Clues to Verb Forms

From Saint Louis University

Grammar Helps Index


A Latin verb usually has a tripartite structure. The first part is the base or root. It carries the meaning or idea of the word:

vid- = see    curr- = run    iuv- = help

The third part is the personal ending. It tells you WHO or WHAT is being highlighted as performing or receiving or governing the action implied by the verb; that is, the personal ending indicates the subject of the clause:

You see.    They run.    We are being helped.

The Latin personal endings are taken from one of only three sets of six possibilities (three persons in singular and three in plural). These endings give you the person and the voice.


Personal Endings:


Passive / Deponent

Perfect Indicative Active

These endings usually mean:






1st sg.

 -m / -ô




2d sg.


 -ris   (= -re)


you (sg.)

3d sg.




he/ she/ it






1st pl.





2d pl.




you (pl.)

3d pl.



 -êrunt    (= -êre)



Whereas the active and passive / deponent personal endings are used in many different tenses, and in both indicative and subjunctive moods, the perfect indicative active endings do not occur elsewhere in the table of verb-forms. Therefore, perfect indicative active endings attached to the stem of the third part of the verb (the perfect stem) give you a sure clue to recognizing the form.

But usually the tense and mood clues are embedded in the middle part of the verb. Learn how to register these clues automatically by becoming aware of the letter or letters that immediately precede the personal ending.


-A- / -Â-

present subjunctive for II, III, III-io, IV

moneâtis, ponâtur, capiant, audiam

present indicative for I

laudant, precâminî, stat, fatur, amâtis

future indicative, 1st singular for III, III-io, IV

pônam, dûcam, capiar, audiam, legar


-E- / -Ê-

present subjunctive for I

amem, adôrêmus, stet, dês, hortêmur

present indicative for II

monet, tenêmur, continent, fatêminî

future indicative for III, III-io, IV

dûcêmus, capient, audiêris, sequêris

pres ind passive / deponent 2d sg for III, III-io

caperis, dûceris, sequeris, loqueris


 -I- / -Î-

present indicative for III, III-io, IV

premitur, capit, audîris, sequimur, dûcis


 -U- / -ÎU-

present indicative 3d pl for III, III-io, IV

regunt, nesciunt, loquuntur, veniunt


 -B- / -BI- / -BE- / -BU-

future indicative for I, II

laudâbô, conâberis, amâbuntur, dêbêbit, monêbitur


 -BA- / -BÂ-

imperfect indicative for all conjugations

clamâbam, timêbat, regêbâmus, iungêbâmur, agêbam, monêbantur


 -ERA- / -ERÂ-

pluperfect indicative active for all conjugations

amâverâmus, didicerâtis, polîverant


 -ER- / -ERI- / -ERÎ-

future perfect indicative active [-erô in 1st sg.]

cantâverô, cênâverimus, dixêrint, monueris

perfect subjunctive active [-erim in 1st sg.; î in 2d sg, 1st and 2d plural]

amaverim, responderîs, incêperîmus


 -ÂRE- / -ÊRE- / -ERE- / -ÎRE-

imperfect subjunctive
NOTE: This form looks like a present active infinitive with a personal ending attached.

ôrârêmus, dûcerentur, audîret, tenerêtur, caperêmur, sequerêtur, hortârêtur, servîrêminî



pluperfect subjunctive active
NOTE: This form looks like a perfect active infinitive with a personal ending attached.

mansissêmus, timuissent, amâvissês, cecinissêtis




When verbs have two parts, the past participle (ppl.) and a part taken from the verb to be (esse), they are usually PERFECT and PASSIVE / DEPONENT. (Other two-part forms are future infinitives like actûrus esse, monitum îrî.)



perfect indicative passive / deponent

amâtî sunt, locûta est, mentîtî sumus


pluperfect indicative passive / deponent

ductus eram, recitâtum erat, secûtae erâtis


future perfect indicative passive / deponent

inventî erint, amâta eris, superâtus erô


perfect subjunctive passive / deponent

laudâtus sit, dêsîderâta sint, hortâtî sîmus


pluperfect subjunctive passive / deponent

sublâta essent, victus essem, ingressus esset




Other verbal forms also have easily noticeable clues, but they often use case-endings instead of the personal ones:


 -TUS / -SUS

perfect participle [endings change with case, 1/2 declension]

amâta, mansô, dictîs, laudâtârum

 -NS / -NT-

present participle [endings change with case, 3d declension]

currêns, audientis, venientibus


gerundive (future passive participle) or gerund [endings change with case, 1/2 declension]

dêlenda, agenda, mittendî


future active participle [endings change with case, 1/2 declension]

moritûrî, vîsûrus, mixtûrôrum


This account of verb forms has not included the imperatives, which are treated elsewhere. Practice your mastery of this material by doing the exercises given on the various verb-review pages in the LatinPraxis or the Verbal Brilliance sections of this website.





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Latin Teaching Materials at Saint Louis University: © Claude Pavur 1997 - 2009.  This material is being made freely available for non-commercial educational use.