I understand that there is no strict order, but why is it that this specific order is preferable over something like "mihi nomen est" or "nomen tibi est".

The image below is from the Greetings assignment on the Duolingo course for Latin.

Duolingo refernce for image

  • 4
    Welcome to the site and thanks for a nice first question! If anything else in the Duolingo Latin course confuses you, feel free to ask more questions here.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 14:54
  • Thank you, Joonas.
    – hifromdev
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


The Latin Duolingo course is not of particularly high quality. Completing the course will certainly give you some insight to Latin, but every detail of the course must be taken with a grain of salt. We have a separate question on the quality of the course.

The words mihi, tibi, ei are the dative forms of the pronouns ego, tu, is/ea/id. Why the dative is used here is best taken to a separate question; like Duolingo, I will not go into it here.

The position of the dative is pretty free and it has the same freedom for all pronouns. The position of est is also not tied to the specific person at all. That is, all these are fine:

Nomen mihi est Marcus.
Nomen tibi est Marcus.
Nomen ei est Marcus.
Mihi nomen est Marcus.
Tibi nomen est Marcus.
Ei nomen est Marcus.
Nomen mihi Marcus est.
Nomen tibi Marcus est.
Nomen ei Marcus est.
Mihi nomen Marcus est.
Tibi nomen Marcus est.
Ei nomen Marcus est.

It is an unfortunate feature of Duolingo — and not just with Latin — that it might get stuck on artificially set phrases and marks some perfectly correct answers as wrong. The freedom of positioning the dative should have been made explicit in the instructions.

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    In short: the order of tibi and nomen does not matter at all: swap them and the sentence remains exactly the same. The same applies to the other sentences.
    – Cerberus
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 23:05
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    @Cerberus I have no experience with Latin, I am merely curious. Is it really true that the order does not matter at all? I am a Hungarian speaker, another language with free word order. Yet the word order is not meaningless: it is used to emphasize a certain part of the sentence. If the emphasis conveyed by the word order does not match the context, the sentence will feel very unnatural to native speakers. Is there anything like this in Latin?
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 19:51
  • To clarify what I mean by "emphasis", in English we might also play with word order: "My name is Marcus" (not Lucius—emphasis on Marcus). "Marcus is my name" (not your name—emphasis on my).
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 19:53
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    @Szabolcs: You're absolutely right: word order can be significant in Latin. For example, deviating from certain patterns of standard word order may convey emphasis, as you say; see 'topic and focus' on WIkipedia. What I meant was that, in this particular sentence, swapping nomen and tibi would not normally result in a serious change in meaning. It may or may not convey topicality depending on context.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 21:48
  • @Cerberus What Szabolcs says is very important: Latin, like Hungarian, is not a "free word order language" but rather a "discourse configurational language". In Latin (and Hungarian), sentences with different word order can have the same propositional content but crucially differ in their informational meaning. In my opinion, one pending issue in learning Latin as L2 has to to do with learning this connection between word order and informational meaning. Unsurprisingly, even very proficient learners can be found using word orders of their native languages when speaking/writing Latin.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 15:09

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