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Latin and Greek for your pets

Your dog can learn Latin and Ancient Greek! And everyone in the family can pick up a bit of Latin or Ancient Greek along with you and your four-legged pal.

The internet may be chocked full of cat and dog videos, but did you know there aren’t any videos of dogs responding to (grammatically correct) Latin or Ancient Greek commands? You, sir or madam, can fix that. Teach your pet Latin or Ancient Greek and film the results – I want to see your adorable furry companions nailing the ancient languages like a boss.

To get you started on teaching your animals the languages of Plato and Cicero, I’ve put together a list of suggested commands – imperatives that you can teach your dog (or cat, or rat, or any animal that can be trained to respond to verbal commands). I’ve also made a couple videos of me saying these commands in Latin and Ancient Greek, using Classical reconstructed pronunciation for both languages. Sadly, I don’t have a pet myself, but I do have Rufus here.

For the forms of the imperative, suggested commands, and some extra words that I couldn’t illustrate with my puppet dog Rufus (he can’t roll over… it really tangles him), check out the words below.

Latin

Latin commands are simple to execute, and sound satisfyingly abrupt. With the exception of the irregular imperatives duc, dic, fac and fer, all you need to do to find the second person singular present active imperative is to take the present active infinitive and chop off the last two letters (eg. sedēre > sedē; sit). If you are commanding multiple people or animals to do something, add -te to the end (eg. sedēte; sit). Watch out for deponent verbs like morior (die), because they will take the endings which look passive in form.

Latin English
sedē sit
iacē lie down
volve roll over
stā stand
venī come
manē stay
latrā bark
dic speak
tacē be quiet
refer fetch, bring back to me
relinque drop it/let go
morere die (I’m using this for “play dead”)
euge bone/bona canis! Yay good (male/female) dog!
optimē! Really well done!

And here are the paradigms for forming your own imperatives from verbs you prefer:

Present active imperative:

Conjugation 1 2 3 4
sing. amā habē mitte audī
plur. amāte habēte mittite audīte

Present passive imperative:

sing. amāre habēre mittere audīre
plur. amāmini habēmini mittīmini audīmini

Ancient Greek

It’s a little more complicated to choose the imperative forms in Ancient Greek, because imperatives in Greek commonly take the present or aorist tenses to express continuous or simple aspects (and κεῖμαι, “lie down,” requires the perfect tense). I’ve made some choices as to which tense-aspect would be better, but feel free to substitute your own preferences of course.

Ancient Greek English
κάθιζε be sitting/sit
κεῖσο lie down
στρέψον roll over
στῆθι stand
ἐλθέ come
μένε stay
ὑλάκτει bark
εἰπέ speak
σίγα be quiet
ἀνάφερε or ἄναγε fetch, bring back
ἄφες drop it/let it go
ἀπόθανε die (I’m using this for “play dead”)
καλέ/καλή κύον! Good (male/female) dog!
εὖγε! Well done!
καλῶς! Well done! (More common in Koine)

And here’s a paradigm for forming your own Greek imperatives from any regular verbs you might prefer:

Present 1st Aorist 2nd Aorist
Active sing. λῦε λῦσον λίπε
Active plur. λύετε λύσατε λίπετε
Middle sing. λύου λῦσαι λιποῦ
Middle plur. λύεσθε λύσασθε λίπεσθε
Passive sing. λύθητι
Passive plur. λύθητε
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About Carla Schodde

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child." - Cicero, Ad Brutum. Carla is a secondary school Latin teacher. In 2013, she finished first-class Honours in Classics, writing a thesis on accusations of impiety among philosophers in Greece and Republican Rome. She loves ancient art, ancient history, theology and pretty much anything to do with the Romans.

3 responses »

  1. neutraltechnician

    I love it, great post!

    Reply
  2. So cute! I’m learning Ancient Greek and Latin too! I should have thought about teaching my stuffed dogs and bears! It’s genius!

    Reply

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