Connect with us

How to master English by learning Latin.

How to master English by learning Latin.


How to master English by learning Latin.

As emphasized in an earlier exposition, English language grammatical structure is heavily influenced by Latin sentence pattern. The agreement of the number in nouns with the accompanying verbs in English language can fully be appreciated when the discipline required in the sentence construction of a simple Latin text is stressed. However, in English language, we are saved the complexities of case, gender, mood, among others on which Latin sentences are built. At the same time, the carefulness needed while constructing a Latin sentence enables one to listen to his speech when delivering a lecture or discussing with friends in order to ensure that correct English sentence is made.



Latin language evolved like other languages over time. There are five types of Latin: – Old Latin, Classical Latin, Late Latin, Vulgar Latin and Ecclesiastical Latin according to the order of evolution. For our purpose, Contemporary Latin otherwise known as Modern Latin will be used which subsists till this day. As a relic of the great importance of Contemporary or New Latin as the formerly dominant international lingua franca down to the 19th century in a great number of fields, Latin is still present in words and phrases used in many languages around the world, and some minor communities use Latin in their speech.


When students’ performances in both internal and external examinations are compared, those that did Latin excelled in all subjects including English language. This didn’t happen by accident. It is because the demand in meticulousness while learning Latin inculcates in individuals the need to be extremely careful in the choice of words and germane tenses when putting forward ideas. In the same vein, all fields of human endeavors that require accuracy and exactness involving discipline are best carried out by Latin students. This may explain the reason for the grammatical error laden sentences even among native English speakers who didn’t learn Latin frequently noticed in recent times. The speakers of English as a second language are not spared these mistakes.

In elocutions, individuals that passed through seminaries owned by Roman Catholic Churches that studied Latin all over the world are very efficient in their English speeches and various careers of life. Many English vocabularies that appear difficult to understand are at the command of those knowledgeable in Latin. For example, agricola in Latin meaning farmer and hortus meaning garden are the origins of English words agriculture and horticulture. Furthermore, Latin word villa meaning country house is commonly used in English.


In moving forward when learning Latin, a synthetic approach will be adopted as opposed to the conventional analytical method. This is because we are living in a digital jet age where things move so fast. Students tend to be fast in assimilating otherwise complex issues. In my days as a Latin student, it took many years to learn the declensions of nouns, adjectives and adverbs before delving into conjugations of verbs. Later we began to learn the construction of sentences. But for our purpose, we will discuss declensions alongside conjugations. This approach will help students know how to make correct sentences and understand easily the Latin used during the Holy Mass celebrations.


A Declension is a way of categorizing nouns, pronouns or adjectives according to the inflections they receive in the course of building up a sentence. Inflection itself is a change in the form of a word that reflects a change in its grammatical function. When you decline a noun, a pronoun or an adjective in Latin, it has different forms according to whether it is the subject or the object of a verb, whether it is in singular or plural. When you decline a noun, these forms are reflected in inflected manners for case and number.
There are six cases of nouns, pronouns and adjectives which are Nominative case, Vocative case, Accusative case, Genitive case, Dative case and Ablative case.


Illustration 1

[table id=2 /]

Mensa is in the first declension of Latin words and it is feminine in gender. All Latin words that end in ‘a’ are in the 1st declension. When a word is stated in Latin, its nominative and genitive cases are written alongside each other. Most of the words in the 1st declension are feminine in gender, e.g. via, viae f [road], aqua, aquae f. [water]. There is a small class of masculine exceptions generally referring to occupations, e.g. papa, papae m. [pope], poeta, poetae m. [poet], agricola, agricolae m. [farmer], pirata, piratae m. [pirate], and nauta, nautae m. [sailor]. The nominative singular form consists of the stem and the ending –a, and the genitive ending singular form is the stem plus –ae. It can be seen therefore that most English words derive from Latin.

There are 5 declension forms in Latin; 1st declension, 2nd declension, 3rd declension. 4th declension and 5th declension. Two English sentences will be used in illustrating the agreement of nouns with the verbs in a good language construction; e.g.

[1] the boy puts the red book on the table. If one is required to parse the sentence, it goes like this: –

a. The boy- singular noun, nominative case, subject of the verb
b. puts- singular, transitive verb, present tense, 3rd person singular
c. red- adjective, accusative case
d. book- singular noun, accusative case, object of the verb puts
e. on the table – accusative case

[2] The boys put the red books on the table: The parsing is the same but only that the subject, the verb and the object are in plural forms. Therefore, the agreement of the subject with the verb is very important both in Latin and English.

As indicated earlier, mensa is one of many other nouns in the first declension. There are 5 declensions of nouns in Latin and every noun is either masculine [male], feminine [female] or neuter [neither masculine nor feminine].


To conjugate a verb means to give its different forms as they vary according to number, person, tense etc. In other words, it means to inflect a verb for each person, in order, for one or more tenses. Inflect means to vary the form of a word to express tense, gender, number, mood etc. Gender means masculine [male], feminine [female], or neuter [neither male nor female]. In Latin, every word belongs to any of these genders. Number means whether it is singular [one] or plural [many] word.

Mood means one of the categories of verb use that expresses facts [Indicative], order [Imperative], questions [Interrogative], wishes [Subjunctive], and conditions [terms]. Indicative mood means stating a fact e.g. their failure to act is indicative of their lack of interest i.e. their failure to act shows their lack of interest. Imperative mood expresses order or command e.g. Go away! , Come here! , It is imperative that you must go to school early! Subjunctive mood indicates wishes, possibilities or uncertainties. E.g. I wish I were taller. ‘Were’ is a subjunctive. All these moods have ways of expressing them in Latin.

There are four conjugations in Latin according to whether their active present infinitive has the ending as –are, -ere, -ere, or –ire. There are four ‘’principal parts’’ of Latin verbs. These are:
1, 1st person singular active voice of the present indicative

  1. Active voice present infinitive
    3.1st person singular active voice of perfect indicative
  2. Supine or passive

Illustration 2 Regular Verb

[table id=3 /]

Thus 1st conjugation verb’s principal parts such as amo has the pattern; amo, amare, amavi, amatum. 2nd conjugation verb like video goes thus video, videre, vidi, visum. 3rd conjugation verb rego follows this pattern rego, regere, rexi, rectum. 4th conjugation verb like audio goes thus audio, audire, audivi, auditum.


There are six groups of persons:

1st Person singular I

2nd Person singular you

3rd Person singular he, she, it

1st Person plural we

2nd Person plural you

3rd Person plural they.


1st Conjugation of Amo in Present tense

  • 1st Person singular amo I love
  • 2nd Person singular amas you love
  • 3rd Person singular amat he, she, it loves
  • 1st Person plural amamus we love
  • 2nd Person plural amatis you love
  • 3rd Person plural amant they love

Singular Person goes with singular verb while plural persons go with plural verbs. There are many tenses in both Latin and English such as present tense, present continuous tense, past tense, past continuous tense, future tense, present perfect tense, past perfect tense, gerundive, present participle tense, past participle tense etc.

I have endeavored to put out the outline of the topics to be discussed. As we progress, clauses and other relevant grammatical cases will be dissected.
Lesson 1 will center on Declensions in details. See you in the premier lesson.

CREDIT : This article is composed

E S Ofomah writes from St. David’s Catholic Parish, Azigbo. Reactions are welcome and should be channelled through the above address or via mobile phone number 08101327059.

About Author

My name is Ofomah Stephen. I'm a Catholic writer. I publish articles based on Catholic teachings and doctrines which will help you to understand and know more about the Catholic practices, history, doctrines and teaching.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

More in Education

To Top