One of my online students (Henle 2) sent me some tough questions.

I have another question. On page 321 in Henle Latin 2 in Exercise 18, the instructions say to “identify these forms.” What exactly do they mean by that? And what is the difference between Exercise 18, when it says to identify and Exercise 19 when it says to distinguish? I’m having trouble figuring these out and I’m trying to work through the book on some other additional exercises.  The answer key isn’t very helpful as it just says to “see introduction 3.”

When I sent you that last email asking about Latin gender, I don’t think you quite understood my question.  I’m wondering… in a latin word such as homo, how you know when to add other letters in order to make the genitive hominis? Also, the word cohors… how do you tell which gender it is? By the ending of the entire word or the stem?

Thank you so much! 🙂

Here is my reply:

Mr. Henle, and most Latin teachers, like to break the sentences down into every tiny little piece.   I don’t mind doing that. And, sometimes, I even find it helpful.   But, that is not the point. We’re trying to learn a language here. In my class you can safely assume that I will only ever ask you to translate.  I will give you Latin sentences, and I would like for you to translate them into English.  And, that’s it. 

Mr. Henle, and most Latin teachers will ask you to break the sentence down into all of its parts.  They will then ask you to identify each part gramatically.   This is because most Latin classes are actually undercover English grammar classes.   I have looked at page 321 in Henle Latin 2.   Honestly, I have no idea what he’s talking about.   I would just translate those exercises.

 As for the gender of third declension nouns,  I find all the rules more confusing than the nouns themselves.   I don’t even worry about the gender of a noun when I first encounter it.   Of course, I will look at the gender and pay attention to the gender.  But, I know that it will be a while before I remember the gender of the noun without really thinking about it.   

In the meantime, I watch the adjectives around the noun.   For instance, you can tell that “tree” is feminine in Latin because the adjectives around the tree are always feminine.  Arbor alta.

And, there is another trick that I use.  I simply keep Whitaker’s Words open on my computer while I’m reading.   If I don’t know the gender of the word, I look it up.

 Unfortunately, with 3rd declension nouns, you can’t identify their gender by looking at the ending.

Have a great day!