You cannot map an English translation word for word onto its Latin equivalent for two main reasons:
- English tends to use more words than Latin, especially little words such as pronouns (‘I’, ‘you’) and prepositions (‘of’, ‘to’).
- Latin word order is more free than English and usually different.
Why is the fifth word in a Latin text unlikely to be the equivalent of the fifth word in a parallel English translation?
a. The English word might be in a different position.
b. The English word might not be represented by a Latin word at all.
c. Both a. and b.
d. Neither a. nor b.
The correct answer is c.
For English speakers, coming to grips with word endings is usually the main challenge in learning Latin. It involves not only knowing the endings, but, more importantly, understanding their uses and their implications for the meaning of a sentence. We shall explore this in more detail in the next two sections. In the process, you may find yourself acquiring insights into the workings of English as well as Latin. And if you can overcome the thought that Latin is a language of missing words and a strange word order, then you are well on your way to thinking in Latin rather than in English.