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Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

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4.1 Person and number


  • perīculum videō – I see the danger
  • Octāvium exspectāmus – we await Octavius

  • in Italiam nāvigātis – you [plural] sail to Italy

The endings here express, among other things, the grammatical concept of person and number. There are three ‘persons’:

  1. the 1st person corresponds to the speaker (‘I’, or ‘we’)
  2. the 2nd person corresponds to the person addressed by the speaker (‘you’)
  3. the 3rd person refers to a third party (‘he / she / it’ or ‘they’). It is the standard person used in narrative prose, e.g. the descriptive passages of novels.

Persons can also be singular or plural in number, i.e. one or many. The difference between ‘I’ and ‘we’ is not one of person (they are both 1st person), but number. Table 8 below shows the possible combinations of person and number:

Table 8 Person and number
1singularI give
2singularyou (singular) give
3singularhe / she / it gives
1pluralwe give
2pluralyou (plural) give
3pluralthey give

Latin verb endings provide a lot of information about a verb in addition to its number and person. This includes the tense of the verb, i.e. whether the action was done in the present (‘I give’), the past (‘I gave’) or the future (‘I will give’). We will not cover this in detail here. If you study Latin, you will be introduced to the different features of verbs and their endings gradually and over an extended period of time. For the moment, be aware that word endings provide important information for both verbs and nouns.