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A Latin grammar and reader all in one when the text and workbook are used together, Learn to Read Latin presents basic Latin morphology and syntax with clear explanations and examples, and it offers direct access to great works of Latin literature even at the earliest stages of learning the language. As beginning students learn basic forms and grammar, they also gain familiarity with patterns of Latin word order and other features of style, thus becoming well prepared for later, more difficult texts.

No other beginning Latin book contains as many unaltered versions of ancient texts. Learn to Read Latin includes the writings of such authors as Caesar, Cicero, Sallust, Catullus, Vergil, and Ovid, arranged chronologically and accompanied by introductions to each author and each work. These readings serve as the chief training texts around which the book’s fifteen chapters are constructed. A workbook is also available, providing abundant drills for each chapter of the text. A flexible format allows the workbook exercises to be used in the classroom, for homework assignments, for extra individual drill work, or as a home study tool.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300120943
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2006
  • Series: Yale Language Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 541,952
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Keller and Stephanie Russell both teach Classics at the Collegiate School in New York City. They are the authors of Learn to Read Greek, published by Yale University Press.

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Read an Excerpt

Learn to Read Latin (Textbook Part 1-)

By Andrew Keller

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2007 Yale University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-12094-3

Chapter One

Vocabulary Notes

anima, animae f. has a physical meaning, the "breath" of the wind or of a human being. By extension, it may mean the "breath" of life, the "life force." Although it may be translated "soul," it refers only to the force that gives an animate being life and not to the notion of "soul" as the seat of emotion and thought. For this latter meaning Latin usually employs another word.

dea, deae f. has deabus as its dative and ablative plural form.

fama, famae f. derives from an Indo-European root that means "speak" (cf. Gk. phemí; Skt. bhash, speak). The word fama indicates primarily what is spoken publicly or by the people, and its basic meaning is "talk" (something spoken) or "rumor." A fama often told becomes a "story," and when it is passed down from generation to generation, it becomes a "tradition." A person's fama is his or her "reputation" or "fame." This may be positive or negative. Finally, if the word is capitalized, Fama is the goddess Rumor.

filia, filiae f. has filiabus as its dative and ablative plural form.

Note that poeta is athree-syllable word. -oe- is not a diphthong.

deus, dei m. has certain common irregular forms in the plural. Memorize the following declension:

Nom./Voc. deus di or dei Gen. dei deorum or deum Dat. deo dis Acc. deum deos Abl. deo dis

Note in particular the alternate genitive plural deum, which is identical with the accusative singular. Deus has no separate vocative singular form: the nominative and vocative singular are identical.

The noun dominus, domini m. is cognate with the Latin word for house (domus); that is, the two words dominus and domus are descended from the same linguistic root. The original meaning of dominus was "master of the house."

filius, filii m. has fili as its vocative singular form.

consilium, consilii n. may mean the act of deliberating about something (deliberation), or it may mean the "plan" or "intention" that results from deliberating. It may also mean the capacity to deliberate (judgment). Finally, it may refer to a group of people who deliberate, a "council."

ferrum, ferri n. means "iron." By the rhetorical device metonymy (change of name) it also means "sword"-that is, something made of iron.


A preposition (< praepono, place before) is a word placed before a noun or pronoun to show its relation to another word in the sentence. The preposition and the noun or pronoun together are called a "prepositional phrase." In Latin, prepositions are most often followed by one of two cases, the accusative or the ablative. Prepositions that require a noun in the accusative case are said to "take the accusative" and are marked in the vocabulary entry by the notation (prep. + acc.). Prepositions that require a noun in the ablative case are similarly said to "take the ablative" and are marked by the notation (prep. + abl.).

Prepositions that take the accusative emphasize the idea of motion toward, into, around, and through. Prepositions that take the ablative indicate one of the three functions of the ablative (separation, association/ instrument, location). A few prepositions can take either case, and their meanings differ according to which case they take.

The prepositions a/ab, e/ex, and de all require a noun in the ablative case and express separation (from). However, they have distinct differences in meaning. a/ab expresses motion away from a place; e/ex expresses motion out from a place; de expresses motion down from a place. These differences in meaning are illustrated in the diagram that follows.

ab is used before words beginning with vowels or h-. Both a and ab are used before words beginning with consonants, but a is more frequent.

ex is used before words beginning with vowels or h-. Both e and ex are used before words beginning with consonants, but ex is more frequent.

ad takes the accusative and expresses motion to or toward a place. Compare the meaning of ad with that of in (+ acc.) in the diagram that follows.

in may take either the accusative or the ablative case. When it takes the accusative, it means "into" or "onto." By extension of this meaning it may also mean "against." When it takes the ablative case, it expresses location and means either "in" or "on." These differences in meaning are illustrated in the diagram that follows.

et is a coordinating conjunction. This means that it connects only parallel or grammatically balanced words, phrases, or clauses. When two nouns are connected, they must be in the same case: for example, nautarum et agricolarum (of the sailors and of the farmers [genitive]). Parts of speech other than nouns may also be connected by et. For example, in the phrases "tall and snow-covered," "he sings and he dances," "in Italy and in Gaul," et could again be used to connect two adjectives, two verb phrases, or two prepositional phrases.

To emphasize the strict balance of elements that are to be joined in Latin, et is often used to mark each element. Thus, et nautarum et agricolarum. It is convenient to translate the first et by the English word "both" (both of the sailors and of the farmers). When such a parallel series is longer than two (et nautarum et agricolarum et poetarum), omit translating the first et and say "and" for the others (of the sailors and of the farmers and of the poets).

et may also be used as an adverb that usually qualifies a single word (noun, verb, adjective): et vir (even the man, or the man also).

-que is an enclitic conjunction. The word enclitic is derived from the Greek verb enklino (lean on), and an enclitic leans on or is directly attached to the word preceding it. The hyphen before que indicates that it cannot stand alone as a separate word. -que is attached to the second element of a closely related pair, whose elements are often opposite or complementary. -que should be translated "and" before the word to which it is attached: for example, vir feminaque (husband and wife [subjects]). Like et, -que may connect grammatical elements other than nouns.

-que is used in place of the first et in the phrase et ... et ... by certain prose stylists (the historians Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus) and by many poets. Caesar and Cicero never use -que ... et ... The use of -que ... -que ... is found only in poetry and occasionally in the historians.

Derivatives and Cognates

Many words in English are derived from Latin words; that is, they descend directly from words in Latin. Such words are called derivatives. For example, the English word "counsel" is a derivative of the Latin word consilium. In many instances, the differences in sound and spelling between an English word and its Latin parent are not significant enough to obscure the fact that the two words are related. Some English derivatives descend from the roots of Latin words. A root is the basic element or ultimate stem of a word that carries its meaning and from which many other words are made by the addition of prefixes and suffixes.

When an English and a Latin word are called cognates (< cognatus, -a, -um, related), they are related because they both descend from a common PIE word or root, but the English word is derived not from Latin but from another ancient language such as Greek. It is often impossible to tell that a word in Latin and a word in English are cognates because they have undergone radically different changes in pronunciation and spelling as they have developed in their respective language families. For example, the Latin word quinque (five) is cognate with the English word "five," but the words do not appear to be related.

In each chapter some English derivatives and cognates of the new Latin vocabulary will be listed at the end of the vocabulary notes. This list is intended in part to help the student remember the meanings of new vocabulary items. It will also help the student expand his or her English vocabulary and stimulate further interest in learning about the relations among words. The cognates are provided to show how the same root or word in PIE has given rise to a wide variety of seemingly unrelated words in English. Where only the root of an English word is related to the corresponding Latin word, the portion of the English word that descends from that root is italicized.

Derivatives Cognates ager agrarian acre anima animate bellum bellicose consilium counsel dea, deus deity July dominus dominate factum fact thesis fama famous prophet; banal filia, filius affiliate insula insulate; isolate liber library nauta nautical astronaut; nausea pecunia pecuniary fee periculum peril fear; pirate puella, puer puerile foal; encyclopedia regina correct, regent maharajah; right; rich verbum verb word; irony via trivial, deviate way; weigh vir virile, virtue werewolf; world

1. The Latin Noun and Its Properties: Gender, Number, Case

A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. Every noun in Latin has three properties: gender, number, and case.

Gender-Latin nouns have the genders masculine or feminine. Nouns that are neither masculine nor feminine are called neuter (< neuter, neutra, neutrum, neither). In the vocabulary entry for each noun, gender will be indicated by m., f., or n. This information must be memorized for each noun.

Number-Latin nouns appear in the singular when referring to one and in the plural when referring to more than one.

Case-Latin nouns occur in a variety of different forms in both the singular and the plural. Each different form or case is indicated by a special ending attached to a stem that remains constant. Each ending indicates the syntax, the grammatical function, that a noun has in a sentence. For example, when a Latin noun serves as the subject of a sentence, it has one case ending, but when it serves as the direct object in a sentence, it has a different case ending.

The parent language of Latin, Indo-European, had eight different cases for nouns, each case with its own grammatical functions. Latin has only six cases, which nevertheless express all the functions of the original eight. This is possible because one case in Latin has been made to perform multiple functions. The names of the Latin cases and their basic functions are:

Nominative Case

-used for the subject of a sentence -used for the predicate nominative

The two essential elements of every sentence are the subject and the predicate. The subject is that which is spoken about, and the predicate is all that is said about the subject. For example:

John sneezed. The waiter cleared the dishes from the table.

In these sentences, "John" and "the waiter" are subjects; "sneezed" and "cleared the dishes from the table" are predicates. Both "John" and "the waiter" would be in the nominative case in Latin, and the syntax of each would be Nominative, Subject.

Certain verbs such as "be," "become," and "seem" are called copulative or linking verbs. A linking verb is never followed by a direct object but rather by an element that is equivalent to the subject, and this element is called the Predicate Nominative. For example:

John is a waiter. The frog became a prince.

In these sentences, "John" and "the frog" are subjects, while "a waiter" and "a prince" are Predicate Nominatives. Both the subjects and the Predicate Nominatives would be in the nominative case in Latin.

Genitive Case

-used to qualify or limit another noun in a variety of ways -usually corresponds to a translation using the English preposition "of"

In the phrases "the house of friends," "a fear of snakes," "a jar of pennies," the words "of friends," "of snakes," and "of pennies" serve to qualify or limit in a variety of ways the nouns on which they depend. "Of friends," "of snakes," and "of pennies" would be expressed in Latin by "friends," "snakes," and "pennies" in the genitive case with no preposition; that is, the genitive case ending contains the notion of "of" within it.

One idea commonly expressed by the genitive case is that of ownership or possession: "the book of the girl" (= the book belonging to the girl). The phrase "of the girl" would be expressed in Latin by the word "girl" in the genitive case, and the syntax of that word would be Genitive of Possession.

Dative Case

-used to express the person or thing interested in or affected by the action of the verb -usually corresponds to a translation using the English prepositions "(with reference) to" or "for"

In the sentence "To the sailor the danger of the sea is real," "to the sailor" expresses the person with reference to whom "the danger of the sea is real." The phrase "to the sailor" would be expressed in Latin by the word "sailor" in the dative case with no preposition; that is, the dative case ending contains the notion of "(with reference) to" within it. The syntax of the word "sailor" in Latin in the dative case would be Dative of Reference.

In the sentence "The girl gives a toy to the cat" or "The girl gives the cat a toy," "a toy" expresses the direct object of the verb, while "to the cat" or "cat" expresses the indirect object, the person or thing indirectly interested in or affected by the action of the verb. Again, "to the cat" or "cat" would be expressed in Latin in the dative case with no preposition, and the syntax of that word would be Dative of Indirect Object. This use of the dative case appears most often with verbs of giving, showing, and telling.


Excerpted from Learn to Read Latin (Textbook Part 1-) by Andrew Keller Copyright © 2007 by Yale University Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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