Latin for beginners (1911)/Part II/Lesson XX

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132. Tense Signs. Instead of using auxiliary verbs to express differences in tense, like was, shall, will, etc., Latin adds to the verb stem certain elements that have the force of auxiliary verbs. These are called tense signs.

133. Formation and Inflection of the Imperfect. The tense sign of the imperfect is -bā-, which is added to the present stem. The imperfect consists, therefore, of three parts:

Present Stem Tense Sign Personal Ending
amā- ba- m
loving was I

The inflection is as follows:

Conjugation I Conjugation II
Singular Personal
1. amā´bam, I was loving monē´bam, I was advising -m
2. amā´bās, you were loving monē´bās, you were advising -s
3. amā´bat, he was loving monē´bat, he was advising -t

Plural Personal
1. amābā´mus, we were loving monēbā´mus, we were advising -mus
2. amābā´tis, you were loving monēbā´tis, you were advising -tis
3. amā´bant, they were loving monē´bant, they were advising -nt
a. Note that the ā of the tense sign -- is shortened before -nt, and before m and t when final. (Cf. § 12.2.)

In a similar manner inflect the verbs given in § 129.

134. Meaning of the Imperfect. The Latin imperfect describes an act as going on or progressing in past time, like the English past-progressive tense (as, I was walking). It is the regular tense used to describe a past situation or condition of affairs.




  1. Vidēbāmus, dēsīderābat, mātūrābās.
  2. Dabant, vocābātis, dēlēbāmus.
  3. Pugnant, laudābās, movēbātis.
  4. Iubēbant, properābātis, portābāmus.
  5. Dabās, nārrābant, labōrābātis.
  6. Vidēbant, movēbās, nūntiābāmus.
  7. Necābat, movēbam, habēbat, parābātis.


  1. You were having (sing. and plur.), we were killing, they were laboring.
  2. He was moving, we were ordering, we were fighting.
  3. We were telling, they were seeing, he was calling.
  4. They were living, I was longing for, we were destroying.
  5. You were giving, you were moving, you were announcing, (sing. and plur.).
  6. They were caring for, he was plowing, we were praising.


Ni'obe and her Children

First learn the special vocabulary, p. 287.

Niobē, rēgīna Thēbānōrum, erat pulchra fēmina sed superba. Erat superba nōn sōlum fōrmā[1] suā marītīque potentiā[1] sed etiam magnō līberōrum numerō.[1] Nam habēbat[2] septem fīliōs et septem fīliās. Sed ea superbia erat rēgīnae[3] causa magnae trīstitiae et līberīs[3] causa dūrae poenae.

Note. The words Niobē, Thēbānōrum, and marītī will be found in the general vocabulary. Translate the selection without looking up any other words.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ablative of cause.
  2. Translate had; it denotes a past situation. (See § 134.)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dative, cf. § 43.