Exercises to Learn the Four Conjugations of Latin
Although rote memorization is often criticized as a pedagogical tool in favor of more progressive learning, this is one area where English speakers benefit from raw memorization. One exercise that can help Latin students learn the four conjugations is to become adept at reproducing the tables of the 501 Latin Verbs book.
Certainly, students need not reproduce the entire book. Instead, they should take four model words, one from each conjugation, and learn to reproduce the corresponding page of the book in its entirety and with no mistakes. Starting with the first and moving from conjugation to conjugation, students can see the anomalies not only within a conjugation but also between them. This is especially useful when encountering the third conjugation because the present and future tenses of both the active and passive voices deviate significantly from the rules of forming these tenses in the previous two conjugations.
Choosing good model words can be the key between success and frustration. Since a lot of writing is involved in reproducing the tables, it is wise to choose Latin verbs that are short but represent the conjugation well. The following verbs are recommended.
1st conjugation: amo, amare, amavi, amatum
2nd conjugation: debeo, debere, debui, debitum
3rd conjugation: ago, agere, egi, actum
4th conjugation: audio, audire, audivi, auditum
These verbs are short and follow the rules of their respective conjugations with no surprises other than anomalies shared by all normal verbs belonging to each conjugation. Of course, model verbs should also be chosen for other verb forms such as third-declension –io verbs and irregular verbs such as “sum, esse, fui, futurus."