Dear Corinthus,

Would you please explain why the plural of “flamma” is “flammas” when it is the direct object, but “miles” becomes “milites” when it is the direct object and plural? I was reading page 11 in “Minimus Secundus” when I started wondering about this.

Erubescens in Eboracum

Nouns can be tricky! Luckily, there are five noun “families” called “declensions” and each family has its own characteristics-- this will help us immensely. Let’s talk about just the first three declensions today since those are the most frequently used ones in our books.

All three declensions have certain endings which indicate what role each word is playing in the sentence. Right now, you have been introduced to nouns used as the subject or the direct object. Please look at the charts below for the different spellings:

 

1st Declension :

   
  singular plural
subject flamma flammae
direct object flammam flammas
     
2nd Declension :    
     
subject servus servi
direct object servum servos
     
3rd Declension :    
     
subject miles milites
direct object militem milites

The 3 rd declension is the tricky one: there is no one ending for 3 rd Declension nouns in the singular subject form. They all share, nevertheless, the same endings for the other nouns uses. Here are some 3 rd Declensions nouns you have met with their singular subject and direct object forms: mater/matrem, pavo/pavonem,pons/pontem, canis/canem, and infans/infantem. Of course, there are a few more details concerning this grammar question, but we can address those in the future.

bonam fortunam!

 

,

I understand that the six verb endings for the present tense are: o, s, t, mus, tis, nt. I am puzzled, however, why the vowel preceding these endings changes. Will you please explain the reason to me?

Turbidus from Tusculum

That is a great question! Do you have your “Minimus Secundus” book handy? Turn to page 22 and look at the explanation for infinitives. You’ll see that an infinitive ends in “re”, right? Well, look at the vowel that precedes the “re” in each infinitive. There are four choices:ā , ē, e, and ī. So, we have four verb “families” or “conjugations”. All the verbs in each family follow the same rules:

 

1 st Conjugation “ā re”

canto, cantare

2 nd Conjugation “ē re”

timeo, timere

3 rd Conjugation “ere”

curro, currere

4 th Conjugation“ ī re” & 3 rd Conjugation “ ī o” verbs

dormio, dormire; facio, facere

canto

I sing timeo I fear curro I run dormio I sleep
cantas you sing times you fear curris you run dormis you sleep
cantat he or she sings timet he or she fears currit he or she runs dormit he or she sleeps
cantamus we sing timemus we fear currimus we run dormimus we sleep
cantatis you sing timetis you fear curritis you run dormitis you sleep
cantant they sing timent they fear currunt they run dormiunt they sleep

 

So, Turbidus, you can see the pattern here for each conjugation. In the back of your “Minimus Secundus” book is a glossary. You’ll see there that each verb is listed with its first person, singular, active, present tense form and its infinitive. That information, added to what I explained above, will enable you to conjugate all the regular verbs. We’ll address those “irregular” verbs another day! bona fortuna!

If you have any grammar questions for Corinthus, please email Ruth Ann Besse at rabesse17@gmail.com