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Latin as a beginner

I'm a beginner in Latin, but I'd like to share some resources and methods I've found so far (So, if this page is not too downvoted, I'll edit it later)

If you start Latin, don't go very deep in the Duo lessons without studying how Latin works with cases. You shouldn't past more than a few lessons ignoring the cases, relying on Duo only to teach them to you. You have to open a page, and read a "what is a Latin case" thing. Duo doesn't have the place to explain it in details. I tell you that, because I met users in the forum that were very advanced in the Latin lessons, and still wondering what is a Latin case. You shouldn't.

Why there are cases in Latin?

Latin has a relatively free order. (relatively!, if you say it's free, it's wrong)
It means that you can have a sentence like:

I see roses.

Said in any order.
I roses see. See roses I. Roses see I.

It doesn't matter, because you know who is the subject making the action of "seeing",
and "who" is the object, receiving the action of "being seen".
Because the word changes, we add a different ending to the word for object and subject.

I will invent a weird language, imagine I have to add "am" in English to means "object", and nothing to mean "subject".

Rosam I see. I rosam see. See I rosam.

In this case, the order doesn't matter, because I have a marker showing me what is the grammatical role of "rosam" here.

Note: in Latin accusative rosam (object for "rose") is singular, unlike my weird example.

So, normally, now you know why cases.

What is the minimum to know about Latin cases before starting the Duo course?

Only focus on Nominative and accusative, first. When you've understood them, focus on Locative.

To sum up the interesting things from the wikiversity page:

Normally expresses the subject of a clause Can sometimes be used to show the predicate complement

It means that the nominative is used when it's an isolated word, and when it's a subject of a sentence. And also when you use the verb to be (predicate complement), as "to be" is a special case, and always use nominative, and not accusative".

Normally denotes the direct object (Can be used in prepositional phrases with prepositions other than “ab,” “cum,” “de,” “ex,” “in,” “pro,” “sine,” and “sub”)

What is a direct object? It means the object is directly receiving or is modified by the action. In English, there is no prepositions (like "from", "to", etc) for a direct object.

I see roses.
Roses = direct object.

I eat a pizza. I kill you. Etc...

Locative: Expresses location.

So, when you want to build a sentence in Latin, you have to find its declension in a Latin dictionary or on a website.
Do not use Duolingo hint dictionary directly, find the nominative of the word (its "normal" form), wonder which case applies, and find the right case in the declension table.

Tip: if a word order you believe is okay hasn't been accepted in the exercise, do not report it in the sentence forum, just report it via the report button on the exercise page.
Only use the forum to ask or to reply to grammar questions.

How to use Duolingo course?

  • To study well, you have to have a notebook and to write down each new word.

  • You have to learn the indicative present conjugation for all the persons, each time you meet a new verb. It will help you a lot in the beginning. And afterwards, you won't need it again, as you will memorize the pattern.

  • Read aloud each of the sentences you study.

  • If you can, chose the written exercises, word bank exercises are not efficient to memorize. They are just good when you start a new lesson, and not knowing yet any of the new words.
    When you can't write in the exercise, write the sentence in your notebook. Writing and pronouncing are the best way to learn and memorize. Don't be lazy.

  • Try to think about the alternative structures, or the alternative words you can use in Latin in the sentence. If you are advanced.

  • Read the sentence forum each time you can. If sometimes you don't want, make a serie of lessons, and come back later, redoing them, and reading the forum for every sentence. Very important grammatical points are mentioned there, that you won't have or won't be aware if you skip them by lazyness.

  • Ask any questions you can about grammar. Try to answer other people grammar. It's the best of all the exercises. (if you are not sure, include something like "I think", "I'm not sure", as other learners could think you are an expert on the topic.

  • Search the etymology of English words that are related.
    As English is not a Romance language, so not directly from Latin, it has Latin roots, mostly via borrowed words from French.
    It is very interesting to consider learning a little of Old French, the words that are related to the etymology of the English words. As you can't consider a word in Latin, and it's direct descend. Old French very often changed the meaning of the word between the Latin root and its descent in English. (in clear: don't consider only the Latin meaning and the English meaning, as another language is the go-between)
    Studying a bit of etymology is really interesting, and will help you to memorize many words, and to understand better the English words meaning.

I learnt a new word, and now, I need to use it in a Latin sentence.

To find declension of words, I suggest dicolatin, it's in French, but it doesn't matter, you only need the table. I suggest this site, as it's very easy to enter any declinated form, not only the nominative, and it finds the declension table. It's a paying site, but you can use it 10 times for free, and after that, it displays a warning page asking to register, but after a few hours, you can use it again for free, so not really a big deal.

I google: "thewordImlookingfor dicolatin", in google, and it finds the delclension page. I don't recomment to use the search box directly on the site.

An example found typing "deas dicolatin" in Google.


Advantage: find any forms, including alternative and old forms. And the most complete declension table I've found so far, giving also declensions of related word, for instance, if it's "telum (neuter, meaning a projectile weapon)-> tela" and "tela (feminine, meaning a piece of cloth)", it gives everything on the same page. So we realize that a word at the nominative singular, could have he same form than another word at the accusative singular (or whatever)

Disavandtage: Allows only 10 requests in a row.

You can also use Wiktionary, it gives declension tables.


And also The Olivetti Latin dictionary: https://www.online-latin-dictionary.com

I've found rarer words in this dictionary, so, it is very good.
Gives declension tables.
Very unique: it gives a bunch of short example-sentences using the word, with the translation! Ideal to know if a word has several meanings, or how to use it properly.

There's also Wikidot Latin, but the 2 other ones above are better. http://latindictionary.wikidot.com/

If you other sites, that could adds something more, I'll be happy you share them.
(but only if they have something more)

I will add more sites later (etymology, meaning, context), but this message had been written to help someone about declension cases.

October 16, 2019



I think it's well worth the trouble of getting a grammar book - Kennedy's Latin Primer has stood the test of time in UK and there are various editions at various prices to choose from. I also think it's worth having a small dictionary. Neither need cost much.

I first met Latin as a very young schoolboy in 1944 and didn't enjoy it much though I passed the required exams. It was only many years later (long before the Duo era - should we write that BDE ?) after I had become interested in one or two modern languages that I had another look. Things are much more fun if you don't have to do them!

I'm really enjoying this Duo course. I'm sure it will grow and grow. I hope so, anyway!


thanks very much for these precisions... in order to improve your understanding of latin language you also can use this youtube channel in english : https://www.youtube.com/user/latintutorial


I took Latin for 5 years, was the president of our club, and went to convention every year. Thinks I'm going to test out of everything Has forgotten all of it while studying Spanish Here's to relearning this very alive language.


I also started Latin recently and find it extremely difficult if you have no previous knowledge. Instead of starting with single words, sentences are offered. how should one go through there? especially as a complete beginner


It's the reason for this guide. Latin couldn't be learned the same way than many other languages here. It can be really disconcerting for beginners.

I am in the same situation than you. No previous knowledge. If you apply this guide, I believe it could help you a lot. Try to apply:

1- Try to understand the cases I mentioned in this post. Do not go further before that.

2- Apply the tips about the notebook (writing down every sentences, and especially new words),

3- when you meet a new word, try to use it in a sentence in Latin.

4- To make a sentence, use the methods I mentioned to find the declensions table of the word.

5- Be careful with the "hints" dictionary of Duolingo. Use it only the first time you do a lesson, if you need it, but when you redo the lesson, do not use them. They slow down your learning. They should only be used when you are totally lost.
Most of the time, I don't use them when I lost, I just fail the sentence, and do it again, (but it's only possible on the web version without the health system).
Sometimes, I look at the hints once I finished the sentence, not as an help, but as complement of info.

6- If you feel lost, do very few everyday, only one lesson, and redoing it the next day to understand it better, until either you got really bored, or you do it almost without mistakes.

For instance, an old lesson + a new lesson, everyday, could be made, to prevent to get bored. Or several old lessons. But do no advance further while skipping to redo lessons that didn't have been understood.

I redo my older lessons everyday until I am level 5, while advancing a bit when my brain is not too saturated with new information.

Only with that. You should do better in Latin.

After that, try for a while to read every times the sentence forum. For instance, do the first lesson reading everything. It will slow your learning down, but you will have an explanation about everything that is hard to understand, or not intuitive in the sentence.

Take note from what you learnt in the forum sentence.

I will improve this mini guide to make it more useful, and you can help me.

I will edit the post, according to your suggestions or questions.


As I know only few words actually have locative Case (mostly city name and small island), and in Latin textbook they usually explain locative case later because they use ablative case with preposition for that purpose most of the time... so I suggest learn ablative case and their plenty of usages instead of locative case in the beginning.


Yes. But I didn't explain all that, because I wanted a very basic guide for people who are lost. Not too much info. Someone who is lost is already drowned under the info given in the course, as many people go to fast. So, just the very basics. But I probably should explain further.

The reason why we need to know the locative so early, is that it present in very early lessons of the Duo Latin course.

The ablative case is in later lessons, on Duolingo. It's a Duolingo guide.
They teach you "domi" in the first lessons.


I came in on Duolingo Latin with a history of experience and it didn't even occur to me until today that I was automatically falling back on my memory of the cases instead of following something taught on Duolingo. It really is almost impossible to learn without that basis. Latin relies a lot on context clues to fill in the blanks with sentences that you just can't manage without knowing the cases.


I didn't learned the cases, but remembered from the Duo exercise. But yes, sometimes we have to memorize.

How did you find the Latin course? It's a good beta course in my opinion.


I have used Duolingo to learn in several ways. With French, I used Duo first and then took "The Great Courses". With Latin I took "The Great Courses" first and then started on Duo. For me it was very helpful to take a class (even though there were no papers to hand in or any thing like that) that explained the grammar, instead of having to pick it out from between the lines. That said every one learns in their own way.


Thank you for this!

[deactivated user]

    I'm familiar with cases from learning other languages with cases, but Latin introduces a couple of new ones to me, the ablative for example.

    When learning on Duolingo, I write out the translation that I think is correct, and then use the hints to check my version before hitting the check button. If I got it wrong, I correct it and make a note of the correct version for future reference. This is what works best for me. If I make mistakes, it's mainly through not concentrating and I go back and do it again - though it can be frustrating if I make a mistake on the very last one.

    This video will help beginners with this course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QhpM9hG-TI


    So, you also, use the hint after?
    I think it's a good practice; If you use it before it ruins the thinking.

    Thank you for your method. It's cool, and will probably help some users here.
    I'm convinced that writing is very important too. And doing again the mistakes, not rushing, but being slow, also, you're right.

    [deactivated user]

      Yes, after I have written it. Using it before would rather defeat the object IMO. I also do the same with the sentences where there is a word bank, meaning that I think of what I think the translation should be before I find and select the words. Gives me some extra valuable practice. Also, if I do make a mistake, I always make sure I understand what I did wrong before moving on.


      Very good. (I hate word banks, they ruin the translation creativity the first time you met a new sentence, and prevent us to write to memorize.)

      I do the same when they ask me to write what I hear, I translate it mentally or I write, and I remove it to write the sentence in Latin, and validate the exercise.
      It creates additional exercises, very useful to train, now that there's less lessons in an unit.


      Thanks it is very useful.


      an other interesting youtube channel for learning easily : https://www.youtube.com/user/visuallatin/videos

      Learn Latin in just 5 minutes a day. For free.