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˜they were/might be™ ©ssent

About the Grammar

in Table 14. Forms of esse are often used in combination with a
perfect partciple as in Gallia divisa est ˜Gaul is divided™. The combi-
nation esse perfect participle is also used to express the passive
correspondents of the perfect active stem (see above, p. 201).

Amandi and Amanda

These are verb forms that contain -nd- followed by an ending, as in
the title Ars amandi ˜the art of loving™ and Cato™s famous words
Praet©rea c©nseo Cartháginem esse del©ndam ˜Moreover I am of
the opinion that Carthage should be destroyed™. These forms have
confusingly similar names; the ¬rst is called the gerund and is quite
close in function to the English -ing form in expressions like the art
of loving (not to be confused with the participial -ing as in a loving
child), while the second is called the gerundive and has no real
equivalent in English.
In many respects the gerund is very like an in¬nitive, and indeed
the two forms in English can sometimes be substituted for each other.
Compare Winning the battle will be hard and the virtually synony-
mous To win the battle will be hard. In Latin, by contrast, the two
forms are complementary in their occurrence.When the action of the
verb is subject we ¬nd the in¬nitive as in errare humanum est ˜to err
is human™. Unlike the in¬nitive, the gerund has a case ending, which
means that it can occur in contexts where a noun would normally be
required and where the in¬nitive would not be allowed. In the form
amandi this is the ¬nal -i, which indicates the genitive, and hence ars
amandi means ˜the art of loving™ just as ars amatoris means ˜the art
of the lover™, with the genitive of the noun amator ˜lover™.
Another example is docendo discimus ˜we learn by teaching™.
The form docendo is ablative and expresses the means by which
something is achieved, just as the ablative does in a sentence like
gladio interfectus est ˜he was killed by a sword™, where gladio ˜sword
(ablative)™ is the instrument of murder.

A natural history of Latin

Table 15. The gerund

Case Form Meaning

Genitive amandi ˜of loving™
Dative amando ˜to/for loving™
Accusative amandum ˜loving™ (used only after a preposition)
Ablative amando ˜with/by loving™

The gerund, then, is a verbal noun which is used in circumstances
where the meaning is verbal but where the form required is that of a
noun. In other words the gerund provides the case forms of the
in¬nitive. The forms themselves are those of a noun in the neuter
singular, except that there is no nominative since that function is
ful¬lled by the in¬nitive. The declension of the gerund of the verb
amare is set out in Table 15.
While the gerund is a noun, the gerundive is an adjective formed
from the verb stem just as the present and perfect participles are. Its
meaning is ˜which should be done™ or ˜which is worth doing™. The
form amandus for example means ˜who should be loved™ or ˜who is
worth loving™ or quite simply ˜lovable™. This form is masculine and
refers to a man. The corresponding form for a woman is amanda.
Both forms have been used as names in the past but only the femi-
nine version is still in common use today.
A simple sentence with a form in the gerundive is puella amanda
est ˜the girl should be loved™ or literally ˜the girl is (one) who should
be loved™. By the same token Cato™s favourite refrain in the Senate
Praet©rea c©nseo Cartháginem esse del©ndam may be literally
translated as ˜Moreover I am of the opinion that Carthage is (a place)
which should be destroyed™. These inelegant renderings show that it
is not always possible to translate word for word from one language
into another, especially when the grammatical constructions
required are quite divergent.
There are further complications with the gerundive which mean
that in other circumstances it too sometimes has to be translated as
if it were an in¬nitive. I think it is best to let anyone who wants to

About the Grammar

study Latin grammar more thoroughly discover these mysteries for
What is probably worth reminding ourselves of is that the gerun-
dive is in fact the only Latin word form for which English has no
equivalent at all. In all other circumstances the Latin form can be
represented quite well with one, two, three, or even on occasion more
English words according to speci¬c and quite simple rules. Although
the languages may at ¬rst seem very different from each other, there
is in most cases a direct match between them. It is only when there is
not, as with the gerundive, that translation becomes really dif¬cult.

How words are formed

Earlier we saw how Latin nouns, adjectives, and verbs can be divided
into a stem and an ending. Sometimes the stems cannot be further
broken down, as with puer ˜child™, but quite often the stem itself
consists of smaller parts, as with puer-il-is ˜childish™. The word
puerílis has been formed from puer by adding a suf¬x to the stem,
just as in English childish is formed from child and -ish. Both Latin
and English have many such ways of forming words from other
words. In the above instance, the suf¬x -il- is used to convert a noun
into an adjective. Other examples of its use are: civilis ˜civil™ from
civis ˜citizen™, virílis ˜virile™ from vir ˜man™, senílis ˜concerning, like
an old person™ from senex ˜old man™. In this example note how the
meaning is not necessarily pejorative, unlike English senile, and how
the noun™s special nominative ending, -ex, is removed before the
adjective is formed.
There is a huge variety of suf¬xes like this, and it is a good idea to
remember them since that diminishes the amount of work one has
to do to learn words. They are not just used to make adjectives out
of nouns but for many different combinations. For instance, the
suf¬x -tas works in the other direction,taking an adjective such as liber
˜free™ and turning it into the noun lib©rtas˜freedom™,genitive libertátis.

A natural history of Latin

Table 16. Nouns and adjectives referring to animals in Latin and English

Latin noun Latin adjective English noun English adjective

canis caninus dog canine
equus equinus horse equine
feles felinus cat feline
bos bovinus cow bovine
vulpes vulpinus fox vulpine

You can even make a noun out of an adjective that comes from a
noun, as in puerílitas ˜childishness™, where the English suf¬x -ness
ful¬ls the same function.
Many of these suf¬xes have come into English via Latin loans, so
that we have for example virile, puerile, infantile. Similarly, Latin
nouns in -tas often have counterparts in English in -ty (where the
English form of the suf¬x has been mediated by French): liberty,
quality, quantity, identity, and the like. It is interesting too to note
the way that English has often borrowed the derived word but not
the base on which that word is built.Although we have infant beside
infantile, we have not borrowed the other nouns that enter into the
pattern with -ilis. Another example of this kind concerns adjectives
relating to animals where the Latin suf¬x is -inus. Table 16 shows
the pattern. This pattern comes about because adjectives of this kind
are characteristic of learned, scienti¬c language, where Latin bor-
rowings were, as we have seen, common, while there were already
perfectly good words for the animals themselves so the nouns did
not need to be borrowed.
To provide a full treatment of word formation would require a
book of its own, but before leaving the topic it is important to under-
score one big difference between word formation and in¬‚ection. The
in¬‚ection of words is in principle predictable: when you know which
pattern of in¬‚ection to apply for a given word, you know all the
forms of the words. But word formation is not regular in this sense.
A given suf¬x is generally used in the same way in all the words in

About the Grammar

which it is used, but you cannot know in advance if a particular suf¬x
can be used with a particular stem. That is true both of Latin and of
English. For example, ˜man™ is vir and ˜woman™ is mulier. The adject-
ive meaning ˜relating to man™ is virílis but the adjective which means
˜relating to woman™ is muli©bris, which is formed with a completely
different suf¬x. In English we have gentlemanly but ladylike with
two different suf¬xes and in boyish and girlish we have a different
suf¬x again. For these reasons, it is good to know what the most com-
mon ways of building words in Latin are, but it is not a good idea to
try and form new words by simply extending the patterns.
So far we have only used examples with nouns and adjectives, but
in fact verb stems are the ones most commonly deployed in the for-
mation of new words. Latin verbs can very often be discerned in
words in English and other modern European languages. The stem
of the verb video ˜see™ is contained in provide, where the original
Latin meaning was ˜look ahead™ hence ˜make arrangements™ or ˜pro-
vide for™ and thus ˜supply™, this last being the most common mean-
ing in modern English. The same stem combined with a different
pre¬x is found in evident, which comes from the present participle of
a verb meaning ˜seem, appear™. The verb mitto ˜send™ is at the heart
of a number of modern English verbs such as remit, omit, transmit,
submit, commit, and permit, and similar pre¬xes occur with the
stem of the verb capio ˜take™ in receive, conceive, perceive, and
deceive. In this last example, the fact that the stem -ceive is so altered
with respect to its Latin ancestor is due to the fact that this set of
verbs came into English via French.
The meaning of a verb with a pre¬x can sometimes be radically
different from the meaning of the original simple verb both in Latin
and in English. If we take the -mit set as an example, we can see
different degrees of transparency in the ways the parts combine
together. Given that -mit means ˜send™ and trans means ˜across™, it is
natural that transmit should mean what it does. In the case of submit
the pre¬x sub means ˜under™, and submit means to give in or to fall
under a greater force or authority. Similarly, if you submit an essay
or an application, you are giving it to someone who for the purposes

A natural history of Latin

of assessment is higher than you on some scale of authority. With
permit it is perhaps less obvious, but this originally meant ˜to send,
let through™, a sense which survives most directly in expressions like
work permit and residence permit. From this it is a short step to the
meaning ˜allow™. There are many more examples in English with
stems like -pose ˜put™, -fer ˜carry™, and -mote ˜move™. With the aid
of a good dictionary you should be able to puzzle out the way the
modern meanings have arisen.
The items that do all the work in the above examples are the pre¬xes
trans-, sub-, per-, pro-, con-, etc. All of these also exist as independent
prepositions in Latin, and in this respect the formations here are sim-
ilar to the combinations you ¬nd in English with a verb and a particle,
as in give in/out/up/over/etc or take in/out/away/over,etc. Once
again the meanings are sometimes fairly self-evident”a take-away
meal is one that goes away from the place where it was made”and in
other instances pretty obscure. How does take in come to mean
˜deceive™, for example? In other instances in English, too, verb and
preposition have become fused, often with a meaning that is no longer
transparent, e.g. understand, withstand, outdo, forgo, undergo.
From these scattered examples, you can see that new words can be
formed from Latin verb stems in several different ways, and in order
to understand the connection you will often need to look at the dif-
ferent parts of the verb as given in the word list. In particular, words
derived from verbs are often built on the third form in the list, the
past participle. From visus ˜seen™ we have visio ˜sight™, whose accusa-
tive form visiónem ultimately gives English vision, and visíbilis,
borrowed into English as visible. A compound built on this same
stem is revísio, revisiónis, from which we have acquired revision.
English has then created a verb out of this, namely revise.
Words of this latter kind are particularly common among
the loanwords in modern European languages. English has many
hundreds of words in -ion and pretty well all of them are formed
from the past participle stem of a Latin verb. A few examples are:
information, tradition, organization, illustration and mission. The
different shapes of the stem in question can be found by consulting

About the Grammar

the entries for informo, trado, organizo, illustro, and mitto in the
word list.
There are many other ways of building words. For instance, it is
obviously possible to make verbs from nouns. A case in point is the
Latin verb ¬nire ˜end™, which is formed from the noun ¬nis ˜end™ just
as the English verb to end comes from the English noun end.

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Part IV
Basic Vocabulary
Lists of words, phrases and quotations
The following wordlist includes all the Latin words that occur in this book.
Where a word receives particular discussion or explanation in the text, its
entry is followed by a reference to the relevant page(s). The list also gives
some basic Latin vocabulary. In choosing the words for inclusion here I
have given priority to those which have left frequent traces in modern


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