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  First steps in Latin Grammar  

1. Nouns and verbs

2. Subjects and objects

3. Word order

4. Practice

5. Declensions and the cases

6. Nominative and

accusative cases

7. Genitive case

8. Dative case

9. Gender

10. Ablative case

11. Final practice

ANSWERS

 

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3 - Word order

In English it is the word order which tells you who is the subject and object. Typically the subject comes first, then the verb, then the object: ‘the farmer chases the bull’. If we swap subject and object and describe the bull chasing the farmer, then we alter the position of the two nouns in the sentence: ‘the bull chases the farmer’.

In Latin the word-endings and not the word order tell us who is doing it (subject) and who is done to (object). So the object could appear before the subject. In fact Latin word-order is much more flexible. The verb typically, but not always, comes at the end of a sentence or word-group.

By having the verb at the end it leaves an important part of a sentence to last, for that tells us what happens to the nouns in the sentence. Reading is an exercise in anticipation, and Roman readers/listeners would be predicting the verb (i.e. the action) as the sentence unravels. In English it is the object we predict (i.e. a noun):

               The boy smashed .... (the ball? the eggs? a pot?)

In Latin it is the verb, the action:

               The boy ...the ball .... (smashed, swallowed?)

The Latin subject generally comes first, then the object, then the verb. But this is not a fixed rule. The word-endings allow more flexibility.

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