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Latin Grammar I, Lesson 35. Of the Verb

In this lesson, we begin the study of Verbs, which will continue through lesson 82. Here, we will learn what a verb is and what different classes of verbs there are. To complete this lesson, complete the following tasks:

  1. Read the lesson once as a survey.
  2. Study the lesson for mastery.
  3. Memorize the lesson rules.
  4. Complete the lesson assessment.


I. Verbum est pars orationis, quae modos et tempora habet neque in casus declinatur.

Translation: A Verb is a part of speech, which moods and tenses has and not into cases is declined.

Here we have the definition of a verb, which is to be memorized. Note the three characteristics of a verb: it has moods, or different ways of expressing ideas; it has tenses, that is, it expresses time; and, it is not declined into cases as nouns, pronouns and participles are.

II. Verbum duplex est: personale et impersonale.

Translation: A Verb is twofold: personal and impersonal.

There are two kinds of verbs, or two species into which verbs may be divided: Personal and Impersonal. This has to do with the “persons” identified as the agents or recipients of the action of the verbs, as we’ll see below.

III. Personale est, quod omnes personas utriusque numeri habet, ut: amo, amas, amat. Plur. amamus, amatis, amant.

Translation: A Personal (Verb) is, that which all persons and of each number has, as: amo (I love), amas (you love), amat (he/she/it loves). In the plural, amamus (we love), amatis (you all love), amant (they love).

A “personal” verb is not one which merely expresses different persons, but which expresses all persons in both the singular and plural numbers. We will study all of the forms of verbs in future lessons, but it’s important at this point to see how the endings of the verbs given in the rule here show the person and number of each form. For every verb form, we will seek to identify the person and number, based on the verb’s form. Again, we’ll study this in detail in future lessons.

IV. Impersonale est, quod prima et secunda persona utriusque numeri et tertia multitudinis fere privatur, unde et nomen traxit. ld duplex est, alterum activae vocis, ut: pudet, poenitet; alterum passivae, ut: pugnatur, curritur.

Translation: An Impersonal (Verb) is, that which in the first and second person of each number and in the third person of the plural generally is deprived, whence also (its) name it has drawn.It is twofold, one of the active voice, as: pudet (it shames), poenitet (it displeases); the other of the passive (voice), as: pugnatur (it is disputed), curritur (it is run).

An “impersonal” verb is not one that has no persons, but which does not express all of the persons of personal verbs. They are normally used only with the third person singular pronoun “it” as the subject.

Pay attention for these different species of verbs in your Latin Reading studies.

V. Verbum personale dividitur in quinque genera: activum, passivum, neutrum, commune, deponens.

Translation: A personal verb is divided into five classes: Active, Passive, Neuter, Common, Deponent.

Having divided Verbs into two classes (Personal and Impersonal), we now divide Personal verb into its species, or kinds. We read that the Personal verb is divided into five classes: Active, Passive, Neuter, Common and Deponent. These will be described with examples below.

VI. Activum est quod litera O finitum passivum fit addita litera R, ut: amo, amor.

Translation: The Active (Verb) is that which with the letter -O is ended, the passive is made by the added letter -R, as: amo (I love), amor (I am loved).

Here we learn that a verb which ends in -O (in the present tense of the indicative mood) and is made into a Passive verb by adding an -R to the final -O is an “Active verb”. The example is the verb amo (I love), which you see ends in -O and is made into a Passive verb amor (I am loved) by adding an -R. If a verb ends in -O but does not produce a Passive verb when -R is added, then it is not an Active verb but a Neuter verb, as we will study below.

VII. Passivum est, quod syllaba OR finitum activum fit R litera abjecta, ut: amor, amo.

Translation: The Passive (Verb) is, that which with the syllable -OR ended the Active is made by the letter -R taken away, as: amor (I am loved), amo (I love).

Note that the description here for the Passive verb is the reverse of the Active verb description above. Any verb that ends in -OR (in the indicative, present) and can be made to be an Active verb by dropping the final -R, is called a “Passive verb”. Note that ending in -R does not make a verb to be Passive, as we will see below with Common and Deponent verbs.

VIII. Neutrum est, quod -M vel -O literis finitum ex se passivum personale non gignit, ut: sum, sto, servio; neque enim dicitur stor aut servior. Sunt et quae in -I desinunt, ut: odi, novi, coepi, memini; quaeque in praeterito passivam habent vocem, ut: gaudeo, audeo, fido, fio.

Translation: The Neuter (Verb) is that which (with) the letters -M or -O ended, out of itself the passive personal (verb) does not bring forth, as: sum (I am), sto (I stand), servio (I am a slave to); for not is said stor or servior. They are also which in -I end, as: odi (I hate), novi (I know), coepi (I begin), memini (I remember); and those which in the preterite (i.e., past tense) have a passive voice, as: gaudeo (I rejoice), audeo (I dare), fido (I trust), fio (I become).

This third class of Personal verbs is called “Neuter” which, as we learned earlier in this course, means “neither”. Recall how a “neuter” noun is neither masculine nor feminine. Neuter verbs express neither active nor passive meaning, but express existence or a state or condition of being.

A Neuter verb is one which ends in -M (like sum, I am), or -O (like sto, I stand) but does not make a Passive verb by the addition of a final -R. This is largely because the notion of the verb does not exist in a passive sense, or because that notion was simply not expressed using a passive form of this verb in Latin. It makes no sense, for example, to try and think of what the passive form of “I am” would be.

Note also that a second group of verbs are Neuter verbs, which do not end in -M or -O, but in -I. These are special verbs which look like perfect tense forms, but have a present tense meaning, and have no passive meaning. We will study these in detail in coming lessons.

Lastly, there is a third group of Neuter verbs, which in the present tense do not have a passive notion, but do in the past tense. An example of this would be gaudeo, which means “I am glad” but is not used to express a passive idea in the present tense, yet does so in the past tense.

IX. Neutrorum Diomedi tria sunt genera: quaedam actionem significant, ut: ambulo, curro; quaedam passionem, ut: vapulo, veneo, fio; quaedam nec actionem nec passionem, quae supina idest otiosa appellat, ut: sedeo, jaceo.

Translation: With Diomedes (the Grammarian), there are three genera of neuters: some action signify, as: ambulo (I walk), curro (I run); some passion, as: vapulo (I am beaten), veneo (I am sold), fio (I become); some neither action nor passion, which “supine”, (that is, at rest) are named, as: sedeo (I sit), jaceo (I lie down).

Here we learn that one ancient grammarian named Diomedes, in his famous work on grammar, taught that Neuter verbs divide into three classes: those which express action, those which express passion and those which express neither, but express an “idle” state or condition.

X. Commune est, quod -OR syllaba tantum finitum activi simul ac passivi significationem habet, praesertim participium praeteriti temporis, quaeque ejus adminiculo supplentur, ut: experior, complector, expertus sum, complexus sum; nam praesens et imperfectum et quae inde sunt tempora, fere actionem significant.

Translation: The Common (Verb) is that which with the syllable -OR only ended of both an active and a passive (the) signification has, especially of participles of the past tense, and those (verbs) which are supplied in support of it, as: experior (I test, I am tested), complector (I embrace, I am embraced), expertus sum (I have tested, I have been tested), complexus sum (I have embraced, I have been embraced); since the present and imperfect tenses, and those (tenses) which are from them, generally action signify.

This is a difficult rule to translate and understand, but you should make sure you understand the nature of the Common Verb. First, we read that a Common verb is one that ends in -OR and, in this form, can express both an active and passive meaning. Thus, we see the verbs experior, which can mean “I test” (active) or “I am tested” (passive); and complector, “I embrace” (active) or “I am embraced” (passive). We will translate such a verb in light of its context, which will make the intended mood clear.

We see this is true “especially” (praesertim) of the past participles of these verbs and the auxiliary verbs that attend to them (sum, etc.). We learn for active verbs that the perfect passive form is made by joining the perfect passive participle to the verb sum. We saw this in the Gospel of John readings, where we read, “factus sum” (is made, has been made) and “facta sunt” (are made, have been made). For common verbs, however, these forms can have active meanings as well as passive. Thus, “expertus sum” may be translated as “I have been tested” (passive) or “I have tested” (active). Likewise, “complexus sum” can be translated as “I have been embraced” (passive) or “I have embraced” (active).

We must simply remember that this is possible of some verbs when translating. These verbs appear to be passive verbs, but may have active meanings.

XI. Deponens est, quod OR syllaba tantum finitum activi vel neutri significationem habet, ut: sequor, utor, morior.

Translation: The Deponent (Verb) is that which with the syllable -OR only ended, of the Active or Neuter (the) signification has, as: sequor (I follow), utor (I use), morior (I die).

Similar to the Common verb discussed above, the Deponent verb again appears to be a passive verb, yet is never passive, but may be active or neuter in meaning. We see examples as sequor, which has an active meaning, “I follow”; utor, which has an active meaning, “I use”; and morior, which has a neuter meaning, “I die”.


In this lesson, we have learned the definition of verbs and have learned different divisions of such. We learned that verbs divided into Personal and Impersonal, and that there are five divisions of Personal Verbs: Active, Passive, Neuter, Common and Deponent.

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