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A little note about Latin word order

Salvete omnes,

Today I wanted to post a little note about word order for those of you who've learned some Latin in the past but may have heard a few misconceptions. There is a bit of a myth to is circulated by a lot of teachers (myself included) that "Word order doesn't matter in Latin" which is true, but also false. There are a few things to keep in mind during reporting.

First of all: The basic sentence structure is composed of a few things, Subjects, Verbs, and Objects. Latin often builds sentences around this. There is a rhyme to it. Some of Caesar's writing was analyzed and this was produced:

SOV: 63%

OSV: 21%

OVS: 6%

VOS: 5%

SVO: 4%

VSO: 1%

So, following this model, we've tried to make transitive sentences (those with a direct object) reflect these basic sentence structures, (excluding the last one, as it's so infrequent).

Prepositional Phrases (e.g. in Italia) can usually go wherever they need to, they shouldn't be split up, by doing things like 'In Ego habito America', or 'America habito in'.

Adjectives are often found next to what they modify. So try to keep to 'Ebrius psittacus in villa sedet' instead of 'psittacus in villa sedet......................................... ebrius' We've also opted to keep certain phrases, like Novum Eboracum set as exactly that, not Eboracum Novum, it drastically cuts down on alternate translations.

Some pronouns are flexible in placement (before or after a noun), some are really not. Check wikipedia's page on Latin Word Order for specific examples.

Non should precede it's verb. 'Non habito in America', not... 'habito in America non'.

Ego, Tu, Vos, and Nos, are excellent for emphasis, but if you're going to include them, it's better to place them before their verb, and not after (except in questions)

Speaking of questions, Question words, like Quid, Quomodo, and the suffix -ne should be at the beginning of a sentence. Exception being when you have a vocative first, i.e. 'Livia et Corinna, ubi sedetis?' not 'sedetis ubi'.

When you see something like 'Natus est' this is in fact, not an adjective with a present tense form of sum. But actually an entire verb form in itself. So we typically will keep them together and in that order to save you from later confusion. It's deliberate, and not that we're attempting to get you to make mistakes.

Latin names are just Latin names, I've seen literally (I mean that in the literal sense) about 800 reports trying to use Mark, Marce, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and more variations of Stephanus than I can count. If you're name was William, and I called you Billy, you might argue that it's not your name. The same is true for Marcus and Stephanus, their names are... Marcus and Stephanus. Marce and Stephane are in the Vocative case, which means they are being addressed specifically. No Stephane isn't the hip Roman way of saying Stephanie.

The whole "there are no rules" stereotype stems a bit from poetry, where rules were often broken to help the line fit a specific meter. But everyday speaking would not have been like that, as evidenced by prose writers of varying skills. I am trying my best to accommodate personal style (i.e. preferring OSV over SOV or what have you) but it takes time.

So in conclusion, if your answer isn't accepted across multiple lessons/skills maybe consider doing it the way we've set in place. There may be a legitimate reason for it. I've learned more about Latin word order and sentence structure from rapidly correcting hundreds of sentences at a time than I did earning my bachelors. So thank you very much for the practice ; ).



September 21, 2019




Thanks. This clarifies a lot.


Thank you for the clarification on Latin grammar in regards to Duolingo's grading; this will definitely go into my notes.


All alphabetical and be clarity convenience for in order should simplicity surely words written O:-)


I'm reminded of the offering in Henry Beard's "Latin for All Occasions", wherein noting that verbs generally come at the end of a sentence and can be "queued" there, his proffered translation of "A rose is a rose is a rose" is "rosa rosa rosa est est" :D


Thank you for sharing this behind-the-scenes explanation!

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