Adjectives And Adverbs

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The comparative and superlative of adjectives can be used without any idea of comparison but to express a high or very high degree; for example, instead of meaning more beautiful and most beautiful, pulchrior and pulcherrimus can mean rather beautiful and very beautiful, respectively. (Sometimes the translation very can also be used for the comparative.)

Sulmo mihi patria est, gelidis uberrimus undis. Ovid Tristia 4.10.3 My native place is Sulmo, very rich in cold waters.

The same applies to adverbs.

Hie vir, hie est, tibi quem promitti saepius audis. Vergil Aeneid 6.791 This, this is the man whom you very often hear promised to you.

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A Latin adjective should sometimes be translated by an adverb or adverbial phrase in English.

Concordes ... pari viximus ingenid. Verse Epitaphs c.6

We lived harmoniously with matching temperaments.

... ut salvus regnet vïvatque beâtus. Horace Epistulae 1.2.10 rule in safety and to live happily.

Latin has possessive adjectives corresponding to the English my (meus), your (sg. tuus, pi. vester), and our (noster), but the third-person possessive adjective suus (his, her, its, their) is reflexive and refers to the subject of its clause.

In ... suum fartim Mùsa trahëbat opus. Ovid Tristia 4.10.20

The Muse used to draw [me] secretly to her work.

Some exceptions occur and are of the following type.

Sua quemque morëtur cura. Propertius Elegies i.i.tff.

Let everyone be occupied with his own care. (lit., Let his own care occupy each person.)

In other cases, where English uses a third-person possessive adjective, a Latin author uses the genitive of a demonstrative pronoun (eius, huius, illius, etc.).

Sic semper avunculus eius ... dixerat. Catullus Carmina &4.5Î;.

In this way, his maternal uncle ... had always spoken.

Compared with English, Latin is very sparing in its use of possessive adjectives, and more often than not it must be deduced from context if a particular possessive adjective must be supplied in the translation.

Manilius Astronomica 4.12 Mortals, free [your] minds and lighten [your] cares.

Attributive and predicative are terms for the two ways in which adjectives can be used. An adjective used attributively forms a phrase with the noun it qualifies; in English, the adjective always comes immediately before the noun: modern Italy, a fat Gaul, the boring poet.

The predicate is what is said about the subject of a clause (§g6) or the subject of an infinitive in an accusative-and-infinitive construction (§gio). In erunt ignés arcusque Cupïdinis arma (fires and a bow are (lit., will be) the weapons of Cupid (Ovid Amôrès 1.15.27)), the subject is ignés arcusque and the remaining words form the predicate. When an adjective is used predicatively, it indicates what is predicated of, or asserted about, the subject: the gods are immortal, Catullus was passionate. This use frequently involves the verb to be.

Pia sunt nullumque nefas ôràcula suàdent! Ovid Metamorphoses 1.392 Oracles are righteous and counsel no crime!

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Gerundives can be used both attributively (§079) and predicatively (§g8o); there is a distinction in meaning between the two.



In Latin, as in English, a verb agrees with its subject in person and \_J number, with one exception. When two singular nouns (or one singular and one plural noun) are the subject of a clause in English, its verb is plural: Joanne and her partner go to the supermarket together. Latin can have the same construction, but very often a singular verb is used when the nearer of the two subjects is singular.

Nec spatium nec mensfuerat satis apta parando. Ovid Tristia 1.3.7 Neither the time nor [my frame of] mind had heen sufficiently favorable for preparing, (fuerant would be possible grammatically and metrically) Tacet omne pecus volucresque feraeque. Statius Silvae 5.4.3

All cattle and birds and wild beasts are silent.

(tacent would be possible grammatically, but not metrically)


An important difference between the uses of the passive voice in English and in Latin is that the Latin passive can be used in a reflexive sense; for example, lavor (first-person singular, present indicative passive of lavo -are wash) can mean either I am washed or I wash myself. Context shows which meaning is intended.

Pascitur in vlvls Llvor. Ovid Amores 1.15,39

Envy feeds (lit., feeds itself) on the living.

Bonus aetherid laxatur nectare Caesar. Martial Epigrammata 4.8.9 Good Caesar relaxes himself with heavenly nectar.


The present indicative normally expresses an action or state occurring at the present time. According to context, it is translated by the English simple present (we live in Baiae), continuous present (we are living in Baiae), or emphatic present (we do live in Baiae).

The present indicative is also used to describe a past event in order to give a vivid effect (historic present, sometimes called the vivid present); this is normally translated by the English past tense.

Talia turn memorat... exterrita somno. Ennius Annates 1 fr. xxix.2.

Then she, frightened out of sleep, spoke thus.

A historic present and a past tense can occur within the same sentence,

Adloquor extrëmum maestôs abitûrus amîcôs, qui modo dê multïs ùnus et alter erant. Ovid Tristia 1.3.15F.

[When] about to leave, I addressed for the last time [my] sad friends, who now were one or two of many.

Occasionally, the historic present may be retained for stylistic reasons in English (for an example, see Juvenal Satires io.i48ff., pages 210-211).

The present indicative is used after dum (while) when the action of the verb in the dum clause covers a longer period than that of the verb in the main clause.

Parvae vindictam rei dum quaerô démens, servitûtem repperL Phaedrus Tabulae 4.4.10F.

While I was foolishly seeking retribution for a small matter, I found slavery.

The imperfect indicative expresses continuous or habitual action in the past.

Quôcumque aspicerës, luctûs gemitûsque sonâbant.

Ovid Tristia 1.3.21

Wherever you looked, laments and groans were heard (lit., were being heard), (continuous action)

... cum ventitâbâs quô puella dûcëbat. Catullus Carmina 8.4

... when you used to go where [your] girl used to lead [you], (habitual action; a more idiomatic translation would be ... when you always went to where your girl used to lead you)

The imperfect indicative also expresses an action that was begun in the past but not completed.

Tâlibus Aenëàs ardentem et torva tuentem lënibat dictïs animum. Vergil Aeneid 6.467F.

With such words Aeneas tried to soothe (lit., was soothing) [her] burning anger and grim looks. (conative imperFect)

Similarly, it can express the beginning oF an action in the past.

Umbrae ibant tenues. Vergil Georgics 4.472

The insubstantial Shades began to move. (inceptive imperFect)

The exact meaning oF a verb in the imperFect depends on context; however, the conative and inceptive uses are less common. The simple past tense in English can very often be used to translate a Latin imperFect.

Nec sese a gremio illius movebat. Catullus Carmina 3.8

And it did not stir (lit., move itself) from her lap.

(the more literal translation it used not to move itself... is also possible)

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