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As I'm working on vocabulary, I'm doing all I can on my flashcards to stay "in Latin" as much as possible (as opposed to English translations), and also to use as much "natural" Latin as possible.

For instance, a flashcard with a singular present active indicative forms of "amo" would appear like this:

(ego) amo
(tu) amas
(is/ea/id) amat

The pronouns in parentheses are valid Latin (even though they're not required), and also a reminder that this is first person, second person, and third person, respectively.

In English, the present active infinitive of "love" is "to love". In Latin, it is "amare"--but I wonder, is there a "helper word" that is valid Latin that could be used as a reminder that we're looking at an infinitive form? Perhaps an adverb that could go before or after the infinitive, and is commonly used with infinitives in Latin?

If there is no helper word, perhaps another way to ask this question is: what would the shortest, most concise way in Latin to form a sentence that uses an infinitive? I could (if its generic enough) use that as a "model sentence" and then insert any given infinitive into that model sentence for drilling.

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    Something like (dixit se) amare or (puto te) amare? Jan 21, 2023 at 16:42
  • That may work. Those sentences convey the idea "I tell myself to love" or "I think to myself to love", right?
    – Josh
    Jan 21, 2023 at 17:21
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    @Josh Not really. Rather it's reported speech: "He said that he loved" and "I think that you love." My 2c would use volo instead: (volo) amare / "(I want) to love".
    – cmw
    Jan 21, 2023 at 17:29

1 Answer 1

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The simplest would be going with a word which often takes a complementary infinitive, such as volo (I want) or possum (I am able). You can use it with both active and passive infinitives, too.

  • (volo) amare = (I want) to love
  • (volo) amari = (I want) to be loved

If you're familiar without with indirect statements (e.g. "he thinks that loves"), you could also go that route.

  • (puto me) amare = (I think that I) love

The problem with this way is that in normal English translation, you don't get the word "to" in there, which is often the marker of the English infinitive.


I will say that this is also a bit different from adding the pronouns. The pronouns represent what's left unsaid with the raw verb, while no such word exists for the infinitive. Ego amo and amo technically mean the same thing, even if one tends to be more emphatic than the other. But volo amare is considerably different from amare by itself.

You just can't get that close equivalence in Latin. My suggestion above should work for flashcard purposes, though, where adding volo makes sense as a learning device, not as a descriptor of what's going on grammatically.

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  • Yes, much nicer than the indirect speech variant. Jan 21, 2023 at 20:23
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    Regarding your addendum (or rather additum, I guess), compare how people learning German are encouraged not to memorize Haus, n., but rather das Haus. In reality it does not always come with a definitive article in the nominative, obviously, but you learn an in-language association determining its usage, like native speakers have, not some meta-data. Likewise, maybe we would profit too from memorizing illa domus or ampla domus instead of domus, f. Jan 22, 2023 at 15:27
  • Compare these examples from ancient grammarians: Haec ostrea feminino genere singulari numero an hoc ostreum neutrali dicendum sit quaeritur. And: ostreum dicendum est neutro genere et ad secundam declinationem, ut sit huius ostrei, huic ostreo Jan 22, 2023 at 15:30

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