Latin Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagramming: it’s grammar, visualized. Have you ever heard of this extremely useful tool?

Using various kinds of lines throughout, you can see the internal grammatical structure of a sentence and its parts. Today you will see how it can help you understand principles of Latin grammar.

Let’s start with the simplest of examples. The crucial parts of a sentence, no matter what the size, are the subject and the verb. In English, we could say, “Caesar conquered.” “Caesar” is the subject of the sentence, the one doing something. “Conquered” is the verb, the doing that the subject did.

The subject goes first. Then you put the verb, after a vertical line:

Caesar|conquered.

In Latin, it would be similar: Caesar|vicit.

Of course, most sentences have more parts than just those two. Let’s now add an adjective: “great” to the English sentence, and “magnus” to the Latin sentence. (“Great Caesar conquered.”)

Did you notice in the Latin sentence that “magnus” is not capitalized? That was not a typo. Our new words are not placed precisely the same way in their sentences. “Great” does, in fact, become the first word of the English sentence, “Great Caesar conquered.” However, in Latin it is more common to put the adjective after the noun it describes, so the Latin sentence here would be “Caesar magnus vicit.”

But– although the words and the order of the words in the English and Latin sentences are different, the diagrams have worked out exactly the same way! This is because the underlying grammar of the sentences is exactly the same. Grammar is grammar. The rules are the rules. Hurrah!

That’s really great news for those of us speaking “word-order languages,” like English, and who are now learning Latin. Latin is an inflected language. In a Latin sentence, you will find the parts and words of a Latin sentence ordered all over the place. This is normal, good, and useful–for Latin. Using diagramming can help you see the basic underlying structure of a Latin sentence, like a grammatical “x-ray,” whether your sentence is poetry or prose, simple or complex, no matter what order the words happen to be in.

Today’s post here of course shows sentence diagramming with the very simplest of sentences. For a further intro to the basics of English sentence diagramming, go here. Here is a great sentence diagramming website with a section entirely devoted to Latin sentences!

All of this is excellent fun for grammar nerds like me! If you want to get a better grasp of grammar principles, English or Latin, and visually, sentence diagramming will be something you want to try. I’ll try to answer any questions down below if you are wondering about something!

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