Defective Comparatives and Superlatives

Positive-Defective Comparative Adjectives

Summary of Defection

Ordinary adjectives have a positive, comparative and superlative form

The following comparative and superlative forms either (a) have no positive form, (b) have a preposition as their positive form, (c) have an adverb as their positive form or (d) have only very rare positive adjectives

Comparatives With No Positives

  • — / ōcior, -ius / ōcissimus, -a, -um : — / swifter / swiftest
  • — / potior, -ius / potissimus, -, um : — / preferred / most preferred

Comparatives with Adverbial Positives

  • cis, citrā / citerior, -ius / citimus, -a, -um : on this side / hither / histermost
  • prope / proprior, -ius / proximus, -a, um : near / nearer / nearest, next
  • ultrā / ulterior, -ius / ultimus, -a, -um : beyond / farther / farthest

Comparatives with Prepositional Positives

  • dē / dēterior, -ius / dēterrimus, -a, -um : down / worse / worse (n.b. not more down)
  • in, intrā / interior, -ius / intimus, -a, -um : in, within / inner / inmost
  • prae, prō / prior, -ius / prīmus, -a, -um : before / former / first

Comparatives with Rare Positives

  • exterus, -a, -um / exterior, -ius / extrēmus, -a, -um : outward / outer / outmost
  • īnferus, -a, -um / īnferior, -ius / īnfimus (-īmus), -a, -um : below / lower / lowest
  • posterus, -a, -um / posterior, -ius / postrēmus (postumus), -a, -um : following / later / last (last-born)
  • superus, -a, um / superior, -ius / suprēmus (summus), -a, -um : above / higher /highest
Positives in this category, where they appear, are substantives. The īnferī are the gods the underworld, extrēmī are foreigners and Postumus is a common surname.

Essential AG: 130, 130a-b

Famous Phrase: videō meliōra probōque / dēteriōra sequor 

(I see and approve the better, but follow the worse) [Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.20-1]


The Latin, or There and Back Again

I thought I should share two resources dear to my study of Latin. These are twin tools I use when searching for English words with Latin roots, or Latin words with English derivatives.

Certainly, I profit immensely from becoming tongue-tied between the two languages—if that makes sense.

There’s some danger here. Certain common Latin words, like prōspiciō, have comparatively rare English derivatives like prospicient. Naturally, after a few weeks of reading Cicero, prospicient feels like an ordinary word because you encounter its root relative so often in the text. It’s not, and I get looks for letting it loose in casual conversation. Beware.

For finding English derivatives, I use this Wikipedia page.

Now, with a simple [ command/control+f ], it’s easy to search for either Latin roots or English derivatives.

However, for finding Latin roots of English words, I prefer this handy etymology dictionary, which reveals the precise history of many English words.

Neither of these tools is nearly comprehensive—so if there’s a particular world you’re interested in, a simple Google search might work. That said, if the words you’re after aren’t on either of these sites, (in my experience) they probably aren’t on Google, either.

If readers have any additional sites to suggest, I’m all ears!

Happy Hunting!

Prīdiē and Postrīdiē

Summary of Prīdiē of Postrīdiē

Origin of The Expressions

prīdiē is a locative form of the fifth declension prīdiēs (viz. prae + diēs) and appears as independent expression of time

Postrīdiē is a locative form of the fifth declension postrīdiē (viz. postrēmus + diēs)

prīdiē should be translated the day before or yesterday

postrīdiē should be translated the day after or tomorrow

Summary of Uses

These expressions may be adverbial or substantive

Where adverbial, each term expresses time relative to spoken sentence itself

Where substantive with a genitive or accusative case, each term expresses time relative to some event, the day before or the day after the genitive counterpart

Finally, as a substantive they may be coupled with quam (prīdiē…quam), where each term expresses time relative to the quam clause

Adverbial Examples

  • Clodius arrived yesterday with me: Clōdius mēcum prīdiē venit.
  • Tomorrow we will begin the war: bellum postrīdiē incipient.

Accusative and Genitive Examples

  • Clodius arrived the day before me: Clōdius meī prīdiē venit.
  • She was born the day after this: postrīdiē eius natus erat.
  • The jester left the day before the war: balātro prīdiē bellum abiit.

Quam Examples

  • Clodius arrived the day before me (i.e. before I arrived): Clōdius prīdie quam mē venit. 
  • She was born the day after they started the war: natus erat postrīdiē quam bellum incēpiērunt.

The Essential AG: 359b, 432a, 434 (all small sections, I promise)

Famous Phrase : prīdiē caveat ne faciat quod pigeat postrīdiē

[take care today so that you won’t regret what happens tomorrow] (Plautus, Stichus, 1.2.65)


-Ra / -Ra Stem Adjectives

Summary of First and Second Declension -ro/-ra Stem Adjectives

Summary of Declension

Adjectives with the stem ro- are of two classes: (i) those preceded by e [viz. ero-] and (ii) those preceded by a consonant [viz. gro-, bro-, fro-, etc.]

All members of both classes are first/second declension adjectives

Adjectives in Class (i) [ e-class ]

  • asper, aspera, asperum : rude, crude, violent
  • dexter, dextera, dexterum: right, favorable
  • gibber, gibbera, gibberum : humpbacked
  • lacer, lacera, lacerum : torn
  • līber, lībera, līberum : free
  • miser, misera, miserum : wretched
  • tener, tenera, tenerum : soft, young, effeminate
  • saetiger, saetigera, saetigerum : bristly (thorn-bearing)
  • (like saetiger, all compounds of -fer and -ger, from ferō and gerō [i.o.] are members of this class)

Adjectives in Class (ii) [ consonant-class ]

  • aeger, aegra, aegrum : sick, sad
  • āter, ātra, ātrum : dark
  • crēber, crēbra, crēbrum : thick, frequent
  • faber, fabra, fabrum : skillful
  • glaber, glabra, glabrum : smooth, hairless
  • integer, integra, integrum : complete, untouched
  • lūdicer, lūdicra, lūdicrum : sportive
  • macer, macra, macrum : lean, thin
  • niger, nigra, nigrum : black
  • noster, nostra, nostrum : our
  • piger, pigra, pigrum : slow, dull, lazy
  • pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum : beautiful, excellent
  • ruber, rubra, rubrum : red
  • sacer, sacra, sacrum : holy
  • sinister, sinistra, sinistrum : left, unfavorable
  • taeter, taetra, taetrum : offensive, shocking
  • vafer, vafra, vafrum : sly, crafty
  • vester, vestra, vestrum : your (pl.)

Exceptional Variants

  • satur, satura, saturum : full, sated

The Essential AG : 111, 112

Famous Phrase : aegri somnia (a sick man’s dreams = trouble sleep)

[Horace, Ars Poetica 7—but presently popular with hipster and counterculture groups]




Double Accusatives

Double Accusatives

Summary of Use

In addition to an accusative direct object, some verbs take either (i) a predicate accusative or (ii) a second object

Predicate Accusative

A predicate accusative renames the direct object

It appears with verbs of naming, choosing, appointing, making, showing, etc.

The predicate accusative is not an apposition, because it is not contained within a separate clause


  • Let us elect Cicero consul: creēmus Cicerōnem cōnsulem.
  • They named me augur: mē augurem nōmināvērunt.
  • He considered no one a man: hominem nēminem putāvit.
  • She offered herself as a leader: ducem sē praebuit.

Second Object

Certain verbs take two accusative objects, including verbs of asking, teaching, and cēlō, to conceal

Many of these verbs have alternative constructions featuring one accusative object, and one ablative of agent


  • He asked my opinion: mē sententiam rogāvit.
  • He prays to the gods for rest: ōtium dīvōs rogat.
  • She taught them the basics: elementa eōs docēbat.
  • I did not conceal the talk from you: nōn tē sermōnem celāvī.

Passive Constructions

When converted to passive form, double accusative constructions will often place one accusative in the nominative, leaving the other in the accusative

  • Caesar was asked his opinion: Caesar sententiam rogātus est.

Passive constructions may also use one nominative and one ablative of agent

  • This was urgently demanded of him: id ab eō flāgitābātur.

Secondary Object

“The accusative of secondary object is used…to denote something more remotely affected by the action of the verb” (AG, 394)

Here, there is a clear hierarchy between primary and secondary accusative objects

The secondary object is rare, an appears with only a handful of verbal compounds of dūco, iāciō, and portō, especially compounds with the preposition trāns

  • These are they whom Pompey conducted through his garrison: hīs sunt quōs Pompeius sua praesidia circumdūxit.

The Essential AG: 393, 396

Famous Phrase: multōs multa expierentia dōcet (Experiences teaches much to many.)

[a motto for pathologists]

Personal Pronouns

Personal Pronouns

Summary of Use

The personal pronouns are ego / nōs and tū / vōs. 

“Personal pronouns of the third person—he, she, it—are wanting in Latin” (AG 142)

Subject pronouns are rare, except where emphasis is needed

  • Direct and indirect object pronouns are more common

Often, personal pronouns cluster together in a sentence

Notes on Particular Forms

Nōs will often appear for ego (the ‘royal we’), but vōs will never appear for

  • O gods, let me see his face: superī, nōbis videat suam ōs licet!

The forms of the genitive personal pronouns (meī, tuī, suī, nostrī, vestrī) are really the genitive singular neuter possessives

The same is true of nostrum and vestrum as plural neuter possessives

Whereas nostrum and vestrum are typically partitive, meī, tuī, suī, nostrī, and vestrī are typically objective

  • He spoke to each one of us: ūnuscuīque nostrum legāvit.
  • You are mindful of us: memor nostrī es.

Enclitic Constructions

The emphatic -met may be attached to any pronoun: egomet, nōsmet, vōsmet (but note: tūte and tūtemet)

The personal pronouns may work enclitically with cum.

  • He talks with you: vōscum loquitur.

Additional Exampla

  • You are dear to me: tūte cara mihi es.
  • What you tell me is not true: nōn verum quod mihi dicis est. 
  • We have come with you to lean: discere nōs tēcum venivīmus.

The Essential AG: 143

Famous Phrase: tū fuī egō eris (I was you; you will be me) [written on gravestones]



Permission Consructions

Verbs of Permission

Summary of Construction

“Verbs of permitting take either the subjunctive or the infinitive.” (AG 563c)

Where the subjunctive appears, it accompanies a substantive clause of purpose, led on by ut or .

Verbs of Permitting

All verbs in this list may (among other things) be translated allow or permit

  • ammitto, ammittere, ammīsī, ammissus
  • concēdo, concēdere, concessī, concessus 
  • patior, patī, passus sum
  • permitto, permittere, permīsī, permissus
  • praebeō, praebēre, praebuī, praebitus
  • sinō, sinere, sīvī, situs


  • He permitted them to make it: permīsit ut id facerent.
  • I allow you to not miss these events: concēdo tibi nē ea ammittās.
  • He did not allow the tents to be pitched: tabernācula statuī passus nōn est.
  • They do not allow wine to be imported: vinum importārī nōn sinunt.

Note on Licet

The impersonal licet may also mean allow or permit, and may also take an infinite, or initiate a subjunctive purpose clause

The Essential AG: 363c

Famous Phrase: semel in annō licet insanīre

(once each year, it is permitted to go crazy)

[from Horace (4.13.2) and Augustine (Civ. Dei, 4.10); proverbial during the Middle Ages]


Uses of Ergā

Summary of Ergā

Summary of Use

Ergā is a preposition; it takes the accusative case and may be translated toward or for.

Along with in is forms an accusative of inclination; in this use, both prepositions have the same meaning.

The sense of ergā is always conceptual; ‘toward’ describes ‘regard for’ or ‘with respect to,’ and not physical movement

  • The accusatives are inclination often occur where dative would seem appropriate


  • There is charity, divine toward men: illic bonitās dīvina ergā hominēs est.
  • He held hatred for each of us: odium nostrum ergā quemque habēbat. 

Comparison with In

  • May you be kind to your wife: comīs in uxōrem sīs.
  • I am grateful toward you: in tē grātus sum.

The Essential AG: 385b

Famous Phrase: ergā omnēs : (toward all)

[legal term, describing universal rights or obligations]


Intersum and Rēferō

Summary of Intersum and Rēferō

Summary of Use

Intersum and rēfero appear with many meanings, both personal and impersonal

They decline irregularly, in the pattern of sum and ferō, i.o.

Personal Uses 

As a personal verb, intersum may be translated be apart, differ, be among, be between, or attend to

As a personal verb, rēferō may be translated carry back, relate, announce, decree return, repay, revive, restore, repeat, et al.

Impersonal Uses

As impersonal verbs, interest and rēfert may both be translated as be of interest or matter or be advantageous 

“The subject of the verb is a neuter pronoun or a substantive clause” (AG, 355)

The person affective is given in the genitive

  • It was an interest of Clodius that he should die: Clōdī intererat eum perīre.
  • It matters more to her than her own children: id eius quam suōs līberōs rēfert.

“The degree of interest is expressed by a genitive of value, an adverb, or an adverbial accusative” (AG, 355n2)

  • Her life matters much to me: magnī eam vīvere meī rēfert.

Rare and Advanced Alternatives 

The person affected may be replaced with a feminine ablative singular possessive pronoun

  • How does that concern you: quid tuā id rēfert? 
  • These are to your advantage: illa vestrā intersunt.

A preposition phrase with ad may replace the subject of the verb

  • It is of great consequence to our honor: magnī ad honōrem nostrum interest.
  • They matter nothing to the crop: nullī ad frūctūs rēferunt.

The person affected is given with ad or the dative

  • What does it matter to me: quid id ad mē rēfert? 
  • It makes no difference to judge: id judicī nōn interest.

The Essential AG: 355

Famous Phrase: quam benē vivās rēfert, non quam diū

(It matters how well you live, not how long.) [Seneca, Epistulae Morales, 101.15]


Queō and Nequeō

Summary of queō and nequeō

Summary of Use and Defection

Queō and nequeō (viz. ne + queō) are defective verbs and should be translated I can and I cannot, i.o.

Both verbs conjugate like

“They are rarely used except in the present” (AG, 206d)

Many forms are defective—that is, they appear in no extant Latin text

  • The imperative, gerund and supine are entirely defective
  • A few passive forms occur in medieval prose

Queō and nequeō appear less frequently than possum and nōn possum.


  • I can trust him: eō fidem dāre queō. 
  • He cannot feel pain: nōn quit sentīre dolorem.
  • He cannot feel pain: nequit sentīre dolorem.
  • This is what may be said: hōc quod dicere quīsse est.

The Essential AG: 206d

Famous Phrase: flectere sī nequeō superōs, Acheron movēbo.

(If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.) [Aeneid, 7.312]