Language Learners' Library

The Latin relative pronoun looks like this:

Case \ Gender: masculine : feminine : neuter singular
Nominative: qui : quae : quod
Genitive: cuius : cuius : cuius
Dative: cui : cui : cui
Accusative: quem : quam : quod
Ablative: quo : qua : quo

qui : quae : quae
quorum : quarum : quorum
quibus : quibus : quibus
quos : quas : quae
quibus : quibus : quibus

Note that the nominative and accusative of the neuter are always identical.

The relative pronoun takes the case according to its role within the relative clause, but its gender and number according to what it relates to within the main clause.

Exercise. We’ll focus on the nominative and the accusative, for now. Convert the two main clauses into a main clause and a relative subordinate clause as in the examples, and translate the result into english. Again, nevermind the word order, important is agreement of Case, Number, Gender; however, put the relative pronoun at the beginning of its clause, just like you would in english.

Titus Marcum vidit . Marcus Corneliam amat. > Titus vidit Marcum, qui amat Corneliam ‘Titus sees Marcus, who loves Cornelia,’

Titus vidit Marcum. Marcum amat Cornelia > Titus vidit Marcum, quem amat Cornelia ‘Titus sees Marcus, whom Cornelia loves.’

Marcus adspectat Corneliam. Marcus Corneliam amat. > Marcus adspectat Corneliam, quam amat ’ Marcus awaits Cornelia, whom he loves’.

Your turn!
Feles edit murem. Feles murem cepit (caught). (replace murem here)

Hic est filius meus. Valde amo filium meum.

Brennus puer valde immodestus est. Brennus non adiuvat matrem suum.

Spiritus te defendit a monstris. Monstra te devorabunt.

Virum cognoscimus. Vir in Italiam venit.

Galli in pace vivebant. Caesar Gallos vincit.

1 Like

Thanks for these great posts @Vsotvep @Sanonius @stone_defender

I’ve just got to have a coffee or two and I’ll be with you :stuck_out_tongue: :tired_face:

English is an alphabet, just an impure one. Each letter does have a consistent set of sound mappings.

First of all, separate letters from digraphs (letter combinations denoting one sound).

I’m not going to use IPA systems because I don’t know them, but just a basic phonetic script to show my point.

Consonant letters:

b = /b/
c = /k/ or /s/
d = /d/
f = /f/
g = /g/ or /j/
h = /h/ but is sometimes silent
j = /j/ except in Iberian loanwords
k = /k/
l = /l/
m = /m/
n = /n/
p = /p/
q = /kw/
r = /r/
s = /s/ or /z/
t = /t/
v = /v/
w = /w/
y = /y/ or /i:/
z = /z/

Consonant digraphs:

ch = /ch/
ci = /sh/
ph = /f/
sh = /sh/
ti = /sh/
th = /th/, but differentiated into two similar forms


a = /a/, /a:/, or the schwa
e = /e/, the schwa, or acts as a lengthening code for another vowel
i = /i/, /i:/, or /“eye”/
o = /o/ or /o:/
u = “hard /u/”, “soft /u/”, or /u:/

Vowel digraphs:

ae = /i:/ or /e:/
ai = /e:/
au = like in laud (except in “Saudi” and “mauve”)
ee = /i:/
ea = /i:/
ie = /i:/
oa = /o:/
oe = /o:/
oi = /oi/
ou = /ou/
oo = /u:/ or soft /u/

Vowel-consonant multigraphs:

all = like in ball
air = like in fair
ar = /a:/
are = like in fair
augh = /or/ or /a:f/
ay = /e:/ (except in “quay”)
ear = like in bear
ew = like in few
or = like in poor
ough = seven different sounds
oy = /oi/
ow = like in cow

Finally we have our special rule that in [vowel-consonant] the vowel is generally short (when the consonant isn’t r) and that in [vowel-consonant-e] the vowel is generally long.


It helps to understand that many sounds were pronounced differently at the time in which the Old English orthography was being abandoned for a new one based on French. For instance, in Middle English (aka. the Medieval form) the letter i usually represented an /i:/ sound like in Europe, rather than an “eye” like in “pie”.

A good example is that “ball” was originally pronounced exactly as it’s spelt.

For more information about this, read about the Great Vowel Shift.

Another case is the sound of ci in musician. It was first pronounced myoo-zi-see-un, then myoo-zi-shee-un, then finally myoo-zi-shun. This was a phonetic change going on during Shakespeare’s lifetime, aka. Early Modern English.

The difference between English and other languages is that other languages have “orthographic reforms” that redefine their spellings phonetically. For instance, I believe Japan had a major one in about 1910 in which they made diacritics on kana and removed hentaigana. Then, in living memory official kanji were limited to less than 2000. Similarly, as far as I’m aware Spanish and Portuguese have had major spelling reforms in the last 150 years. But English-speakers have prioritised long-term orthographic stability over precise phonetic mapping (and I personally am comfortable with that.)


PS. one of the most obvious spelling changes to happen in English over the last 75 years or so is that inflexion and connexion are gradually becoming inflection and connection. The spelling of recent loanwords, especially ones that have to be romanised, has also changed a bit over the last 150 years or so. eg. I posted a contemporary photograph ca. 1900 or so of “Kita Humiko”, not “Kita Fumiko”. See also how “Peking” is now “Beijing” even though afaik the Chinese name is still the same.


Word Pronunciation Meaning
料理人 りょうりにん cook
ステーキ steak
焼く やく to grill
The cook grills a steak.


This sentence would mean that the cook grills a steak regularly, e.g. as in “the cook grills steak every day”.

More natural would be to use -ている as a continuing action “the cook is grilling a steak”:


The cook grilled a steak yesterday.


The past tense of 焼く is 焼いた.

The cook will grill a steak tomorrow.


Japanese does not have a future tense, so the addition of “明日” (tomorrow) is necessary to make the sentence unambiguous.

The steak is grilled by the cook.


The passive form of 焼く is 焼かれる.
The indirect object (that is the direct object in the active voice) is marked by the particle に.

The steak has been grilled by the cook.


This is closest to the English grammatical structure and is simply the past tense of the previous sentence. However, in English the sentence could also be a clarification / explanation about the steak. In this case the steak is the topic of the sentence, which would translate as follows:


The steak will finish grilling in 10 minutes.


Once again there is no future tense in Japanese, hence without stating a time it will be ambiguous if the steak will finish grilling or the steak finishes grilling.

To state that it finishes, we can combine the verbs 焼く with 終わる (to finish) into the compound verb 焼き終わる.

The cook wanted to grill a steak.


Japanese has a verb conjugation for desire, namely the ending -たい. It behaves as an い-adjective, and thus the past tense becomes 焼きたかった.

The cook would have grilled a steak.

This was the most difficult for me to translate. Counterfactual conditions (“if X had happened, then Y would have happened”) are translated with the -たら or -ば form of the verb in the antecedent and adding だろう to the consequent (“もし X -たら、Y だろう”).

However, in this sentence the antecedent of the conditional is missing. The following are translated by a native speaker:

The ending 置けばよかった translates as something like “to wish it had been”, literally meaning “if [it is] put [like this], then [it] was good”. So the closest translation in English would be “If the cook had grilled a steak, then that would be nice”.
This is a different kind of conditional than I wanted, however.

This sentence emphasises that the cook did grill a steak. Adding もよかった is translated as “would also be good”; the literal translation is “[If] the cook grilled a steak, [that] also [would have been] good”.
This one is quite close to the conditional I wanted.

焼ける is the potential form of 焼く, meaning “to be able to grill”, with past tense 焼けた.
The だろう at the end expresses uncertainty or seeks agreement. Hence the literal translation is “I guess the cook could have grilled a steak”. However, this sentence is what would be the consequent of the conditional if we add the antecedent: 晩ご飯を食べなかったら料理人がステーキを焼けただろう.

The cook could grill a steak. 料理人がステーキを焼ける

Japanese has a potential conjugation of the verb: 焼く becomes 焼ける. As in english it is used both for expressing the possibility of an action as for expressing the ability to do an action.

The cook couldn’t grill a steak. 料理人がステーキを焼けない

Once again we can use the potential form 焼ける, but this time negated to 焼けない.
Alternatively we can state that the cook is unable to grill a steak by creating a noun 焼くこと, literally “the grilling thing”, or more precisely “the act of grilling”, and adding the verb できる, “to be able to” in the negated form できない.


Hey cook, grill a steak! 料理人さん、ステーキを焼け

To make a vocative of 料理人, we add the respectful -さん suffix. Basically it becomes “mister cook”. It could be omitted if you want to be especially rude.
As in English, the imperative 焼け is very rude. A more polite way is to use the -て form, which can be interpreted as a command as well:


This is a shortened form of the following sentence, which is the most polite, and would be translated as “Hey cook, could you please grill a steak”:


I saw the cook that grilled a steak.


In Japanese subordinate clauses do not use pronouns, but instead are just pasted in front of the noun they are modifying.
The sentence ステーキを焼いていた uses the -ている form in the past tense to denote a continuing action in the past (“the steak was being grilled”).
ステーキを焼いていた料理人 is then translated as “the cook that was grilling a steak”.

The steak grilling cook was tired.


This is translated similarly to the previous sentence, with “steak grilling” being a sentence that is placed in front of the noun it is modifying.


How do I say

Where’s the lamb sauce, you donkey?!

Ore is a very masculine and considered by some to be a bit arrogant. More neutral is to say boku for male speakers or watashi for either sex. Apparently it’s becoming more popular and neutral under the younger generation, though. It’s also one of those words that is overrepresented in anime, similar to how virtually nobody will say kisama unironically in Japan.

However, actually the most natural is to omit ore wa entirely. Putting it in the sentence makes the speaker the topic of the conversation, and thus the translation is more like “It is I, who saw the steak grilling cook”.

Steeko is close, it’s actually suteeki. Not to be confused suteki, which means “wonderful”.
Kuuku is close too, it’s actually kokku. The etymology leads back to the Dutch word “kok” for cook. There’s a Japanese word ryouri + nin (“cooking” + “person”) for cook as well.

guriru is a noun, used for the (barbecue) grill itself. As far as I can find, it’s not one of those nouns that can become a verb by adding suru. Even if it were, guriru shite no kokku would be ungrammatical. The particle no is used to connect two nouns, and guriru shite is not a noun. Usually a sentence can become a subordinate clause simply by gluing it in front of the noun: guriru shite kokku. But there’s another problem: the -te form of verbs does not form a sentence, it should be guriru suru kokku to have a proper subordinate clause.

1 Like

I’d say

Youniku no soosu wa doko, bakayarou?!

1 Like


Only the Japanese would have a word called “you (highly insulting)”


What’s really interesting, is that it literally means “noble enemy”, with sama being one of the most polite ways to address someone.

1 Like

I guess it was the Japanese equivalent of “listen pal” in which the addressee is not your pal.


I’m afraid I don’t have time to do the grammatical challenge at the moment, so instead I made this little

Vocabulary Workout

The topic is war.

bugcat's Latin translation

I tēlum, pl. tēla
II gladius, pl. gladiī
III sauciō

IV arcus, pl. arcūs
V sagitta, pl. sagittae
VI contendō

VII pugnō
VIII praedor
IX exscindō

whew, I expected to have done far worse.

that looks reeeeally strange to my primitive indo-european mind.

The I’m-grilling-a-steak cook

1 Like

When translating a Latin text and you don’t know the meaning of a word, it’s usually “to kill”.

In Hebrew (or was it Arab?), on the other hand, they say, every word has for meanings: Its primary meaning, the exact opposite of that, a sexual innuendo, a synonym for camel.


This is how I remember my Latin lessons

OK, in Latin we need ten words to express our sentences.

cocus, n. the cook (masculine, second declension)
būbula, n. beef. (feminine, first declension)
herī, abv. yesterday
crās, adv. tomorrow
coquō, v. to cook (third conjugation)
conclūdō ,v. to finish (third conjugation)
volō, v. to want (irregular conjugation)
nequeō, v. to be unable (irregular conjugation)
videō, v. to see (second conjugation)
lassō, v., to tire (first conjugation)

I’m going to shamelessly copy the verb senses given to me by @Sanonius.

I) Cocus būbulam coquit. The cook - beef - he cooks.
II) Cocus būbulam herī cōquit. The cook - beef - yesterday - he cooked.
III) Cocus būbulam crās coquet. The cook - beef - tomorrow - he will cook.
IV) Būbula cocum coquitur. Beef - the cook - it is cooked.
V) Būbula cocum coquētus est. Beef - the cook - it was cooked.
VI) Būbula cocum coquētur conclūdētur. Beef - the cook - it will be cooked - it will finish.
VII) Cocus būbulam coquere voluī. The cook - beef - to cook - he wanted to.
VIII) Cocus būbulam coquerit. The cook - beef - he would cook.
IX) Cocus būbulam coquātur. The cook - beef - he could cook.
X) Cocus būbulam coquere nequiī. The cook - beef - to cook - cannot.
XI) Coce, būbula coque! Hey cook, - beef - cook!

I’ll come back later for XII and XIII.

XII) Cocus viduī, qui būbulum cōquit. The cook - I saw , he - beef - cooked.
XIII) Cocus lassāvit, qui būbulam coquet. The cook - he tired , he - beef - cooked.

Am I the only one imagining a script of hirigana with tentacles?


Feles edit murem, quae feles cepit.

Hic est fiilus meus, quae valde emo.

Brennus puer valde immodestus est, qui non adiuvat matrem suum.

Spiritus te defendit a monstris, quae te devorabunt.

Virum cognoscimus, qui in Italiam venit.

Galli in pace vivebant, quem Caesar vincit.