Future Perfect, (Latin: futurum secundum or exactum) used for actions which will be completed some time in the future: By tomorrow, he will have sent the letter

There are three moods (Latin: modus):

  • Indicative, (Latin: indicativus) which states indisputable facts: That slave is carrying a wine jar
  • Subjunctive, (Latin: coniunctivus) which is used for possibilities, intentions, necessities etc: It is necessary that the centurion defeat the barbarians.
  • Imperative, (Latin: imperativus) used for commands: "You, slave! Carry this wine jar!"

There are two voices (Latin: genus):

  • Active, (Latin: activum) where the verb is done by the subject: The slave carried the wine jar
  • Passive, (Latin: passivum) where the verb is done to the subject: The wine jar was carried by the slave

With this information, we can sort the verbs into their groups of six, starting with the first conjugation, portare, to carry, as follows:

Active voice


Present Singular Plural
1st Person porto portamus
2nd Person portas portatis
3rd Person portat portant

Imperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portabam portabamus
2nd Person portabas portabatis
3rd Person portabat portabant

Future Singular Plural
1st Person portabo portabimus
2nd Person portabis portabitis
3rd Person portabit portabunt

Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portavi portavimus
2nd Person portavisti portavistis
3rd Person portavit portaverunt

Pluperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portaveram portaveramus
2nd Person portaveras portaveratis
3rd Person portaverat portaverant

Future Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portavero portaverimus
2nd Person portaveris portaveritis
3rd Person portaverit portaverint


Present Singular Plural
1st Person portem portemus
2nd Person portes portetis
3rd Person portet portent

Imperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portarem portaremus
2nd Person portares portaretis
3rd Person portaret portarent

Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portaverim portaverimus
2nd Person portaveris portaveritis
3rd Person portaverit portaverint

Pluperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portavissem portavissemus
2nd Person portavisses portavissetis
3rd Person portavisset portavissent

Note that there is no Future or Future Perfect in the Subjunctive Mood.

Passive voice


Present Singular Plural
1st Person portor portamur
2nd Person portaris portamini
3rd Person portatur portantur

Imperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portabar portabamur
2nd Person portabaris portabamini
3rd Person portabatur portabantur

Future Singular Plural
1st Person portabor portabimur
2nd Person portaberis portabimini
3rd Person portabitur portabuntur

Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portatus sum portati sumus
2nd Person portatus es portati estis
3rd Person portatus est portati sunt

Pluperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portatus eram portati eramus
2nd Person portatus eras portati eratis
3rd Person portatus erat portati erant

Future Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portatus ero portati erimus
2nd Person portatus eris portati eritis
3rd Person portatus erit portati erunt


Present Singular Plural
1st Person porter portemur
2nd Person porteris portemini
3rd Person portetur portentur

Imperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portarer portaremur
2nd Person portareris portaremini
3rd Person portaretur portarentur

Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person portatus sim portati simus
2nd Person portatus sis portati sitis
3rd Person portatus sit portati sint

Pluperfect Singular Plural
1st Person portatus essem portati essemus
2nd Person portatus esses portati essetis
3rd Person portatus esset portati essent

Notice that the perfect, pluperfect and future perfect tenses passive are compound tenses, composed of the past participle and a form of esse, to be. Notice also that the participle is plural in the plural forms.

There are six additional forms of a verb, the six infinitives. These are used in the indirect statement, a very common construction in Latin. The infinitives are:

Active Passive
Present portare portari
Perfect portavisse portatus esse
Future portaturus esse portatum iri

Translation Active Passive
Present to carry to be carried
Perfect to have carried to have been carried
Future to be going to carry to be going to be carried

There are three other conjugations in Latin. Some guidelines on how to apply the rules for the first conjugation onto the others are given below.

First conjugation, portare, to carry

Present stem: port- (porte- in subjunctive)
Perfect stem: portav-
Past participle: portatus

Second conjugation, docere, to teach

Present stem: doce- (docea- in subjunctive)
Perfect stem: docu-
Past participle: doctus

Third conjugation, trahere, to drag

Present stem: trah- (traha- in subjunctive)
Perfect stem: trax-
Past participle: tractus

Fourth conjugation, audire, to hear

Present stem: audi- (audia- in subjunctive)
Perfect stem: audiv-
Past participle: auditus

The third and fourth conjugations form their Future tense differently from the first and second:

Future Singular Plural
1st Person traham trahemus
2nd Person trahes trahetis
3rd Person trahet trahent

audire follows the same pattern in the Future as trahere

de:Grammatik des Lateinischen ja:ラテン語の文法 la:Grammatica Latina


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