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Latin for Duolingo: Verbs, Passive Voice, 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:
- Directory of Lessons
- Vocabulary List
- Memrise course for vocabulary
- Memrise course with complete sentences
- Memrise course for verb principal parts
- Previous lesson: Future Perfect Tense

If you have followed along in this course so far, we have learned active voice verbs in all six tenses of the indicative mood, active voice. (Present, imperfect and future tense make up the “present system”; perfect, pluperfect and future perfect make up the “perfect system”.) Now it is time to add the flip side of active voice, the passive voice.

Active voice comes from the Latin root ago, agere, egi, actus = act; the subject of the sentence is the agent, or actor, who performs the action of the verb. To help my students get this, I have them adopt a superhero pose. Passive voice comes from the Latin root patior, pati, passus = suffer, allow; the subject of the sentence is the “patient” who receives the action of the verb. I tell my students to mimic roadkill. Middle school students LOVE this, and if nothing else, I’ve helped them learn a valuable life lesson; generally it’s better to be active than passive. As a writer, you should use passive voice only when you want to focus on the action itself and what it does to the person/thing receiving it; otherwise your writing becomes weaker. But of course as a student it is something that needs to be learned.

If you remember how to conjugate deponent verbs, you already know the passive voice endings! Deponent verbs are verbs with an active meaning, but passive forms. They are introduced in present tense here: Present 3, lesson 4: Deponent verbs, present tense. In imperfect tense: imperfect tense 3. In future tense: future tense 3. These are the three tenses of the present system. The passive voice endings are r, ris, tur, mur, mini, ntur for all three tenses; in the imperfect tense, the connecting vowel (a for first conjugation, e for 2, 3, and 4) is added to the tense sign –ba- followed by the endings. In the future tense, 1st and 2nd conjugations have their connecting vowels, followed by the tense sign, which also undergoes some vowel changes so it ends up as –bor, beris, bitur, bimur, bimini, buntur; 3rd and 4th follow the pattern –ar, -eris, -etur, emur, emini, entur.
A pretty good conjugation chart can be found here although I would prefer macrons rather than umlauts over the long vowels.

To indicate the living agent (the person or animal who does the action of a passive verb), use the “ablative of agent” = preposition a/ab + the ablative. To indicate the non-living agent or means, use the “ablative of means” which is the ablative alone, no preposition. It may help to remember that people are more important than things; they get a preposition, things do not.

New Vocabulary
fossa, ae = ditch, trench
vallum, i = wall, rampart (a defensive wall; contrast with murus)
occido, occidere, occidi, occisus, 3 (also interficio, interficere, interfeci, interfectus, 3) = kill (I am mildly surprised we have managed to get this far in Latin without introducing this verb, but please excuse any violent example sentences!)

New Sentences
Marcus pilam jacit. = Marcus throws the ball. (active voice)
Pila a Marco jacitur. = The ball is thrown by Marcus.
Pilae a pueris jacientur. = Balls will be thrown by the boys.
Lucia ab omnibus amatur. = Lucia is loved by all.
Lucia a fratre suo amabatur. = Lucia was loved by her brother.
Ab omnibus canibus in urbe amabimur. = We will be loved by all the dogs in the city.
Marcus a Luciā occiditur. = Marcus is killed by Lucia.
Gladiis occiduntur. = They are killed with (by means of) swords.
Ab eis non occidar. = I will not be killed by them.
Panis cultro secatur. = The bread is cut with a knife.
Aranea ab ave editur. = The spider is eaten by the bird.
Omnia crustula a pueris edentur. = All the cookies will be eaten by the boys.
Capieris/ Capiemini. = You will be captured.
A serpentibus terreor. = I am frightened by (terrified of) snakes.
Hic liber a multis legitur. = This book is read by many.
Miles a civibus memoriā tenetur. The soldier is remembered by the citizens.
Negotio retineor. = I am held back (restrained) by business/duty.
A magistro dimittentur. = They will be dismissed by the teacher.
Oppidum incenditur. = The town is being burned.
Vocamur. = We are being called.
Paula a Gaio videtur. = Paula is seen by Gaius.
Paula negotiosa videtur. = Paula seems/looks busy. (Passive voice of video often means “seems, looks, appears.” Think of it as “is seen to be”.)
Gaius laetus videtur. = Gaius looks happy.
Multi libri scribuntur. = Many books are (being) written.
Multae epistulae scribebantur. = Many letters were being written.
Multa verba scribentur. = Many words will be written.
Quomodo Latine dicitur? = How is it said in Latin?/ How do you say it in Latin?
Faber honestus esse dicitur. = The craftsman is said to be honest./ They say that the craftsman is honest.
Castra vallo fossāque muniuntur. = The camp is fortified with a wall and a ditch.

Next lesson, we’ll look at the perfect system of the passive indicative. Multa exempla dabuntur. (Many examples will be given.) Valete et bonam fortunam!

Next lesson: Passive Voice Lesson 2

November 10, 2017



This is great that there is a set of Memrise decks for the principle parts of verbs with macrons. I hadn't seen it before. Many thanks to you and zsocipuszmak for that, and for all these Latin-related materials. (It will have to wait, in my case, until I've finished the "Sentences" course.)


I'm glad you find the Memrise courses useful! :) (Feel free to let me know if you find any mistakes or missing alternatives during your practice: https://community.memrise.com/t/course-forum-carpelanams-duolingo-latin-sentences-by-zsocipuszmak/2512)


Wow, thanks for that link! I thought the forums on Memrise had been scrapped. I've come across inconsistency in sentences with a copula: either A B est or A est B not being accepted. As I come to concrete instances, know I now where to mention them :)

For anyone who knows, it seems there are three classes of sentences with "to be":

  1. noun A is a (concrete instance of) noun B ("Gaius is a boy")
  2. noun A is adjective B
  3. noun A is in location B

I know that in case 1. it's very common, maybe even the default, to have "est" in between the A and the B, but what about in the other two cases?


Yes, sadly there are a lot of correct answers missing as alternatives in the course, however I always try to add at least the SOV variant to all the sentences (in your example the A B est), so that should be a safe bet every time. If you come across an example not accepting this variant, please make sure to report it to me. The only exceptions are the sentences containing a "there is a/there are" expression, in which case usually the sentence starting with the verb is the alternative I prefer to add (if that's not the original), like in "Est bellum in Galliā." "Sunt rosae in horto." Of course feel free to report any specific missing alternative you personally find annoying, and I add them as well, I just don't have the capacity to add all the possible correct solutions to all the sentences on my own accord (after all we are already almost over 2500 examples! O.o Hats off to CarpeLanam! :)) )


Thank you both for your great work! Definitely much appreciated!


Henle Grammar #461: "Forms of the verb sum (am) may stand anywhere in the sentence.
Deus est bonus/ Deus bonus est. = God is good."

Some languages distinguish between predicative and attributive adjectives with different positions or spellings or article adjectives; I don't know of any other way of doing that in Latin than by the position of the being verb: Vir est bonus. = The man is good; Est vir bonus (or) Vir bonus est. = He is a good man. That's just my preference, though, and closest to what I'm familiar with as a native English speaker. This would cover example 2.

For example 3, I know there are other verbs for expressing position: sto = stand, sedeo = sit, jaceo = lie. Many other languages use the equivalents of these instead of the being verb in expressing position. I wonder if in actual practice this may have been done in Latin as well, but I can't speak authoritatively about it. You might have "Aedificium in urbe stat," for example.

It's also helpful to remember that modern Latin, as it is practiced today, is much more relaxed about syntax rules than Classical Latin was. Far too much water has gone under the bridge since Cicero's day to be rigid about word order. I prefer to be very exact about the correct grammatical endings, but accept any variant word order. It's really hard to get every alternative in the Memrise courses. I'm grateful to zsocipuszmak for maintaining the sentences course, but it would be very time-consuming to manually enter every possible variant sentence.


Thank you once again. A question that has arisen for me in some of the earlier sentences: is there a rule about which adjectives can/must/often do come before the noun? Certainly I understand the general default order is noun first, adjective second, but is it different for some adjectives? For instance, in many sentences in the sentences course, it seems like magnus -a -um has to come before the noun.


"Adjectives of quantity, size, and number, demonstrative and interrogative adjectives stand BEFORE the nouns they modify.
multi homines = many men
tres et viginti nautae = twenty-three sailors
hic vir = this man
Quem in locum? = into which place?

Adjectives of quality and possessive adjectives stand AFTER the nouns they modify.
vir bonus = a good man
pater meus = my father"

From Henle Latin Grammar, #464, 465. In my experience, this is as close to a rule for word order as Latin gets. Poetry and complex constructions might have some exceptions.

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