Lesson 1 – Introduction to verbs

What is a verb?

A verb is a word that describes an action. Verbs are often called ‘doing’ words. Examples of verbs: to work, to call, to pray, to have, to be, to think.

First conjugation verbs

Verbs are divided into groups called conjugations. You can recognise first conjugation verbs as they end ‘-are’.

These are examples of first conjugation verbs:

confirmare to confirm
dare to give
edificare to build
laborare to work
legare to leave, bequeath
orare to pray
vocare to call

To conjugate, or list the parts, of first conjugation verbs

  1. Remove the ‘-are’
  2. Add these endings
-o I
-as you
-at he/she/it
-amus we
-atis you
-ant they

Look at our example of dare

Latin Means in English
do I give
das you give
dat he/she/it gives
damus we give
datis you give
dant they give

Did you notice that most of the endings include ‘a’? This is called the key letter.

The exception is the form for the first person singular, ‘I’, which ends in ‘-o’.

Can you see how these examples were made?

Latin Means in English
laboro I work
legas you bequeath
edificat he/she/it builds
oramus we pray
vocatis you call
legant they bequeath

Differences between English and Latin verbs

1. Look at the verb to give. In English, the ending of the verb changes once: it acquires an s in he gives. In Latin, the ending of the verb changes every time. The ending of the verb is crucial as it tells you the

  • tense (when the action happens – the present tense)
  • person (who is doing the action – I, you, he, she, it, we or they)
  • number (how many people are doing the verb – if one, then it’s singular; if two or more, it’s plural)

Read through dare again and notice how the endings change.

2. In English, the words ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘it’, ‘we’ or ‘they’ show who is doing the verb. In Latin, these words are usually unnecessary. damus means we give. A separate word for ‘we’ is not needed.

3. In Latin, there are two ways of saying ‘you’. For example, both das and datis mean ‘you give’. The form used depends on the number of people:

  • you (singular) when there is one person, for example das
  • you (plural) when there are two or more people, for example datis

There were historically two forms of ‘you’ in English: thou givest and you give. ‘Thou’ is not used widely in modern English.

Latin document points

This tutorial concentrates on I, he/she/it, we and they. These are more likely to appear in records than the two forms of you.

4. In our example of dare, the action is happening now – the present tense.

In English, there are three ways of describing actions in the present:

  • I give
  • I am giving
  • I do give

These can all be translated by the Latin word do.

In Latin, just one word can be used to convey all three meanings. Latin is more concise than English. It uses fewer words to express the same meaning.


Are you confident with the content of this lesson? If not, read through it again. If you are, move on to the next lesson.

  • Why is the ending of a verb important?
  • How would you conjugate the verb dare?
  • Why are there two ways of saying ‘you’ in Latin?

What next?