Salve, amici. Welcome to Latin for Minimalists, a course that will teach you how to speak the most elegant and efficient language ever created by humans. This is the first part of the course, where we will learn some basic expressions and grammar rules. But before we begin, let me remind you why you should learn Latin in the first place.
As you may recall from my previous article “Why English is the Worst Thing Since the Fall of Rome: A Minimalist’s Perspective”, English is a bloated, inconsistent, and illogical language that only serves to confuse and frustrate its speakers. English has too many words, too many rules, too many exceptions, too many dialects, too many accents, and too many influences from other languages. It is a mess that reflects the chaotic and decadent state of modern society.
Let me ask you a question: why do you want to learn Latin? Is it because you are interested in ancient history, literature or philosophy? Is it because you want to impress your friends, teachers or potential employers? Is it because you want to enrich your mind and soul with the wisdom of the classics?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have some bad news for you: you are wasting your time. Latin is not a language for those who seek knowledge, prestige or enlightenment. Latin is a language for those who seek minimalism.
Latin, on the other hand, is a pure, simple, and logical language that reflects the order and harmony of nature. Latin has fewer words, fewer rules, fewer exceptions, fewer dialects, fewer accents, and fewer influences from other languages. It is a masterpiece that reflects the wisdom and beauty of ancient civilization.
But, you might wonder, isn’t Latin a dead language? That is, no one speaks it anymore. And that’s exactly why it’s so great. You don’t have to worry about pronunciation, accents, dialects, slang, or grammar rules changing over time. You don’t have to deal with annoying native speakers correcting you or mocking you for your mistakes. You don’t have to waste your time learning useless words like “selfie”, “hashtag”, or “twerk”. You can just focus on the pure essence of communication.
Latin is also the language of minimalism. It allows you to express complex ideas with few words. It allows you to avoid unnecessary clutter and noise in your speech. It allows you to communicate with clarity and precision. It allows you to achieve maximum impact with minimum effort.
That’s why I decided to create this course for you: to help you learn Latin and become a minimalist in every aspect of your life. By learning Latin, you will not only improve your linguistic skills but also your mental skills. You will become more rational, more creative, more confident, more cultured, more refined, more enlightened.
So without further ado (or as they say in Latin: sine mora), let us begin our journey into the world of Latin.
Lesson 1: Greetings
Let’s start with some basic expressions that you can use in everyday situations. These expressions are short, easy to remember, and convey your message without any ambiguity or redundancy.
- Hello: Salve
- Goodbye: Vale
- Thank you: Gratias
- You’re welcome: Nihil est
- Yes: Ita
- No: Minime
- Please: Quaeso
- Sorry: Me paenitet
As you can see, these expressions are much more concise and elegant than their English counterparts. For example, instead of saying “You’re welcome”, which implies that you have done something for someone else, you can simply say “Nihil est”, which means “It is nothing”. This way, you avoid any unnecessary gratitude or obligation that might complicate your relationship with others.
Another example is “Me paenitet”, which means “It pains me”. This is a much more honest and sincere way of apologizing than saying “Sorry”, which is often used insincerely or sarcastically. By saying “Me paenitet”, you show that you truly regret your actions and feel empathy for the other person.
Here are some common greetings in Latin:
- Salve / Salvete: This means “hello” or “greetings”. You can use it at any time of day with anyone (singular or plural). It’s informal but polite.
- Ave / Avete: This means “hail” or “greetings”. You can use it at any time of day with anyone (singular or plural). It’s formal but friendly.
- Bonum diem / Bonam diem: This means “good day”. You can use it during daytime with anyone (masculine or feminine). It’s neutral but pleasant.
- Bonum vesperum / Bonam vesperam: This means “good evening”. You can use it during evening time with anyone (masculine or feminine). It’s neutral but pleasant.
- Bonam noctem: This means “good night”. You can use it at night time with anyone (feminine only). It’s neutral but pleasant.
- Vale / Valete: This means “farewell” or “goodbye”. You can use it at any time of day with anyone (singular or plural). It’s informal but polite.
- Ave atque vale / Avete atque valete: This means “hail and farewell” or “goodbye”. You can use it at any time of day with anyone (singular or plural). It’s formal but friendly.
Notice how some greetings change depending on whether they are singular or plural (salve/salvete, ave/avete, vale/valete) or whether they are masculine or feminine (bonum/bonam).
This is because Latin has different endings for different genders (masculine/feminine) and numbers (singular/plural) for nouns (words that name things) and adjectives (words that describe things).
This may seem confusing at first but don’t worry: we will learn more about this later.
For now just remember this simple rule:
- If you are talking to more than one person who
- are all men or a mix of men and women, use the masculine plural ending (-um or -i)
- are all women, use the feminine plural ending (-am or -ae)
- are of unknown gender, use the neutral plural ending (-um or -i)
- Salve, Marcus. (Hello, Marcus.) [singular masculine]
- Salvete, Marci. (Hello, Marcuses.) [plural masculine]
- Salve, Maria. (Hello, Maria.) [singular feminine]
- Salvete, Mariae. (Hello, Marias.) [plural feminine]
- Salve, amice. (Hello, friend.) [singular neutral]
- Salvete, amici. (Hello, friends.) [plural neutral]
Lesson 2: Basic Grammar
Now let’s move on to some basic grammar rules that will help you construct sentences in Latin. Unlike English, which has a fixed word order (subject-verb-object), Latin has a flexible word order that allows you to emphasize different parts of the sentence by changing their position. This is possible because Latin uses endings (called cases) to indicate the function of each word in the sentence.
There are six cases in Latin:
- Nominative: The subject of the sentence or clause.
- Accusative: The direct object of a verb or preposition.
- Genitive: The possessor of another noun.
- Dative: The indirect object of a verb or preposition.
- Ablative: The instrument, manner, place, or time of an action.
- Vocative: The person or thing being addressed.
Each case has different endings depending on the gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) and number (singular or plural) of the noun. For example:
|Nominative||vir (man)||viri (men)|
|Accusative||virum (man)||viros (men)|
|Genitive||viri (of man)||virorum (of men)|
|Dative||viro (to/for man)||viris (to/for men)|
|Ablative||viro (with/by/from man)||viris (with/by/from men)|
|Vocative||vir (O man!)||viri (O men!)|
Let’s take another example, let’s take the word puer, which means “boy” in Latin. It is pronounced “poo-er”. If we want to use it as a subject of a sentence (nominative case), we keep it as puer. If we want to use it as a direct object of a sentence (accusative case), we change it to puerum (“poo-er-oom”). If we want to use it as a possessive modifier of another word (genitive case), we change it to pueri (“poo-eh-ree”). If we want to use it as an indirect object of a sentence (dative case), we change it to puero (“poo-eh-roh”). If we want to use it as an instrumental modifier of another word (ablative case), we change it to puero as well (“poo-eh-roh”). And finally, if we want to address someone as “boy” (vocative case), we change it back to puer (“poo-er”).
As you can see, by changing the ending of a noun, you can change its function in the sentence without changing its meaning. For example:
- Puer amat puellam - The boy loves the girl
- Puellam amat puerum - The girl loves the boy
- Amat puellam puer - He loves the girl, the boy
In each sentence above, only one word is emphasized by being placed at the beginning or end of the sentence. The rest of the words are understood from their endings.
This way, you can express yourself with more nuance and subtlety than in English, where word order is fixed and emphasis is achieved by using intonation or punctuation.
Another advantage of Latin grammar is that it has fewer irregularities and exceptions than English. For example, Latin verbs are conjugated according to four patterns (called conjugations) that are easy to memorize and apply. Each conjugation has six tenses (present, imperfect, future, perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, and imperative), two voices (active and passive), and two numbers (singular and plural). Each tense, mood, voice, and number has a different ending that is added to the stem of the verb.
For example, the verb amo (I love) belongs to the first conjugation. Its stem is am-, and its endings are:
|Present||Indicative||Active||amo (I love)||amamus (we love)|
|Passive||amor (I am loved)||amamur (we are loved)|
|Subjunctive||Active||amem (I may love)||amemus (we may love)|
|Passive||amer (I may be loved)||amemur (we may be loved)|
|Active||ama! (love!) or noli amare! (do not love!)||amate! (love!) or nolite amare! (do not love!)|
|Passive||amare! (be loved!) or noli amari! (do not be loved!)||amini! (be loved!) or nolite amini! (do not be loved!)|
|Indicative||amabam (I was loving) or I loved)||amabamus (we were loving or we loved)|
|Passive||amabar (I was being loved)||ambabamur(we were being loved)|
|Subjunctive||amarem(I might love)||amaremus(we might love)|
|Passive||amarer(I might be loved)||amaremur(we might be loved)|
As you can see, by changing the ending of a verb, you can change its tense, mood, voice, and number without changing its stem. This way, you can express yourself with more precision and flexibility than in English, where you have to use auxiliary verbs, modals, and participles to convey different meanings.
- Amo puellam - I love the girl
- Amavi puellam - I loved the girl
- Amabo puellam - I will love the girl
- Amem puellam - I may love the girl
- Ama puellam - Love the girl
- Amor a puella - I am loved by the girl
- Amatus sum a puella - I was loved by the girl
- Amatus ero a puella - I will be loved by the girl
- Amer a puella - I may be loved by the girl
- Amare a puella - Be loved by the girl
In each sentence above, only one word is changed to express different meanings. The rest of the words are understood from their endings.
This is just an introduction to Latin grammar. There are many more rules and exceptions that we will cover in future articles. But for now, you have learned enough to start forming simple sentences in Latin.
Translate the following sentences from English to Latin using the greetings we learned.
- Good day, Julia.
- Good evening, Lucius and Lucia.
- Hail and farewell, Caesar.
- Farewell, teachers.
- Hello, students.
We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about Latin. Latin is a minimalist language that allows you to communicate with elegance and efficiency. By learning Latin, you will not only enrich your mind and culture, but also simplify your life and declutter your thoughts.
In our next article, we will teach you how to read and write in Latin using an ancient script that is much more aesthetic and ergonomic than modern alphabets. Stay tuned for “Latin for Minimalists: Part 2”!