Tip 7: Questioning Verbs

A276 – Learning Latin – Targeting Grammar – Tip 07

index-cards

There are three main questions you need to ask yourself when you’re dealing with a verb:

 

What is the action of the verb?

When is the action of the verb?

Who is doing the action of the verb?

 

Every verb can be split into 3, 4 or more parts. Let’s keep it simple for now with amabam:

verb table

Have a quick flick through the Language Reference Book looking at verbs (pp.41-74). Stick, for now, to the finite forms (that means the ‘I’, ‘you (s.)’, ‘he/she/it’, ‘we’, ‘you (pl.)’, they’ forms) which are active (i.e. the ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’ etc. are doing the action of the verb; not having the action of the verb done to them [that’s passive]). You might want to print out these pages first and ring, or draw a box around, those forms to pick them out from among the welter of other information. Or you might like to cut them out and stick them on a separate piece of paper (don’t throw any of the rest away – keep it for next time!).

 

Pattern Spotting

 From amongst all these active finite forms what patterns can you spot? Here are some examples:

  • ‘-ba-’ in the 3rd position signals the imperfect tense.

  • ‘-ba-’ signals the English translation ‘was/were –––ing’

  • ‘-ba-’ signals and action continuing over a period of time in the past

Can you see that these would make handy little reminders if each one were written down on an index card?

Alternatively they can be framed as questions on the front of cards with answers on the back:

Q         What letter combination just before the personal ending of a verb signals the imperfect tense?

A         ‘-ba-’

 

Q         What letter combination just before the personal ending of a verb signals that something or somebody was or were doing something in the past?

A         ‘-ba-’

 

Q         What letter combination just before the personal ending of a verb signals that an action was continuing over a period of time in the past?

A         ‘-ba-’

 

You get the idea!

 

Time and Organisation

There are really quite a lot of patterns you can spot with verbs; and even more ways of framing what you find as questions. The best way to approach it is to sit down for a minute or two and scribble down just two or three of the most obvious things that occur to you. Do this a few times a day and by the end of a week you can have built up quite a list of items you’ve noticed.

Keep adding items to the list before you then turn them into Q&As. As soon as you find yourself ‘stuck’ for something to add to the list next (i.e. you’ve looked  at the verb pages for a good few moments but nothing seems to be occurring to you) that’s when you should glance over what is on your list and turn a couple of points into Q&As.

Use the Q&As to target items on your list which are tricky, or which you think you’ll most likely forget, or which might otherwise trip you up. Don’t waste time making Q&As for things on the list which are obvious, easy, or which you’re bound to remember. Use the Q&As to reinforce your weak points.

 

Jumping Around                                          

Look at the very ends of verbs. What does the last letter, or combinations of letters, tell you? What patterns can you spot? Do certain letters always crop in one particular tense? Do certain letters always crop up for a particular person? Who is doing the action of the verb? Are there any regular, reliable letters which will always mean the same thing? Are there alternative letters which mean the same thing? Are there letters which could mean different things which you have to be careful not to confuse? Is there anything annoyingly irregular to catch you out? Is there anything tricky that might trip you up? How do you translate the meaning of the letters? What key English words and grammatical terms do they involve?

Look at the second-to-last bit of verbs (like the ‘-ba-’ in the table above). Ask yourself the same sorts of questions. What does this part of the verb tell you? What patterns can you spot? Do certain letters always crop in one particular tense? Do certain letters always crop up for a particular person? Are there any regular, reliable letters which will always tell you the same thing? Are there alternative letters which mean the same thing? Are there letters which could mean different things which you have to be careful not to confuse? Is there anything annoyingly irregular to catch you out? Is there anything tricky that might trip you up? How do you translate the meaning of the letters? What key English words and grammatical terms do they involve?

Flick back and forth through all the verb forms. Remind yourself which ones to stick to for now by re-reading the paragraph under the table at the top of this tip. Make yourself a blank table like the one at the top of this tip for every tricky verb form you encounter. An index card is ideal for doing this. Fill it in. Highlight the boxes for the bits you found hardest or are least sure of. This way you will be building up revision materials as you go to refer back to when you are preparing for the exam.

 

Steven Havelin (25.02.18)