Latin for beginners (1911)/Reading Matter

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How to Translate. You have already had considerable practice in translating simple Latin, and have learned that the guide to the meaning lies in the endings of the words. If these are neglected, no skill can make sense of the Latin. If they are carefully noted and accurately translated, not many difficulties remain. Observe the following suggestions:

1 Read the Latin sentence through to the end, noting endings of nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.
2 Read it again and see if any of the words you know are nominatives or accusatives. This will often give you what may be called the backbone of the sentence; that is, subject, verb, and object.
3 Look up the words you do not know, and determine their use in the sentence from their endings.
4 If you cannot yet translate the sentence, put down the English meanings of all the words in the same order as the Latin words. You will then generally see through the meaning of the sentence.
5 Be careful to
a. Translate adjectives with the nouns to which they belong.
b. Translate together prepositions and the nouns which they govern.
c. Translate adverbs with the words that they modify.
d. Make sense. If you do not make sense, you have made a mistake. One mistake will spoil a whole sentence.
6 When the sentence is correctly translated, read the Latin over again, and try to understand it as Latin, without thinking of the English translation.

The Parts of a Sentence. You will now meet somewhat longer sentences than you have had before. To assist in translating them, remember, first of all, that every sentence conveys a meaning and either tells us something, asks a question, or gives a command. Every sentence must have a subject and a verb, and the verb may always have an adverb, and, if transitive, will have a direct object

However long a sentence is, you will usually be able to recognize its subject, verb, and object or predicate complement without any difficulty. These will give you the leading thought, and they must never be lost sight of while making out the rest of the sentence. The chief difficulty in translating arises from the fact that instead of a single adjective, adverb, or noun, we often have a phrase or a clause taking the place of one of these; for Latin, like English, has adjective, adverbial, and substantive clauses and phrases. For example, in the sentence The idle boy does not study, the word idle is an adjective. In The boy wasting his time does not study, the words wasting his time form an adjective phrase modifying boy. In the sentence The boy who wastes his time does not study, the words who wastes his time form an adjective clause modifying boy, and the sentence is complex. These sentences would show the same structure in Latin.

In translating, it is important to keep the parts of a phrase and the parts of a clause together and not let them become confused with the principal sentence. To distinguish between the subordinate clauses and the principal sentence is of the first importance, and is not difficult if you remember that a clause regularly contains a word that marks it as a clause and that this word usually stands first. These words join clauses to the words they depend on, and are called subordinate conjunctions. They are not very numerous, and you will soon learn to recognize them. In Latin they are the equivalents for such words as when, while, since, because, if, before, after, though, in order that, that, etc. Form the habit of memorizing the Latin subordinate conjunctions as you meet them, and of noting carefully the mood of the verb in the clauses which they introduce.