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The Four Conjugations

171. Verbs are classed in Four Regular Conjugations, distinguished by the stem-vowel which appears before -re in the Present Infinitive Active:—

First -āre (am āre ā
Second -ēre (mon ēre ē
Third -ĕre (reg ĕre ĕ
Fourth -īre (aud īre ī

The Principal Parts

172. The Principal Parts of a verb, showing the three stems which determine its conjugation throughout, are—

  1. The Present Indicative (as, amō ), showing the Present Stem.
  2. The Present Infinitive (as, amā-re ), showing the Present Stem.
  3. The Perfect Indicative (as, amāv-ī ), showing the Perfect Stem.
  4. The neuter of the Perfect Participle (as, amāt-um ), or, if that form is not in use, the Future Active Participle ( amāt-ūrus ), showing the Supine Stem.
173. The regular forms of the Four Conjugations are seen in the following:—

First Conjugation:—

  1. Active, amō , amāre , amāvī , amātum, love.
  2. Passive, amor, amārī , amātus .
  3. Present Stem amā-, Perfect Stem amāv-, Supine Stem amāt-.

Second Conjugation:—

  1. Active, dēleō , dēlēre , dēlēvī , dēlētum, blot out.
  2. Passive, dēleor , dēlērī , dēlētus .
  3. Present Stem dēlē-, Perfect Stem dēlēv-, Supine Stem dēlēt-.

In the Second conjugation, however, the characteristic ē- rarely appears in the perfect and perfect participle. The common type is, therefore:—

  1. Active, moneō , monēre , monuī , monitum, warn.
  2. Passive, moneor , monērī , monitus .
  3. Present Stem monē-, Perfect Stem monu-, Supine Stem monit-.

Third Conjugation:—

  1. Active, tegō , tegĕre , tēxī , tēctum, cover.
  2. Passive, tegor , tegī , tēctus .
  3. Present Stem tegĕ-, Perfect Stem tēx-, Supine Stem tēct-.

Fourth Conjugation:—

  1. Active, audiō, audīre , audīvī , audītum, hear.
  2. Passive, audior , audīrī , audītus .
  3. Present Stem audī-, Perfect Stem audīv-, Supine Stem audīt-.

a. In many verbs the principal parts take forms belonging to two or more different conjugations (cf. § 189):—

  1. 1, 2, domō , domāre , domuī , domitum, subdue.
  2. 2, 3, maneō , manēre , mānsī , mānsum, remain.
  3. 3, 4, petō , petĕre , petīvī , petītum, seek.
  4. 4, 3, vinciō , vincīre , vīnxī , vīnctum, bind.

Such verbs are referred to the conjugation to which the Present sten conforms.

Present Stem

174. The parent (Indo-European) speech from which Latin comes had two main classes of verbs:—

  1. Thematic Verbs, in which a so-called thematic vowel (e/o, in Latin i/u) appeared between the root and the personal ending: as, leg-i-tis (for leg-e-tes ), leg-u-nt (for leg-o-nti ).1
  2. Athematic Verbs, in which the personal endings were added directly to the root: as, es-t , es-tis (root ES)2, -mus (, root DA), fer-t ( ferō , root FER).

Of the Athematic Verbs few survive in Latin, and these are counted as irregular, except such as have been forced into one of the four “regular” conjugations. Even the irregular verbs have admitted many forms of the thematic type.

Of the Thematic Verbs a large number remain. These may be divided into two classes:—

  1. Verbs which preserve the thematic vowel eor o (in Latin i or u) before the personal endings.—These make up the Third Conjugation. The present stem is formed in various ways (§ 176), but always ends in a short vowel e/o (Latin i/u ). Examples are tegō (stem ( tege/o- ), sternimus (stem ( sterne/o- ) for †ster-no-mos, plectunt (stem ( plecte/o- ) for †plec-to-nti. So nōscō (stem ( gnōsce/o- ) for gnō-sc-ō. Verbs like nōscō became the type for a large number of verbs in -scō, called inceptives (§ 263. 1).
  2. Verbs which form the present stem by means of the suffixye/o-, which already contained the thematic vowele/o.—Verbs of this class in which any vowel (except u ) came in contact with the suffix ye/o-suffered contraction so as to present a long vowel ā-, ē-, ī-, at the end of the stem. In this contraction the thematic e/o disappeared. These became the types of the First, Second, and Fourth conjugations respectively. In imitation of these long vowel-stems numerous verbs were formed by the Romans themselves (after the mode of formation had been entirely forgotten) from noun- and adjective-stems. This came to be the regular way of forming new verbs, just as in English the borrowed suffix -ize can be added to nouns and adjectives to make verbs: as, macadamize, modernize.
Thematic verbs of the second class in which a consonant or u came into contact with the suffix ye/o- suffered various phonetic changes. Such verbs fall partly into the Third Conjugation, giving rise to an irregular form of it, and partly into the Fourth, and some have forms of both. Examples are:—( cōn ) spiciō (-spicĕre) for †spekyō; veniō ( venīre ) for ( g ) vem-yō; cupiō , cupĕre , but cupīvī; orior, orĭtur, but orīrī . Note, however, pluō ( pluere ) for †plu-yō; and hence, by analogy, acuō ( acuere ) for †acu-yō.

In all these cases many cross-analogies and errors as well as phonetic changes have been at work to produce irregularities. Hence has arisen the traditional system which is practically represented in §§ 175, 176.

175. The Present Stem may be found by dropping -re in the Present Infinitive:—

  1. amā-re , stem amā-; monē-re , stem monē-; tegĕ-re , stem tegĕ-; audī-re , stem audī-.

176. The Present Stem is formed from the Root in all regular verbs in one of the following ways:—

a. In the First, Second, and Fourth conjugations, by adding a long vowel (ā-, ē-, ī-) to the root, whose vowel is sometimes changed: as, vocā-re (VOC), monē-re (MEN, cf. meminī ), sopī-re (SOP).3

Note.--Verb-stems of these conjugations are almost all really formed from nounstems on the pattern of older formations (see § 174).

b. In the Third Conjugation, by adding a short vowel e/o 4 to the root. In Latin this e/o usually appears as i/u, but e is preserved in some forms. Thus, tegi-s (root TEG), ali-tis (AL), regu-nt (REG); but tegĕ-ris ( tegĕ-re ), alĕ-ris.

  1. The stem-vowel e/o ( i/u ) may be preceded by n, t, or sc:5 as, tem-ni-tis, tem-nu-nt,tem-nĕ-ris (TEM); plec-ti-s(PLEC); crē-sci-tis (CRĒ).
  2. Verbs in - of the Third Conjugation (as, capiō, capĕre) show in some forms an i before the final vowel of the stem: as, cap-i-unt (CAP), fug-i-unt (FUG).
c. The root may be changed—

  1. By the repetition of a part of it (reduplication): as, gi-gn-e-re (GEN).
  2. By the insertion of a nasal (m or n): as, find-e-re (FID), tang-e-re (TAG).
d. In some verbs the present stem is formed from a noun-stem in u-, as, statu-e-re ( statu-s ), aestu-ā-re ( aestu-s ); cf. acuō , acuere .6

Note 1.--A few isolated forms use the simple root as a present stem: as, fer-re , fer-t; es-se; vel-le, vul-t . These are counted as irregular.

Note 2.--In some verbs the final consonant of the root is doubled before the stemvowel: as, pell-i-tis (PEL), mitt-i-tis (MIT).

e. Some verbs have roots ending in a vowel. In these the present stem is generally identical with the root: as, da-mus (DA), flē-mus (stem flē-, root form unknown).7 But others, as rui-mus (RU), are formed with an additional vowel according to the analogy of the verbs described in d.

Note.--Some verbs of this class reduplicate the root: as, si-st-e-re (STA, cf. stāre ).

Perfect Stem

177. The Perfect Stem is formed as follows:—

a. The suffix v ( u ) is added to the verb-stem: as, vocā-v-ī, audī-v-ī; or to the root: as, son-u-ī (sonā-re, root SON), mon-u-ī ( monē-re , MON treated as a root).8

Note.--In a few verbs the vowel of the root is transposed and lengthened: as, strā-v-ī ( sternō , STAR), sprē-v-ī ( spernō , SPAR).

b. The suffix s is added to the root: as, carp-s-ī (CARP), tēx-ī (for tēg-s-ī, TEG).9

Note.--The modifications of the present stem sometimes appear in the perfect: as, fīnx-ī (FIG, present stem fingĕ-), sānx-ī (SAC, present stem sancī-).

c. The root is reduplicated by prefixing the first consonant—generally with ĕ, sometimes with the root-vowel: as, ce-cid-ī ( cadō , CAD), to-tond-ī ( tondeō , TOND).

Note.--In fid-ī (for fe-fid-ī, find-ō), scid-ī (for sci-scid-ī, scindō), the reduplication has been lost, leaving merely the root.

d. The root vowel is lengthened, sometimes with vowel change: as, lēg-ī ( lĕg-ō ), ēm-ī ( ĕm-ō ), vīd-ī ( vĭd-e-ō ), fūg-ī ( fŭg-i-ō ), ēg-ī ( ăg-ō ).

e. Sometimes the perfect stem has the same formation that appears in the present tense: as, vert-ī ( vert-ō ), solv-ī ( solv-ō ).

f. Sometimes the perfect is formed from a lost or imaginary stem: as, petī-v-ī (as if from †peti-ō, †petī-re, PET).

Supine Stem

178. The Supine Stem may be found by dropping -um from the Supine. It is formed by adding t (or, by a phonetic change, s )—

a. To the present stem: as, amā-t-um , dēlē-t-um , audī-t-um .

b. To the root, with or without ĭ: as, cap-t-um ( capiō , CAP), moni-t-um ( moneō , MON used as root), cās-um (for †cad-t-um, CAD), lēc-t-um (LEG).

Note 1.--By phonetic change dt and tt become s ( dēfēnsum , versum for †dē-fendt-um, vert-t-um ); bt becomes pt (scrīp-t-um for scrīb-t-um); gt becomes ct (rēc-t-um for reg-t-um ).


Note 2.--The modifications of the present stem sometimes appear in the supine: as, tīnc-t-um ( tingō , TIG), tēn-s-um for †tend-t-um ( ten-d-ō , TEN).

Note 3.--The supine is sometimes from a lost or imaginary verb-stem: as, petī-t-um (as if from †peti-ō, †petī-re, PET).

Note 4.--A few verbs form the supine stem in s after the analogy of verbs in d and t: as, fal-s-um ( fallō ), pul-s-um ( pellō ).

1 Cf. λέγ-ε-τε, λέγ-ο-μεν; Doric λέγ-ο-ντι.

2 Cf. ἐσ-τί, ἐσ-τέ (see p. 83, note).

3 Most verbs of the First, Second, and Fourth Conjugations form the present stem by adding the suffix -ye/o- to a noun-stem. The ā of the First Conjugation is the stem-ending of the noun (as, plantā-re, from plantā-, stem of planta ). The ē of the Second and the ī of the Fourth Conjugation are due to contraction of the short vowel of the noun-stem with the ending -ye/o-. Thus albēre is from albo/e- , stem of albus; fīnīre is from fīni-, stem of fīnis. Some verbs of these classes, however, come from roots ending in a vowel.

4 This is the so-called “thematic vowel.”

5 In these verbs the stem-ending added to the root is respectively -ne/o-, -te/o<*>

6 These are either old formations in -ye/o-in which the y has disappeared after the u (as, statuō for statu-) or later imitations of such forms.

7 In some of the verbs of this class the present stem was originally identical with the root; in others the ending -ye/o- was added, but has been absorbed by contraction.

8 The v-perfect is a form of uncertain origin peculiar to the Latin.

9 The s-perfect is in origin an aorist. Thus, dīx-ī (for dīcs-ī ) corresponds to the Greek aorist ἔ-δειξ-α (for ἔ-δεικσ-α).

10 For these modifications of the supine stem, see § 15. 5, 6, 10.

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