Comparison of Participles (as Adjectives)

In my last post I covered the basics of comparing regular adjectives. Participles decline as regular adjectives when they are compared, whether they be present active (patiēns, patient) or perfect passive (apertus, open).

  • amans (stem ament-) / amantior, -ius / amantissimus, -a, -um (loving)
  • rabiens (stem rabient-) / rabientior, -ius / rabientissimus, -a, -um (raving)
  • nescitus, -a, -um (stem nescito-) / nescitior, -ius / nescitissimus, -a, -um (ignorant)
  • olfactus, -a, -um (stem olfacto-) / olfactior, -ius / olfactissimus, -a, -um (sniffed)

A related phenomenon occurs with compound adjectives ending in -dicus, -volus, and -ficus (from dīcō, volō, and faciō). These compounds in fact take the stem of their related present active participle (dīcens, volens, faciens) in place of other endings.

  • maledicus, -a, -um / maledīcentior, -ius / maledīcentissimus, -a, -um (slanderous)
  • benevolus, -a, -um / benevolentior, -ius / benevolentissimus, -a, -um (well-wishing)
  • māgnificus, -a, -um / māgnificentior, -ius / māgnificentissimus, -a, -um (grand)

The Essential AG: 124a, 127

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What is the present participle of esse?

Most grammar textbooks will tell you that the Latin ‘to be’ has only a future active participle. On a practical level, that’s true. However, there is evidence within the Latin language of a lost present active participle. This would have been sōns, sontis. (cf. Greek ὤν).

However, this form is all but lost. We may conjecture that it existed at one time because it is stored in certain adjectives (īnsōns, innocent; absēns, absent, praesēns, present). It also appears in late Latin philosophical terminology (ēns, being; entia, the things which are). However, these were likely designed by intellectuals to reflect the present participle as it would appear, were it in use. Honestly, the same might be true of insōns, etc, but with words that old, we can’t trace their origins properly.

The Essential AG: 170b

Colloquial Omission of Verbs

In colloquial and poetic language, common verbs like dīcō, faciō, agō and the like are often omitted.

  • What does this aim at: quō hōc [spectat]?
  • You will know a lion by his claws: ex ungue leōnem [cōgnōscēs].
  • What shall I say of this: quid [dē hōc dicam]?
  • The songstress thus spoke in replay: haec contrā cantrix [inquit].
  • Then Cotta said: tum Cotta [inquit].
  • Where are you from, and where are you of to: unde [venīs] et quō [tendis]?

Sum, as a copula, is omitted quite frequently where it is a present indicative or present infinitive:

  • You are his wife: tū coniūnx [es].
  • What need of many words: quid multa [verbōrum est]?
  • What then? Am I the boldest of all: quid ergō [est]? audācissimus ego ex omnibus [sum]?
  • The best things are rare: omnia praeclāra rāra [sunt]?
  • Hear first what must be accomplished: accipe quae peragenda prius [sunt].

As you might imagine, omission of sum will be especially popular in proverbs and sententiae, where clever identities and definitions are made all the time, making a est or a sunt all too predictable.

The Essential AG: 319a

Iubeō and Vetō Constructions

We’ve been discussing how verbs that demand and decree take a substantive clause of purpose (ut/nē + subjunctive). Allen and Greenough no sooner outline the phenomenon of these purpose clauses than they start demonstrating common exceptions.

Iubeō (order) and vetō (forbid) are more likely to take the infinitive + accusative.

  • He orders them to send more loaves: aliōs panēs eōs ferre iubet.
  • She forbids them from approaching the temple: aedem adire vetat. 

Where the verb is passive, the verb remains infinitive, but the subject accusative becomes nominative:

  • They are ordered to be present the next day: adesse iubentur postrīdiē.
  • He was ordered to go into exile: īre in exsilium iussus est.
  • Simonides was forbidden to sail: Simōnidēs vetitus est nāvigāre.

This construction is most common with these two verbs, but not unheard of with other verbs of commanding.

  • He orders that a bridge be built: pontem fierī imperat.
  • Matters at hand warn us to be on our guard so that we don’t perish too soon: rēs praestentēs nōs monet cavēre nē citior pereant.

(careful with that last one — it’s meant to differentiate the two options on the table, but if you read it too quickly it might just conflate them)

Ablative of Agent (2/2)

It’s critical to differentiate the Ablative of Instrument and Ablative of Agent.

  • Instrument uses [ablative]; Agent uses [ab/ā + ablative]

Exempla

  • He perished by the sword: gladiō occīsus est.
  • He was killed by the enemy: ab hoste occīsus est.
  • He was vexed with a problem: curā vexātus est.
  • He was haunted by the ghosts of his past: ab manibus priscīs vexātus est.

With the first example, the sword is the tool used to kill him, not the sentient agent committing the act. With the second example, the problem is the source of his worries, but the problem is not a sentient agent. The Ablative of Instrument has a sense of inanimate agency, but only the Ablative of Agent carries a sense of animate agency.

  • Animals tend to sit in the seam between these two options: sometimes they are instruments, sometimes agents. Look for ā/ab! This will not only help to make the silly distinction, but also help to show the kind of agency the author is attempting to associated with the ablative construction.

For more on the Ablative of Instrument: http://wp.me/p2eimD-52

The Essential AG: 405n2; 405bn2

Ablative of Agent (1/2)

The ablative of agent is expressed with ā or ab, and denotes an agent associated with a passive verb. In basic cases, this means the [ab + ablative] unit would be the nominative subject in an active construction.

  • Hats are worn by these men, but scorned by those men: capellī ab hīs gestantur, sed ab illīs spernantur.
  • made active
  • These men wear hats, but those men scorn hats: hī capellōs gestant, sed illī spernant.
  • He was brought to trial by his sons: ā fīliīs in iūdicium vocātus est.
  • made active
  • His sons brought him to trial: eum fīliī in iūdicium vocāvērunt.

According to AG, this construction is developed from the ablative of source. “The agent is conceived as the source or author of the action.” -AG, 405n2

  • How is this not a chicken/egg scenario? They don’t work to justify their claim, but it might be that claiming a ‘source’ is a perceived ‘agent’ offers agency to all things, whereas claiming an ‘agent’ is a ‘source’ merely relates a relationship between two things.

The ablative agent may appear with active verbs, but only where they are intransitive and allude to a passive meaning.

  • She was killed by the elephants: periit ab elephantīs

The Essential AG: 405, 405a

Passive Datives Retained

If a verb operates with an indirect dative, this dative is retained even in the passive variation.

  • They announced these misfortunes to Cato: Cātōnī haec miserea nuntiābant.
  • This misfortunes were announced to Cato: Cātonī haec miserea nuntiābantur.
  • She offered the queen the swans: rēgīnae cycnōs obtulit.
  • The swans were offered to the queen: rēgīnae cycnī oblātī sunt.
  • They protected the children from the coming arrows: puerīs aggressās sagittās prohibuērunt.
  • The arrows were prevented from reaching the children: puerīs aggressae sagittae prohibitae sunt.

Looking at the Latin, it’s pretty clear that verbs of protecting, defending and prohibiting prefer active constructions, whereas verbs of announcing, giving, presenting etc. are more flexible.

The Essential AG: 365