How to start learning Latin?

So, I rarely talk about my life outside of writing, but uh, my partner, he wants to learn Latin to be able to understand the Latin in a song he likes.

I tried to do Latin in a story once and found it so confusing, I gave up :sweat_smile: So, I can’t help him.

It’s been almost a week, and he still seems serious about this. It’s not a passing interest yet. He can understand English and speak it somewhat. Is that a start? Can anyone help me give advice to help him get started? Where should you start?



Duolingo has Latin!


Start with vowel phonetics.


You can begin by looking at mobile apps and then you can find a book online or at your local library.


You’re in luck, I studied Latin for five years and actually used to read it (a long time ago lol).

The very very very two basics you need to know and understand are how Latin nouns/adjectives are broken down and how Latin verbs are broken down. For nouns/adjectives, these are known as “declensions” (there are five) and “conjugations” (four plus tenses) for verbs.


Latin uses declensions to denote what’s happening in a sentence. It’s a series of suffixes that changes based on how the sentence is structured. Things like possessives, which word is the subject of a sentence, which word is the object of a sentence (ie. “The dog chased a squirrel:” dog is the subject, squirrel is the object). There are tables of each declensions split into single and plural suffixes. I learned these the hard way: strict memorization lol. There are five suffixes for singular words and five suffixes for plural words in each declension. And unfortunately, unlike in English, most of them are not a singular noun which adds an “s” on the end lol. It depends on the gender of the word plus the declension the word uses (1-5).

I’d recommend finding a single word for each of the first 3 declensions and familiarizing yourself with those tables and what each form means. You will see various ways of saying each of the five endings for singular/plural words, but these are the universal ones (and the ones I was taught. It’s a dead language so nothing’s changed lol): nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative (you might see some others, but focus on these).

  • Nominative Indicates the subject of a sentence. (The boy loves the book).
  • Genitive Indicates possession. (The boy loves the girl’s book).
  • Dative Indicates indirect object. (The boy gave the book to the girl).
  • Accusative Indicates direct object. (The boy loves the book).
  • Ablative Answers the questions from where? by what means? how? from what cause? in what manner? when? or where?
    • The ablative is used to show separation (from), instrumentality or means (by, with), accompaniment (with), or locality (at). It is often used with a preposition: The boy went to the store with the girl.

Copied from this article, which has a very good breakdown of how these all work (plus a few other forms of words, but again, focus on these five).

Latin has a very gendered nomenclature, meaning all their non-verb words have either feminine (mostly 1st Declension), masculine (mostly 2nd declension) or neuter (mostly 3rd declension, but 3rd is a broad category of all 3) gendering. For example, many feminine nouns end with -a, the plural of which is -ae. (ie. vita for “life” would be vitae for “lives.”) Nouns/adjectives need to match, by the way. For example, a good life would be translated “bona vita.” The 4th and 5th are variations of the first three, so concentrate on the first three declension tables to begin with. This document lists all the declension tables with examples.

The declension tables follow the format below (I’ve listed the 1st declension feminine table):

Usage Singular Plural
Nominative -a -ae
Genitive -ae -arum
Dative -ae -is
Accusative -am -as
Ablative -a -is

So, for example, “vita” (life) would be declined and roughly translated as follows:

Usage Singular Plural
Nominative vita (life) vitae (lives)
Genitive vitae (of life) vitarum (of lives)
Dative vitae (to/for the life) vitis (to/for the lives)
Accusative vitam (life (as the direct object)) vitas (lives (as the direct object))
Ablative vita (by/with the life) vitis (by/with the lives)

Words I would recommend as examples to familiarize yourself with the first three declension tables:

vita/vitae (feminine 1st declension: “life”)
amicus/amici (masculine 2nd declension: “friend”)
nomen/nomina (neuter 3rd declension: “name”)

These are just for nouns and adjectives. Verbs are a different animal.


Verbs are divided into singular and plural forms (like the declensions are) and are separated into four different conjugations depending on how the word is spelled (specifically the vowels). Latin verbs use endings to denote if the speaker is using first, second, or third person, and there are different suffixes to denote which tense they’re speaking in. Unlike nouns/adjectives, verbs don’t have a gendered association because the gender of the noun doesn’t affect the verb. Here’s a webpage that lists the different conjugation tables. A standard 1st conjugation present tense table looks like this:

Person Singular Plural
First -o -mus
Second -s -tis
Third -t -nt

“Amare” (to love) is a pretty common verb to start learning to conjugate. The following table shows how it’s done:

Person/Tense Singular Plural
First Present amo (I love) amamus (we love)
Second Present amas (you love) amatis (you (all) love)
Third Present amat (he/she/it loves) amant (they love)

This very basic example table is just for present tense 1st conjugation (which is where you should start). There are tables for all the verb tenses + 2nd/3rd/4th conjugations. And I do mean allllll of them. Past, present, future, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, future perfect…there’s a lot. Start with the “present” tense 1st conjugation table, I mean it lol. There are also some variations based on how the verb is spelled. This article gives a pretty good rundown of the various conjugations and how to pick apart the word to properly conjugate them.

Latin is very complicated when you’re first starting out, but there are some general rules which will help you get started and once you know them, they’ll be second nature: memorize the first 3 declensions, memorize the 1st conjugation table, then decline and conjugate various words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) until you can do it in your sleep. Then move on to the more complicated 4th and 5th declensions and the 2nd+ conjugation tables and tenses.

If your partner is really looking to try and learn Latin, this is a very rough, broad place to start lol. I would recommend finding some “beginner” Latin grammar workbooks or worksheets online because those will help him practice conjugation and declension.

Good luck! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


That might be good! I’d forgotten about duolingo.


Thank you so much! :smile: I’ll pass it on!

That’s impressive :open_mouth: Is that something you had to do for school or did you do it on your own?


For school. I had a private school education and Latin was required for every grade.


That’s cool :open_mouth: I remember someone else here has studied Latin too, @CoraLeacock28 iirc?

Also, sorry for randomly jumping in with this, but would pro amore musicae be a grammatically correct phrase? I heard online that it means “for the love of music” in Latin but I’m not sure if it’s accurate :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


Let me brush off the dusty cobwebs of my Latin training and see. :joy: I think it would depend on how you decide the context on the word “for.” Does it mean “for the sake of” love of music? Or is it more of an effect following a cause: “I play the piano for (because of) love of music?” Context is pretty important lol.

But technically it works. I’ll break it down cuz it’s a great example of how some phrases can be translated differently but mean almost the same thing:

Pro = Latin preposition that can be translated as “for, on behalf of”
Amore = from the Latin word amor/amoris which is a masculine noun in the 3rd declension meaning “love.”
Musicae from the Latin word musica/musicae which is a feminine noun in the 1st declension meaning “music.”

There are a variety of prepositions in the Latin language, and some can have similar translations depending on the context. Pro, in this case, can mean “for,” but it’s got more meanings like “on behalf of, in return for.” There’s also the Latin e/ex, de, or propter, which can be translated:

e/ex = “according to, as a result of, from, out of” (the e vs ex depends on whether the object of the prepositional phrase starts with a vowel or consonant)

de = “from, concerning, of, for”

propter = “because of, on account of, for”

There’s also the Latin conjunction “nam,” which translates to “for, since, because” and typically connects two phrases: “I play the piano, for (because) I love music.”

For the sake of argument, I’ll stick with the prepositions though. I was gonna do a whole thing about ablative vs accusative case and how it could affect which preposition you might use, but “pro” does technically work so we’ll use that so nobody’s brain explodes. :joy:

Now that you’ve had that grammar lesson, we’ll go back to your question lol.

Assuming that “pro” means “for,” Latin vocabulary will teach that you use the ablative case when a noun is the object of this preposition. So we’d need to find the ablative case for “love,” which is “amor/amoris.”

In this case, the word amor is broken down using the 3rd declension table as follows:

Singular Plural
Nominative Amor Amores
Genitive Amoris Amorum
Dative Amori Amoribus
Accusative Amorem Amores
Ablative Amore Amoribus

Amore is the singular ablative form of amor, which if we go back to my definitions of each form in my post above:

Ablative is pretty broad, but is often used with prepositions (like pro “for”). You could dig for hours about what is more grammatically correct (going back to my list of which prepositions might work) but ablative, being broad, can lend itself to this rough translation. There’s arguments about whether or not to use a preposition that uses the accusative case (meaning there is a direct object of a noun in a prepositional phrase), but “pro” anything in many Latin phrases does seem to be the standard.

It’s amazing how those three little words can have so much complexity, right? lol. Thankfully, “of music” is much easier because it’s simply a possessive, which means by default we will use the genitive case which denotes possession. We use the 1st declension to break down musica/musicae as follows:

Singular Plural
Nominative musica musicae
Genitive musicae musicarum
Dative musicae musicis
Accusative musicam musicas
Ablative musica musicis

So you put those all together:

Pro (preposition “for” which requires ablative case in its direct object) + amore (the ablative form of “love” or “the love,”) + musicae (the genitive form of “music” or “the music”) then translates to:

“for (the) love of (the) music”

And yes, there are some suffixes that are the same (ie. the Genitive and Dative of musica above), but how they’re translated depends on how the rest of the sentence is structured.

Isn’t Latin fun? :joy:


Look into Faroese. The conjugation is insane.

I love Tyr, but this is insane to me.

Yes, I have! Four years of it, although my grasp is very basic :sweat_smile: CJ’s post on learning the declensions and conjugations first is a good way to start, and is what I learned first when I started. Then once you can grasp at least how the declensions and conjugations work (each declension works the same as the rest, just with different endings, and same goes for conjugations, so once you have the idea of it down, you just have to memorize the endings), and know some simple vocabulary for each of them, you’ll want to learn how to use adjectives and adverbs, and then prepositions. I absolutely hate diagramming sentences, but diagramming a latin sentence and then the same sentence in english did help me get a better grasp on the grammar- both in english and latin.