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Easy Latin – Lesson 1: Foundations

Easy Latin – Lesson 1: Foundations

How would you like to learn Latin, the dead language lost in time? To read the writings of the dead and reveal the mysterious secrets long held silent? You don’t need formal lessons, and you don’t have time for endless tutorials. Learn Latin the easy way and uncover ancient forbidden secrets all on your own. Join me on this journey and uncover a long lost world!

Virgil was perhaps the greatest Latin poet of all time. His work the Aeneid showed the world how well suited Latin was as a language to take epic poetry from an oral tradition to one of literature. In this 3rd-century Tunisian mosaic Virgil is seated between Clio and Melpomene.

This is the first lesson in a set of six which will give you a great foundation to learn Latin. If you want to immerse yourself in the utter beauty of poets like Ovid or Virgil, the blood thirsty diaries of Caesar, or even the great Vulgate, then this is where you need to begin!

Before we delve into decoding ancient Latin texts and esoteric medieval manuals, we have to have a firm grasp on some grammar, and we have to do this by looking at English grammar first. It can be a bit of a drag, but we will fly through it right here right now. Let’s look at different types of grammatical word types.

Basic English Grammar

Noun – a thing, an object in a sentence such as a person, a tree, a dog, Lisa, Rome, the world.

Verb – a doing word, some kind of action like running, thinking, making, loving, and also states of being like, I am, he was, to be, etc.

Pronoun – takes the place of a noun, so instead of Peter, a pronoun could be He, a car – it.

Adverb – An adverb is easy to remember as adding to a verb. They add a word or even a set of words that build information for a verb, adjective, or even other adverbs. An adverb answers how, when, where, to what extent, how often or how much. Some examples including, running quickly, horribly terrified, often lonely.

Adjective – similar to adverbs, except they add information to a noun or pronoun. E.g. a large house, a small dog, the woman is brave.

Excellent work, you have survived so far! there is alot more to grammar, but this will work as a foundation for now and we will build on it as we need to.

Latin Alphabet

The Latin alphabet is a lot like our own English one, infact its a lot like every (western) European one because where the Romans went, their culture and language followed! This is why these languages are called romantic, because they stem from Rome.

As a side note, did you know the alphabet is called the alphabet because aleph and beyt are the first two letters of the first alphabet ever? The Phoenicians developed a totally new way of thinking about writing that revolutionised literature forever, but we will look at that another time.

So, let’s look at the Latin Alphabet,


You will instantly note that several letters are missing, namely a J, U, and W.

latin book of kells
Latin was used as an active language throughout Europe and the Mediterranean for over 2000 years. This leaf from the Irish, Book of Kells (c.800 AD) , depicts the four gospels in beautiful Latin script.

Latin Pronunciation

All these letters are later constructions to help with written language, J is similar to I or Y. Latin uses V as a U (when it acts a vowel) and as a W (when it acts as a consonant). Only two words starting with K, it is a rare letter. If a word has Z or Y it has come from ancient Greek. J does not exist except if I is used before a vowel at the beginning of a word turns the letter into a J pronounced as a Y, like the German ja. And lastly, C, G and T are pronounced hard.

Let’s look at some examples,

SERVVS (slave) – pronounced ser-wus. See how the first V acts as a consonant (W) and the second as a vowel (U).

CICERO (famous statemen) – pronounced Kik-ero. the C’s are hard like K,

TERTIUS (third) – pronounced Ter-Tius

Latin also does a few things English speakers will be unaware of, they make a single sound out of two letters put together, called a diphthong. This is like the oo in mood not pronounced separately like mo-od.

  • ei as in reign
  • au as in house
  • ae as in aisle
  • eu like sew
  • oe as in oi in oil
  • ui like in gooey, rarely used, otherwise pronounced separately

Let’s look at more examples,

CAELESTIS (celestial) – Ki -Les -Tis. (Ki as in high)

AURUM (gold) – Ow-Rem

Got it? Try these exercises and see how you do, the answers can be found here.

Exercise 1 – English Grammar

Read through these sentences (write them down) and pick out the nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs and adjectives. Remember, not all sentences will have all of them!

  1. The dog ran home.
  2. The strong man made a house.
  3. He made the house quickly.
  4. The great ships heaved slowly through the bellowing ocean.
  5. Little mice have nothing to eat.

Latin Vocabulary

Nouns Verbs Adjectives Other
equus -i 2 m horse amo 1 I love et and
dominus -i 2 m master, lord habeo 2 I have quod because
puella -ae 1f girl laudo 1 I praise

Congratulations on coming this far! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen so far, keep going! You can go to  Lesson 2 where we will explore Latin nouns. You can also skip ahead to check your Answers. Keep practising and you’ll be reading Latin in no time. Hit the links below to find each lesson.

Lesson 1Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4Lesson 5Answers

Welcome to the Easy Latin course. This short book will take you from zero knowledge in Latin to having a strong foundation in reading, translating, and constructing Latin sentences and text.

Everything you need to get started is right here in this book, there are five lessons to work through, followed by answers for everything at the back. Also included are some absolute essentials that will help you throughout your journey in Latin, as you work through this book, and beyond it! There are references on all declensions, conjugations, pronouns, adverbs and irregular verbs! These you can print out and take with you, use them as flash cards and reference sheets, I still refer to them all the time and they are a great tool to check your work without seeing the answers! Plus there is an extensive vocabulary at the end that you can refer to and build on.

This course is essential for anyone starting out with Latin, it will explain everything you need to get started, with helpful hints along the way, and a few historic notes to add some fun.


R. D. Jones



About Robert Jones

Robert Jones is a student of history, classics and languages and has been studying his whole life! Along with that he has a degree in earth sciences and shares his life with his beautiful fiance, step-daughter, the tiny minature pinscher Chico and the not as tiny english staffy Bear.

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