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Latin Verbs

Latin verbs are inflected based on many different factors. For the purposes of translating genealogical documents, the most important factors are the person and number of the subject of the verb. Tense is also important (whether the action happens in the past, present, future, etc.), but parish records are usually written in the past tense. There is also an important category called voice, which has two options, active voice or passive voice. Voice also causes the verb to have different endings. All of these categories are described below.

Person

Person defines the perspective of the subject of the verb. There are three options for person in Latin: first person, second person, and third person.

First person verbs are paired with the pronouns “I/we.”

Second person verbs are paired with the pronouns “you/you all.”

Third person verbs are paired with the pronouns “he/she/it/they.”

First person singular and third person singular and plural are usually the only ones used in Latin parish records, so for the sake of simplicity, the first person plural and the second person singular and plural will be left out from verb endings charts.

Number

Number defines whether the subject of the verb is singular or plural. For example, a first person singular verb is paired with the pronoun “I,” and the first person plural verb is paired with the pronoun “we.”

Tense

The most common verb tense in Latin parish records is the perfect tense. This tense is used to indicate that something happened in the past. For example: “I baptized” or “they were married.”

Voice

There are two voices: active and passive.

In the active voice, the subject is paired with the verb and is the one doing the action (“I baptized”).

In the passive voice, the subject is still paired with the verb but is having the action done to it (“She was baptized”).

Both voices appear in Latin parish records. They can be recognized by their different endings. In addition, sentences in the passive voice often include an ablative noun agent, the one who is doing the action, indicated in a prepositional phrase starting with the word a/ab (“by.”)

For example: Baptizata est a me. (“She was baptized by me.”)

Forming Verbs

Like Latin nouns and adjectives, verbs are inflected by changing their endings. However, unlike nouns and adjectives, they have several possible stems to attach the endings to. These stems come from the different principal parts of the verb. All regular verbs have four principal parts. For example, the four principal parts of the Latin word for “baptize” are baptizo, baptizare, baptizavi, baptizatum.

The stem that the verb uses depends on the tense and voice of the verb:

Perfect tense verbs in the active voice use the third principal part, baptizavi.

Perfect tense verbs in the passive voice use the fourth principal part, baptizatum.

 

Perfect Active Verbs

The stem for perfect active verbs is the third principal part minus the -i. For example, the stem formed from baptizavi is baptizav-. The endings are added onto this.

Perfect Active Verb Endings

  Singular Plural
First Person -i  
Third Person -it -erunt

Example of Endings on Verb “Baptize”

  Singular Plural
First Person Baptizavi ("I baptized")  
Third Person Baptizavit ("he/she/it baptized") Baptizaverunt ("they baptized")

 

Perfect Passive Verbs

Perfect passive verbs are formed a bit differently. Instead of just adding endings onto a stem, a perfect passive verb is made up of the fourth principal part and a being verb.

Fourth Principal Part

A perfect passive verb uses the fourth principal part of the verb. For the word “baptize,” this principal part is baptizatus/-a/-um.

When the four principal parts of a verb are written out, the fourth is usually written with only the singular masculine or neuter ending (i.e. baptizo, baptizare, baptizavi, baptizatus; or baptizo, baptizare, baptizavi, baptizatum), but it can be inflected like an adjective: changing to masculine, feminine, or neuter and singular or plural to match the gender and number of the noun paired with the verb.

For example, for “She was baptized,” it would be written as baptizata, a feminine singular ending.

For “He was baptized,” it would be baptizatus.

For “They were baptized,” it would be baptizati or baptizatae (-ae ending is less common).

Being Verbs

In addition to the fourth principal part, the perfect passive verb is made up of a being verb that complements the subject of the verb. In correctly formed perfect passive verbs, the present tense being verb is used.

Present Tense Being Verb

  Singular Plural
First Person Sum ("I am")  
Third Person Est ("she/he/it is") Sunt ("they are")

 

Forming Perfect Passive Verbs

These two components, the fourth principal part and the being verb, are combined to form the perfect passive verb.

Perfect Passive Verbs

  Singular Plural
First Person Baptizatus/-a sum ("I was baptized," masc. or fem. based on the gender of "I")  
Third Person Baptizatus/-a est (he/she was baptized) Baptizati/-ae sunt ("they were baptized," masc. or fem. based on the gender of "they")

 

Other Possible Forms of the Perfect Passive Verb

Although it is the most proper to use the present tense being verb to create the perfect passive verb, sometimes other tenses of the verb are used, including the perfect tense and the imperfect tense.

Perfect Tense Being Verb

  Singular Plural
First Person Fui ("I was")  
Third Person Fuit ("he/she/it was") Fuerunt ("they were")

Imperfect Tense Being Verb

  Singular Plural
First Person Eram ("I was being")  
Third Person Erat ("he/she/it was being") Erant ("they were being")

 

Overall, examples of the possible forms of the perfect passive verb are these:

              Baptizatus/-a  sum/fui/eram (“I was baptized”)

              Baptizatus/-a  est/fuit/erat (“He/she was baptized”)

              Baptizati/-ae  sunt/fuerunt/erant (“They were baptized”)