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Latin for Duolingo: Animals, Lesson 1

Salvete omnes!
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We start some basic lessons on animals today. I’m modeling most of the sentences after similar skills in Duolingo. You may notice that I am not giving a “plurals” skill. This is because plurals were covered in our separate lessons on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd declensions. Those lessons not only covered singular and plural forms for each of those declensions, but also the five case endings in singular and the 5 case endings in plural for each of the declensions. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s important to review those lessons on the declensions until they are mastered, because there is so much complexity in the Latin declension and case systems compared to English or most of the modern European languages.

New Vocabulary

Note on gender: animals come in either gender, so it’s probably safe to assume “common” gender (whichever is applicable in a given situation) for all third declension nouns; but if I can’t find a specific listing for common gender, I list what is given in my resources. 1st and 2nd declension nouns are the dominant gender of their declension (usually), and most large animals (where ancient Romans would be able to tell the difference) could have the appropriate ending for their gender; eg, ursa = she-bear, ursus = he-bear. Most insects are considered feminine. To make it more confusing, there are words like “cattus (m.)” and “feles (f.)” that I just have no explanation for. I don’t want to insult my male cats by referring to them with the wrong gender noun, but it may not have been very important to the ancient Romans! I’ll just do my best to get the vocabulary across, but realize that there may be some rules about animal gender that I don’t know, or that are taught differently in different texts.

We have samples of nouns from the first three declensions, even including a few of those 3rd-declension i-stems that can be so pesky. And I can’t believe I haven’t introduced the verb “amo” (love) yet. It’s one of the most common verbs in beginning Latin texts, so it's probably time!

formica, ae = ant
herba, ae = grass, herb
musca, ae = fly
simia, ae = monkey, ape (simius, i masculine, but “simia” was apparently used to insult human males)
cattus, i (m.) = cat (not used as frequently as feles)
equus, i (m.) = horse (equa = mare, but used rarely)
vivarium, i (n.) = zoo, animal habitat, game preserve
animal, animalis, animalium (n.) = animal
apis, apis, apium (f.) = bee
avis, avis, avium (f.) = bird
canis, canis (c.) = dog
feles, felis (f.) = cat
mus, muris (c.) = mouse, rat
ovis, ovis (c.) = sheep

amo, 1 = love, like, am fond of

aut = or

New Sentences
Mus est parva. = The mouse is small.
Formica et apis parvae sunt. = The ant and the bee are small.
Feles aquam bibit. = The cat drinks water.
Feles lac bibunt. = The cats drink milk.
Puella equum habet. = The girl has a horse.
Lucia equos amat. = Lucia likes horses.
Est avis in villā! = There is a bird in the house!
Multi (multae) oves in agro sunt. = Many sheep are in the field.
Ego feles amo, sed tu canes amas. = I like cats, but you like dogs.
Equus est animal. = The horse is an animal.
Aves panem edunt. = The birds eat bread.
Formica in saccharo est. = The ant is in the sugar.
Mus caseum edit. = The mouse eats cheese.
Musca mel edit. = The fly eats the honey.
Estne musca aut apis? = Is it a fly or a bee?
Equi et oves herbam edunt. = The horses and sheep eat grass.
Simia non est pulchra. = The monkey is not beautiful.
Simiam habeo. = I have a monkey.
Pueri et puellae simias in vivario vident. = The boys and girls see monkeys in the zoo.
Vivarium est hortus animalium. = A zoo is a garden of animals.
Sunt multa animalia in vivario. = There are many animals in the zoo.
Marcus de avibus et apibus legit. = Marcus reads about the birds and the bees.
Rex est nomen canis. = Rex is the dog’s name.
Felix est nomen catti. = Felix is the cat’s name. (Felix means “fruitful, happy, lucky” but is really close to “feles/felis” and so you can see that some of our ideas about cats probably come from ancient times!)

August 31, 2015



I like Latin, i bet Latin helps you to learn Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French , and thanks for your lessons.


correction: ... thanks for your lessons.


Thanks for helping me! I'll change it!


correction: Thanks for helping me.

No problem ;)


May I ask why the first sentence (Mus est parva) is in SVO form as opposed to the SOV? Also, is this classical Latin with six cases? And should there be accents in some of these words?

Thank you for doing this, it is a great start for me to start learning latin. P.S., are you fluent enough to not struggle with conjugations and declensions? Just wondering :)


Technically it's not SVO, since "parva" is a predicate adjective, not a direct object. The Latin being/linking verb (sum, esse, fui, futurus) is more flexible than most other verbs and frequently migrates from the usual SOV order... which is not an absolute rule anyway. This is classical Latin, yes, but I've decided to focus on 5 cases, leaving the locative and vocative for when/if there is an official Latin course in the incubator. And just to keep it simple and manageable, I'm not incorporating the macrons (accent marks). This is for several reasons - they make it much more difficult to edit the text, they confuse and intimidate beginning students, and they don't provide much additional benefit other than the few instances where I will use them, such as the ablative singular for 1st declension nouns, to distinguish it from the nominative singular.
I'm glad you're enjoying the course and I hope it is helpful to you! I am "fluent" enough in written Latin not to be confused by the conjugations and declensions. That certainly doesn't mean I never make a grammatical mistake! But I can usually spot it on a second read-through. Thanks for your interest and your thoughtful questions! Habeas bonam fortunam!


Thanks for the reply! I noticed that in the second example you gave, the verb "to be" came last. Would it also be correct for it to appear in the second position, just like the first sentence?


Yes, it's quite common for that verb to shift around or even be omitted altogether. Sometimes there are subtle differences in meaning... for example, "Mus parva est" and "mus est parva" would probably best be translated "The mouse is small." But "Parva mus est" might be "It is a small mouse" and "Est parva mus" = "There is a small mouse." Whereas I think "Parva est mus" = (literally) "Small is the mouse", meaning "Mice (in general) are small creatures." None of this is set in stone, and none of it is essential to master in the beginning stages.


Tiny mistake, but the sentence "Feles aquam bibunt." is translated as milk instead of water.


Thanks for catching that. I was having trouble making up my mind!


Even Google finds some diversity on the point, but I think "ovis" was at least preponderantly feminine (e.g. chap 9 in Familia Romana "una ovis ❤❤❤❤❤ et undecentum oves albae"). If I have my rules on plural adjectives right (by no means a given), that would mean "Multae oves" would be more likely than "Multi oves."

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