Latin for Duolingo: Common Phrases
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Here are some basic phrases of conversational Latin, or “time traveler’s Latin” if you suddenly find yourself whisked back to Ancient Rome. I am not by any means an expert on conversational Latin, but this is certainly enough to get you started. There are whole books and conventions devoted to reviving spoken Latin, though.
New Grammar and Vocabulary
The grammar required for polite conversation is a little too detailed to study formally here, but you will notice the imperative singular and plural of some verbs, and some of the conjugation of valeo in the present tense. You may also notice that to turn a statement into a question, sometimes the particle “ne” is tacked on to the end of a word. There are other ways of asking a question, such as the interrogative pronoun “quid”. And let’s learn the conjugation of valeo since we will be using it so much:
valeo = I am well
vales = you are well
valet = he, she, it is well
valemus = we are well
valetis = you all are well
valent = they are well
Salve! = Hello/hi/greetings/hope you are well (addressing one person)
Salvete! = Hello, etc. (addressing more than one person)
Vale! = Goodbye, farewell (to one person)
Valete! = Goodbye, farewell (to more than one person)
Ave! = Hail/hello/farewell (to one person)
Avete! = Hail/hello/farewell (to more than one person)
Nomen mihi est ... = My name is ... (Literally it is more like “The name for me is ... ” using the dative case, and the blank for your name could be elsewhere in the sentence, i.e., “Nomen mihi ... est”).
Meum nomen est ... = My name is ... (This uses the possessive adjective to modify nomen, so it is closer to a literal translation as we see it in English, but I don’t see it used as frequently in Latin. And again the word placement can vary).
Quid agis? = How are you/ what’s up/ what are you doing? (to one person)
Quid agitis? = How are you? (to more than one person)
Optime = Very well
Bene = Well
Satis bene = Well enough
Male = Not well
Pessime = Very badly
Valesne? = Are you well? (to one person)
Valetisne? = Are you well? (to more than one person)
Ita vero/ ita = Yes indeed, yes, it is so
Non ita/ non/ minime = No, not at all
Valeo = I am well/ in good health.
Valemus = We are well.
Non valeo. = I am not well.
Et tu/vos? = And you?
Quid novi? = What’s new?
Nullum multum = Nothing much
Me paenitet/ doleo/ mea culpa = I’m sorry/ my fault.
Ignosce mihi = Excuse me, forgive me
Non intellego = I don’t understand.
Licetne? = Is it permitted/ may I?
Placetne? Quaeso = Please? (There is no one way to say “please” in Latin, these are just a few)
Tibi gratias ago = Thank you (to one person)
Vobis gratias ago = Thank you (to more than one person)
Gratias/ multas gratias = Thanks/ thanks very much
Omnibus vobis multas gratias ago. (Thank you all very much). The next lesson will probably diverge a bit from the standard Duolingo tree format, since I think it is about time to start systematically introducing some 1st declension nouns and a few of the cases. Valete!
Go to the next lesson: 1st Declension, Lesson 1
I took Latin in school for 2 years but I was ahead of the class since my teacher would show me some more advanced material because I was able to learn it. If I refreshed on my Latin (it was only a year ago) then I think I could help create a course. I'd at least be able to teach up to the subjunctive mood.
To the best of my knowledge, it is idiomatic, and a literal translation of "quid novi" is "what (is there) of the new?" Some Latin phrases just use the genitive that way: plus frumenti = more grain but is literally "more of grain", decem milia passuum = 10 miles, literally "ten thousands of paces." Your first suggestion is a possibility but I don't know that I've seen it; in the second, que is not a form used for an interrogative; the third might mean something like "who are the new guys?" I'll defer to someone with conversational Latin experience though.