Category Archives: Grammar

Lesson 5 confusion

Some time ago, I received this message:

Love the program so far.

However, confused with Lesson 5 answers. 

The charts in teacher’s worksheet do not match students’ and we are confused by answers for:

#1 Why not ablative and vocative too?

#2 Why just nominative singular?

#5 Why not vocative plural?

#9 Why not also nominative/vocative plural?

#12 Why not also vocative sing/plural, ablative sing, accusative plural, nominative plural?

#14 Why not also vocative plural?

#16 nominative plural, vocative sing/plu, accusative plural?

Thank you!

After an embarrassingly long delay, here is my reply:

Confusing Latin Adjectives

I received this question:

Hello Mr. Thomas,

I have a very basic question. I think I’ve asked you this before but I can’t find the email. Somehow I have a mental block about this:

When you have a noun which you must decline why doesn’t the adjective describing the noun have the same ending?

For example:

1. una ovis nigra

Why isn’t it: unis ovis nigris

2. Oves albae

Why isn’t it: oves albes

What rule do the adjectives follow? I thought they were supposed to “agree.”

Here is my reply:

The problem is, you are using 1st, and 2nd declension adjectives to describe 3rd declension nouns.  This is pretty common.

For example unus is a 1st and 2nd declension adjective.  I can only have 1st, or 2nd declension endings.  Unus can have any of these endings:

But, unus can never have third declension endings.  None of these guys.  They are never getting back together.  Like ever. 

But, what if you want to describe one sheep?  You describe the third declension word, ovis, with a 1st declension adjective.  First declension because ovis is feminine…. una ovis nigra.  Since oves is plural, and feminine oves albae.

They do agree in gender, number, and case… but, once we add in 3rd declension, the endings no longer match.  Make sense?

Visual Latin 18 – Indirect objects?

I received this inquiry: In lesson 18a we have a question about one of the samples given. The topic is indirect objects (dative case). The following was the first sample: “My father gave the car to my brother.” From our understanding, “brother” in the previous sentence is the object of the preposition instead of an indirect object. If the sentence had been written, “My father gave my brother the car,” then “brother” would be an indirect object. The question we have is, does the grammar concerning indirect objects change when doing latin? Thank you for your time on this concern.

Here is my reply:


This is a common confusion.  This time, it’s English’s fault.  🙂

There are two ways to construct this sentence.  

We could say, “My father gave the car to my brother.”  We could also say, “My father gave my brother a car.”

In both cases, the brother gets the car.  In English, though, brother is an object of the preposition (first sentence) and an indirect object (second sentence).  

Latin is easier.  Either way, it is in the dative case.  This video may help:

Let me know if you need more help!


Struggling with verb tenses?

I received this question from one of my online students:

“I seem to be having difficulty with the proper usage of most of these verbals/verb equivalents. Do you have any suggestions?”


 Here is my reply:

I actually think you are doing quite well.    Your work is rather impressive.  

There comes a break point when you a learning Latin.  At that point, the only thing you can do to achieve fluency is read extensively.

 Listen to the foreigners in your own life.  Listen to them as they speak English.  Do they get every verb tense correct?  No, of course, they don’t.  

That’s where you are.  

Honestly, that’s where I am.  

You can read in Latin.  You understand most of what you read.  Of course, you have to look words up as you read, but that is nothing new.  You are reading the literature of an ancient people.  Get used to looking things up.  I still do after decades of learning Latin.  

The only people who are going to get on your case for using the wrong verb tense are academics.   Don’t let it get to you. Academics generally don’t live in the real world.  

My advice?   Keep reading.   If you haven’t read Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg, start there.  You will love it.

Latin imperatives

I received this question:

After working through the final test together yesterday, we had to look up some answers because we could not figure them out from what we learned.  On questions 8&9, you ask us to find the imperative of amo and venio.  I went to part B, the sentence part on the video, and watched how you formed the imperative.  Take the infinitive and drop the re.  I saw venire, so we got that one, but amare was not there so I had to look it up.  Was there something in the lesson that would have helped us with amare?  Thanks!

Here is my reply:

It’s pretty simple.  Just drop the “re” from amare as well.  This gives you the singular imperative, “Ama!”  It works this way for most verbs.  

There is one group of verbs that really does not play by the rules.  They are third conjugation verbs.  They are really annoying.  

If you are ever confused about a verb, go to this site:

Type in a verb (it works for many verbs, but it is not a comprehensive site), and scroll down.  You will find a section for imperatives.  I have entered the verb vocare (to call).  As you can see, if you remove the “re” from the infinitive, you will find the imperative, “voca.”


Present Singular







Once again, I am going to try to bring the word of the day back…

Adverb: In grammar, a word used to modify the sense of a verb, participle, adjective or, another adverb, and usually placed near it; as, he writes well.

An adverb will answer the following questions: How? When? Where? To what extent?

Many adverbs, in English, end with the suffix “-ly”.  But, not all adverbs end in “-ly”.  Very, and well, for example, are both adverbs.  If you want to read more, go here:

The word Adverb comes from the Latin preposition “ad” meaning, “to”, and from the Latin noun “verbum” which means, “word”. 

The word itself gives us a clue.  We usually place adverbs “to the word”, or next to the word it modifies.

Oh, C’mon.

I received this email:

Yesterday, a tutor talked to the parents about the importance of reviewing English grammar no matter what language they are studying.  

She told us that our kids can’t give the ‘logical’ grammar terms. For example, verbs don’t just show action.  There are helping verbs, transitive, intransitive.  Verbs have many different functions and without that knowledge these students will never get a foreign language.

These kids are intimated by her and I’m not sure how much I need to add of this to make sure she’s going to “get” Latin.

Can you speak into this, please?

Here is my whack at the hornet’s nest:

Complicated topic.  I need to blog about this.  I’ve actually thought of creating a grammar course (like Visual Latin) that explains English Grammar.  Maybe I will someday.  

The instructor is partially right.  Understanding English grammar certainly helps as you learn another language.  This is especially true with Henle Latin as Henle Latin is really an English grammar book posing as a Latin book.

On the other hand, I have several multilingual friends and many multilingual students who wouldn’t know a verb if it chased them through the streets and tackled them.  Meaning no disrespect… How in the world would her instructor explain that?   

And then there is this disastrous example.  I graduated from high school one month before my 20th birthday.  Embarrassing.  So, what happened?  I failed English three times.  Couldn’t identify verbs, nouns, adjectives, or adverbs under threat of torture.  I just didn’t get it.  My poor mother.  

Here’s the funny thing.  I spoke German.  Loved it.  Couldn’t wait to learn more. 

One month before I graduated from college, I discovered Latin.  As soon as college was over, I began teaching myself Latin.  No exaggeration, it was Latin that taught me grammar.  Latin taught me Latin grammar, obviously.  But, it also taught me English grammar.  Suddenly, English grammar started making sense.  

Sometimes you can’t appreciate your own town until you leave.  You have to visit other towns to appreciate your own.  It works the same with languages.  To understand English, I had to leave English for a while.  

English is easily my favorite language these days.  I love the words, the grammar, and all the nutty exceptions to every rule.  I once hated the language.  After all, it kept me in school longer than I wanted to stay.

I don’t agree with the teacher.  You don’t learn grammar in order to learn Latin.  You learn Latin, or other languages, in order to finally learn English grammar.