Latin For You

Teaching and translating ancient Latin since 1986

Essential Latin - an Introduction

Essential Latin is a non-grammatical way to learn how to become functionally literate in Latin.  The course is designed to learn Latin by reading 'genuine' Latin; either ancient Latin text or Latin tags and lines which are used in modern English.  The Latin we'll be reading will be known or recognizable.  That way, the grammar we learn will make sense quicker since we'll be seeing it being used in familiar territory.

The following is a sample of the Essential Latin course; the first chapter.

If you would like to learn more Latin via the "Essential Method" you can take the Introductory Latin Course through the Department of Continuing Studies at the University of British Columbia.  If you have any questions, you can ask the good folks at Continuing Studies through this link.

Essential Latin - Gradus Secundus - sum nominativus

This first step has two things to tell us: how the Romans knew which word in a sentence was the subject and how they said “I am”.  First the subject.

The subject in Latin is shown by a form of the noun called the ‘nominative’.  So all we need to know are the endings they used to let their readers know they were looking at (or hearing) a nominative/subject.

 

Declension

Singular

Plural

 

ending

example

ending

example

1

– a

ursa

–ae

ursae

2

– us

alumnus

– i

gemini

2

– um

magnum

– a

data

3

various

N

– es

artes

 

The 3rd declension is a fairly large group of nouns.  Unfortunately, there are too many singular endings to list (e.g., cancer, pax, leo, tempus, labor).  For the sake of simplicity, we will learn them by seeing them sitting beside the handful of endings that we are learning.

The verb ‘to be’ is actually quite simple, especially if you know basic French.  You might wonder why a text that is focusing on functional literacy is right off the start teaching such a specific thing.  Well the verb ‘to be’ is HUGELY important in all languages and it also irregular in all languages.  Think about the English – ‘I am’, ‘you are’, ‘he is’.  What other English verb does that?  For those of you who have even a bit of French, I am giving a trilingual chart.  If you don’t know any French, think of this as a bonus.

 

Latin

English

French

sum

I am

je suis

es

you are

tu es

est

he/she is

il/elle est

sumus

we are

nous sommes

estis

you are

vous êtes

sunt

they are

ils/ells sont

esse

to be

être

 

Nunc legamus Latinam!  (Now let’s read some Latin!)  All of the following are nominative nouns and adjectives with a few forms of the verb ‘esse’ thrown in for good measure.

 

Latin

English

acta non verba

 

addenda (usually paired with corrigenda)

 

agenda

 

alma mater

 

annus horribilis (QE II – 1992)

 

annus mirabilis (Dryden – 1666)

 

annus terribilis (1348)

 

aqua pura

 

ars longa vita brevis (Hippocrates)

 

alea iacta est (Julius Caesar)

 

ars poetica (Horace)

 

artes perditae

 

aurea mediocritas (Horace)

 

Augustus

 

aurora australis

 

aurora borealis

 

beatus

 

caeca amor est

 

caeca invidia est (Livy)

 

camera obscura

 

cancer

 

coitus interruptus

 

Concordia

 

Confoederatio Helvetica

 

consensus

 

cor unum, via una (Mt. Allison)

 

corrigenda (usually paired with addenda)

 

corruptissima re publica plurimae leges (Tac.)

 

dulce et utile (Horace)

 

dum vita est, spes est

 

dura mater

 

facta non verba

 

fons et origo

 

fortis et liber

 

hoc opus, hic labor est (Virgil)

 

id est

 

integritas (Nipissing)

 

Iulius Caesar

 

leo

 

libra

 

magna charta (King John 1215)

 

magnum opus

 

Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

 

mare nostrum

 

mea culpa

 

misercordia

 

Pater Noster

 

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus

 

O tempora! O mores! (Cicero)

 

pax Britannica

 

pax Romana

 

persona non grata

 

rara avis (Juvenal)

 

regina

 

rex

 

Sammus sum (Dr. Suess)

 

Sapientia Doctrina Stabilitas (Queen’s)

 

semper fidelis (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

semper paratus (Boy Scouts)

 

SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanus

 

sic vita est

 

tabula rasa

 

taurus

 

terra firma

 

terra incognita

 

terra nova

 

ursa maior / ursa minor

 

veritas (Harvard)

 

virgo

 

 

Final notes

Did you notice how much Latin you already knew?

You can probably add some Latin lines and tags that you know – feel free!

I’m sure you spotted several of those ‘various’ nominative singulars.  They weren’t hard to figure out, because you knew all of the nouns were nominative.  But you also often saw them standing beside other nominatives.