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Latin for Duolingo: Infinitives, Lesson 1

Salvete omnes! Welcome back to Latin for Duolingo. This is an ongoing, unofficial course in Latin; if you would like to catch up with previous lessons, you can find a directory, a classified vocabulary list, and Memrise courses at these links:

To infinitives and beyond! For the next several lessons we’ll focus not so much on learning new words, but on learning to use the verbs already introduced in different ways.

New Grammar
The infinitive is a verbal form that allows a verb to function as a noun. I like to describe it as having “one foot in Nounland, the other foot in Verbland.” As a verb it can take an object, express tense (time) and voice (active or passive), and it can be modified by an adverb or adverbial phrase. As a noun it functions as a neuter, indeclinable noun; the infinitive form may be used as a neuter noun as a subject (nominative), predicate noun (nominative) and direct object (accusative).

In Latin, the second principal part of the verb is the present active infinitive. In English, the infinitive is the “to verb” form, but English tends to use the gerund form “verbing” as well. The Latin infinitive is also essential to complete the meaning of many common “modal” verbs (volo, licet, oportet, possum, etc). We have studied some of these already so this is not completely new. In future lessons, we’ll learn about how to create more complex infinitive phrases to express indirect statements; this is a construction that is very common in Latin and totally different in English.

Reviewing the forms of the 4 regular conjugations, the present active infinitive (yes, there are other infinitive forms) is listed second of the 4 principal parts in a typical dictionary, and you will notice a characteristic vowel for each conjugation:
1. portare 2. monēre 3. mittere 4. audire

New Sentences
Cantare mihi placet. = I like to sing/singing. (lit. To sing pleases me.)infinitive used as subject noun
Cantare amo. = I like to sing/singing. infinitive used as direct object
Vivere est discere. = To live is to learn. infinitive as both subject and predicate noun
Errare est humanum. = To err is human. note the neuter form of adjective to agree with infinitive
Id credere non possum. = I cannot believe it/I am not able to believe that.
Vos omnes potestis librum legere. = All of you are able to read the book.
Ire nunc debent. = They ought to go now.
Librum scribere debes. = You ought to write a book.
Oportet nos eum adjuvare. = It is right for us to help him/ We should help him.
Rogare timeo. = I am afraid to ask.
Signum ferre vult. = He wants to bear the standard.
Signifer esse vult. = He wants to be the standard-bearer.
Lucia amat cafeam bibere. = Lucia loves to drink coffee.
Potesne audire? = Can you hear?
Domum ire timent. = They are afraid to go home.
Difficile est dicere. = It is difficult to say.
Paula natare conatur. = Paula tries to swim.
Pueri volunt esse milites. = The boys want to be soldiers.
Hoc facere nolo. = I do not want to do this.
Stare malo. = I prefer to stand.
Marcus claves suas invenire non potest. = Marcus cannot find his keys.
Licetne nobis ire? = May we go/Is it permitted for us to go?
Licetne mihi tabulam vidēre? = May I see the menu?

Next time we’ll look at more infinitives, including those of deponent and irregular verbs. As you may have noticed, sometimes the infinitive is before and sometimes after the main verb: I am not aware of a rule governing word order in infinitive phrases, and have seen examples from textbooks of both ways. It might become frustrating if you are trying to duplicate the sample sentences here exactly; keep in mind the flexible Latin word order. If you have any questions or comments, as always, feel free to leave them below. Bonam fortunam!

On to the next lesson: Infinitives, Lesson 2

October 20, 2016



Could you maybe make an official duo latin course?


I'd be very happy to help with that, but I would have to be asked officially by Duo staff, and they are concentrating on other languages right now from what I understand, and other improvements to the existing languages on the site. I'm just as impatient as everyone else for Latin to be an official part of Duolingo!


I had thought that anyone could apply without being asked to start a new course.

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