Latin is a language of stems and endings.
For the past three weeks, we have been working on two vital skills in Latin class: conjugating and declining. Conjugating means writing out a verb with all of its endings. Declining means writing out a noun with all of its endings. The two processes are very similar, because both verbs and nouns in Latin are made up of stems and endings. To conjugate, we find take a verb, find the verb stem, and add the appropriate verb endings. To decline, we find take a noun, find the noun stem, and add the appropriate noun endings. Both processes are very regular and logical, but like every new skill, it feels awkward at first! Rest assured that over time, your student will become proficient and comfortable with this skill.
We work on these skills extensively in class, and have been reviewing both conjugating and declining repeatedly in class. The students are developing familiarity with the skill, but will likely still need support with their homework. All of the information they need is contained in the Latin Primer, but it may be helpful to see pictures of the process in action.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial for both processes, to help you guide your student.
–>For homework this week third graders were asked to decline two feminine nouns, and conjugate two verbs. Fourth graders were asked to decline three feminine nouns, and three masculine nouns. <–
I. Declining: Using a feminine (first declension) noun.
Nouns in the first declension have feminine endings. The dictionary entry (vocabulary list) for these words lists two forms, the nominative form and the genitive form, which end in -a and -ae respectively. We will use the word femina, faminae (“woman”) for our example.
First, we will chose a word. All of the nouns on the vocabulary lists through chapter 4 are feminine in gender.
I will use “feminina, feminae”, which means “woman”. The listing for any Latin noun, in a dictionary or a vocabulary list, contains two forms: the nominative form and the genitive form. I write both forms on the top line of my declining sheet. I also write an “f” in the parentheses for “feminine”, the noun’s gender.
To find a noun stem, we need to chop the genitive ending off of the genitive form. The genitive ending for feminine, first declension nouns is “ae”.
So we chop the “ae” off of the second (genitive) form. We are left with the verb stem, which is “femin” for our example here.
We said that Latin is a language of stems and endings. So we write our stem ten times, to fill our declining frame.
Then we add our endings, because as we say in our grammar recitation every day in class, “to decline a noun is to list a noun with all its endings.“
So now we have a fully declined feminine Latin noun.
II. Declining: Using a masculine (second declension) noun.
The process for declining a masculine noun is identical, except that we add our second declension masculine endings.
First I choose my noun: I will use “filius, filii” which means “son”.
So I write out the nominative and genitive forms at the top of the declining frame, followed by an “m” in parentheses for masculine, the noun’s gender.
Next, I need to find my noun stem by chopping the genitive ending off of the genitive form. The genitive ending for second declension masculine words is “i”.
So I chop the “i” off of the genitive form and I am left with “fili”.
I write that ten times to fill my declining frame.
Latin is a language of stems and endings. I have my stem, I need my endings. This is a masculine, second declension noun, so I use my masculine, second declension endings.
I add those endings onto my stem.
And now I have a fully declined Latin masculine noun.
III. Conjugating: Using a first conjugation verb in the present tense.
In our recitation, we say “To conjugate a verb is to list a verb with all its endings.” We will find our verb stem and add our verb endings.
We begin conjugating by choosing a verb to conjugate. I will use “erro, errare”. Verbs are listed with four Latin forms, but we only focus on the first two Latin forms, and their meanings in English.
I write the first two Latin verb forms, and the first two English verb forms on the lines at the top of the Latin and English conjugation frames. The first form is the first person, singular (the “I” form, so the meaning is “I _____”), and the infinitive (which means “to _____”). So “erro, errare” means “I wander, to wander”.
“Latin is a language of stems and endings.”
So I need to find my verb stem, and add my present tense verb endings.
To find my verb stem I take the infinitive ending (“re”) off of the infinitive form, the second form listed. So I chop off the “re” and I am left with “erra” in my example verb.
I write that six times to fill in my conjugating frame.
Latin is a language of stems and endings. I have my verb stem, and now I need my verb endings. We memorize all of our verb and noun endings through a daily grammar recitation. The are also listed in our Latin Primer.
So now I add my verb endings. The only funny catch here is that the first person singular form is irregular: the “o” takes the place of the stem vowel (“a” here).
In class we say, “the ‘o’ eats the ‘a’ alive.”
The other endings get added on like normal.
We now have a fully conjugated Latin verb.
But on this drill sheet, I ask students to also conjugate the verb in English. To do this, we list our English pronouns (which we also recite daily in our grammar recitation). We use “h/s/i” as the abbreviation for our third person singular pronouns, “he/she/it”. We also use “y’all” for “you all”.
Next we add the English present tense form of the verb. Here, it is “wander”. Be sure to add an “s” for the third person singular, because English is odd like that.
Now we have a fully conjugated verb in Latin and English in the present tense!
The more the students work through these skills, the more proficient and confident they will become. I am here to support them in this, and I am grateful for your support of their Latin education too.