How do i know when to put the latin word 'est' at the end of a sentence? For example: Scintilla fessa est, Scintilla est femina Why is 'est' in a different position in each of the above sentences.

1 Answer 1


As a general rule, Latin verbs go at the end of the sentence, including the verb sum. (Traditionally, Latin has been considered a "SOV" (subject, object, verb) language, though scholars have recently cast doubt upon the necessity of that claim.)

Having said that, verb placement can vary freely, mostly for pragmatic reasons---say if you want to emphasise the verb by placing it at the beginning of the sentence, or if you are answering a question, etc.

  • Vēnistī herī? # Vēnī hodiē ("Did you come yesterday? # I came today")

Other times you may wish to make explicit an attributive (rather than an existential) use of sum. Compare:

  • Magnus sōl est ("The great sun exists / there is great sun")

  • Magnus est sōl ("The sun is great.")

In subordination constructions (such as Accusative + Infinitive) the main verb position can vary as well. E.g. all of these are semantically equivalent, but vary pragmatically:

  • Vergilius dīcit poētam arma virumque cecinisse ("Virgil says that the poet sung the arms and man")

  • Vergilius poētam arma virumque cecinisse dīcit

  • Dīcit Vergilius poētam arma virumque cecinisse, etc.

  • 1
    That Latin is an SOV language is highly questionable. The "general rule" is that word order in Latin is free. The verb can go pretty much anywhere you like.
    – fdb
    Oct 17, 2019 at 12:10
  • 1
    @fdb Agreed. I modified the first sentence. Note however that many scholars have claimed that (see Spevak's discussion in the Introduction to Constituent Order in Classical Latin Prose, 2010, pp. 2–3). And a Pinkster has suggested, syntactically Classical Latin can be said to be a SOV language, thought pragmatically it can be SVO or OVS.
    – NVaughan
    Oct 17, 2019 at 12:45

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