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How to translate English to Latin

Latin is the ancient language of the Romans. It is relatively difficult to translate English into Latin as it does not correspond grammatically to modern languages. This article gives you some basic hints and tips to help you translate simple phrases into Latin.


If you have some basic knowledge of the structure of the Latin language, the Oxford Latin Dictionary should be your first reference. However, this should be used in conjunction with the Oxford Latin Grammar Book. This book contains in-depth grammatical explanations and examples for reference. Latin contains fierce grammatical rules, many of which do not have English equivalents. In order to translate from English-Latin, you must start from scratch, making sure every single word is in the correct tense. To help with this, Barrons 501 Latin Verbs, by Richard E. Prior is a great resource containing 501 Latin verbs, conjugated in all tenses and forms. Online Translation Online translators are simply not good enough when it comes to translating from English to Latin. The positioning of Latin words in a sentence may seem incomprehensible and there are no conjunctions such as "the", "for" or "by". The only remotely usable free translation site seems to be Google Translate. It puts the verbs and nouns in the right places and in the right tenses. For example, "The cook sees the dog" comes out as "coquus canem videt" which is correct. However, don't try to confuse the system with more complicated sentences.

Grammar tips

Remember how to put all nouns into the correct tense by using NAGDA: Nominative - used if the noun is the subject of the sentence.
Accusative - if the noun is the object.
Genitive - for possession.
Dative - If the noun is "to" or "for" something.
Ablative - "By" or "from" something. These tenses apply to all nouns, but every noun has a different ending according to its "gender". For example, masculine nominative nouns will end in -us, but feminine nominative ends in -a. Basic word order dictates that nominative nouns go at the beginning and match with the verb at the end of the sentence. The accusative noun, however, is the object and therefore goes in the middle. Remember that some modern nouns do not exist in Latin. For example, the word "volcano" does not exist, as the Romans didn't know what a volcano was!

Fun translation

Translating a motto
Translating a motto into Latin can bring a more regal air to the sentence. Visit LatinPhrases for some more common translations of mottoes, as well as some more fun ideas!

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