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Verb/past changes

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I've just stumbled on my first roman text to take place in the past and I'm having some trouble figuring out how the different verb endings work. So far I've found the endings:

 

-at (Grumio in culina dormiebat)

-it (Quintus atrium intravit)

-unt (Clemens et Felix villam intraverunt)

-ant (multi Pompeiani in taberna vinum bibebant)

 

I can't figure out whats deciding what ending to use. My first thought was that it would be like was, were etc in English but person related. The only pattern I've noticed is that -unt and -ant seems to be for more then one person.

 

Grammar really never were a strong subject of mine.

 

Thanks!

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-at (Grumio in culina dormiebat)

-it (Quintus atrium intravit)

-unt (Clemens et Felix villam intraverunt)

-ant (multi Pompeiani in taberna vinum bibebant)

 

There are a couple of things to remember about Latin (and, as a consequence, Romance) verb forms: there are different 'groups' (for Latin: -are, -ere, -ĕre, -ire), and within each 'group' you have 6 different subjects (singular and plural forms of 1st person (speaker, speaker +), 2nd person (hearer, hearer +), and 3rd person (other)). From here you have various conjugations that mix tense (time: past, present, future), aspect (how the time is described: punctual/perfect, durative/imperfect, etc.) and mood (under what conditions, if any, the utterance is placed: subjunctive, indicative, imperative). With all of this incorporated in the one word, the verb is highly descriptive and includes many aspects...which, for languages like English, are usually expressed with adverbs and adverbial clauses.

 

In the case of Latin, every subject has its own endings, and while they are similar across the various 'groups' (in order to have some sort of symmetry), there are subtle differences, particularly with the theme vowels (-are verbs have -a- as their theme vowel...it's throughout all of the endings for -are verbs). Furthermore, each combination of tense, aspect and mood have mostly unique endings (combinations of suffixes for both the tense/aspect/mood and the subject).

 

So...the verb forms you put above, are 2 examples of 3rd person singular (-it and -at) and 2 examples of 3rd person plural (-ant and -unt) of verbs. When you look at the syllable or two before these subject endings, you know what form you have:

 

dormiebat: 3rd person singular imperfect (past durative) indicative--'he/she/it used to sleep/was sleeping

intravit: 3rd person singular perfect (past punctual (I think...I tend to get this wrong)) indicative--'he/she/it entered'

intraverunt: 3rd person plural perfect (past punctual) indicative--'they entered'

bibebant: 3rd person plural imperfect (past durative) indicative--'they used to drink/they were drinking'

 

Another great resource for a quickie grammar of Latin: University of Texas' Linguistics Research Center] and their Latin Online site. They have not only their explanation, but also several links to other sources and resources.

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Wow sounds complicated :| Thanks both of you I will take a closer look at it as soon as I've got my computer back up and running (I'm at a friends computer). It decided that burning was fun two days ago -.-

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