Verb System

The Workhorse

The verb in a Latin sentence conveys a tremendous amount of information: what the action of the sentence is, who the actor is, whether it’s happening in the past, present, or future, whether the subject actively did the verb or passively received it, and whether the action is real, a command, a wish, or even not true at all. The grammatical terms for these things are: person, number, tense, voice, and mood. Person and Number

The term “Person” refers to the actor, the subject of the verb. There are three “persons”, grammatically speaking, and they parallel the growing awareness of a developing baby. At first, the baby is only aware of Self; the first person is “I.” Then the baby becomes aware of one other being (usually the mother); the second person is “You.” As the baby grows, he or she becomes aware that there are others out there beyond “I” and “You.” The third person is “he” or “she” or “it.”

The term “Number” in this context only means one thing: singular or plural. Plural of “I” is “we.” Plural of “he” or “she” or “it” is “they.”

In English, oddly, there is no differentiation between “you (only one)” and “you (more than one).” In Latin, as in many other languages, there’s a difference between you, singular, and you, plural.

Here is an example of the Latin verb “Porto, portare”, to carry, in all persons and numbers, in the present tense:

Person & number Latin English
1st person singular Porto I carry
2nd person singular Portas You carry
3rd person singular Portat He, she or it carries
1st person plural Portamus We carry
2nd person plural Portatis You (all) carry
3rd person plural Portant They carry