1. Steven Moran says:

    Long, long ago, I used “y’all” in my Latin classes. My instructor – an immigrant from a weird part of northern Italy that grew up speaking German – had never heard that word before and was absolutely delighted by it.

    1. Hi Steve, I’m glad you were able to share the delight of this word with your instructor. I grew up in Georgia, so “y’all” has always been part of my vocabulary. My students love using it in class, no matter where they are from!

  2. Fred Adams says:

    Thank you for this exposition. I wonder why we have “eram” and “fui” meaning “I was”. Interpreting “fui” as “I have been” is easier because that gives us two different words for two different meanings. How does “fui” come be “I was” as well as “I have been”?

    1. Hi Fred, this is a great question. There are two parts to the answer, one which involves the peculiarities of Latin and the other the peculiarities of English.

      First, the Latin perfect tense is hybrid in the sense that it combines two Proto-Indo-European tenses: the aorist (simple past) and the present perfect. So, a perfect like *vīdī* can mean both *I saw* (simple past) and *I have seen* (present perfect), and *laudāvī* can mean both *I praised* (simple past) and *I have praised* (present perfect). Latin uses one tense where in English we have two separate ones, and this is why *fuī* can mean both *I was* (simple past) and *I have been* (present perfect).

      But why is *eram* (imperfect) ALSO translated as *I was*? This is because English doesn’t tend to distinguish between the simple past (e.g. I praised) and the past progressive (e.g. I was praising) in the verb *to be*. You could technically translate *eram* as *I was being* to get the imperfect aspect, but this sounds weird in English, so we just say *I was.*

      I hope this makes sense. To summarize, *fuī*, when translated as *I was*, emphasizes the completion of the action/state of being. *Eram*, also translated as *I was*, emphasizes the ongoing nature of the action/state of being.

  3. Fred Adams says:

    Thank You, Livia! I’m now wondering about the latin word “incolunt”, used famously by Caesar. It is translated everywhere as “inhabit” or “live in” (I think). I wonder whether there might be some additional nuance to this word, as it resembles colony or colonize, Might the word carry in addition to its simplistic translations the connotation of carrying a developed culture into a new place, or pursuing the practices of a developed culture (“living”) in a particular place?

    I promise not to inundate you with further questions of this sort. After reading this I think my real question has to do with whether Latin writers/speakers employ nuance as we do in English. I think the answer must be yes. I guess it will take a great deal of reading followed by writing in Latin for me to truly understand the language. Getting ahead of myself…

    1. Hello again, Fred! This is a great question – ‘incolō’ comes from the verb ‘colō’, which originally meant “cultivate” or “till.” So the basic meaning is agricultural, something like “pursue farming practices in a given place.” This is where the relationship with ‘colony’ and ‘colonize’ comes in.

      And to answer your second question: yes, Latin writers/speakers definitely employ nuance. In my opinion, one of the most fun parts of learning a new language is discovering all the little distinctions and shades of meaning.

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