Reminder: The Double Comparative with Intrā

This is just a quick reminder (of what I covered briefly in March 2012) that intrā gives rise to one of the few comparative / superlative adjectival pairs that is not derived from an adjective.

  • intrā, within —> interior, -ōris, inner —> intimus, a, -um inmost

A&G offer this fascinating footnote:

“The forms in -trā and -terus were originally comparative (cf. alter), so that the comparatives in -terior are double comparatives.” (my emphasis)

  • Like this: in + accusative —> intrā + accusative —> interior, -ōris

The Essential AG: 130a


Hold the Quam, Please

The comparatives plūs, minus, amplius, and longius may be seen operating without the use of quam while performing the same semantic work. Generally, these operate with a measure or number and no change in case.

  • Plūs septigentī captī sunt. More than seven hundred were taken.
  • Plūs teriī parte interfectā, nos perditī esse putāvimus, With more than one-third slain, we thought ourselves done for.
  • Aditus in lātitūdinem nōn amplius ducentōrum pedum relinquēbātur. An approach of not more than two hundred feet in width was left. (Genitive of measure.)

The Essential AG: 407c

Comparison of Regular Adverbs

Remember two simple rules and you’ll have this mastered in no time:

  1. A comparative adverb is always the neuter singular accusative of the corresponding comparative adjective. (ex. clārius)
  2. The superlative adverb is just the superlative stem of the corresponding superlative adjective with –ē. (ex. clārissimē)

Here are some additional examples:

  • carē, cārius, cārissimē, dearly, more dearly, most dearly
  • miserē, miserius, miserrimē, wretchedly, more wretchedly, most wretchedly
  • leviter, levius, levissimmē, lightly, more lightly, most lightly
  • audācter, audācius, audācissimē, boldly, more boldly, most boldly
  • bene, melius, optimē, well, better, best
  • male, peius, pessimē, poorly, worse, worst

The Essential AG: 218

Comparison of Adverbs: Irregular and Defective

Here are some irregular adverbs that defy the rules set up in this post.

  • diū, diūtius, diūtissimē, for a long time, for a longer time, for the longest time
  • potius, —— potissimum, rather, first of all
  • saepe, saepius,saepissimē, often, more often/again, most often
  • satis, satius, —— enough, preferable
  • secus, sētius, —— otherwise, worse
  • multum (or multō), magis (or mage), maximē, much, more, most
  • parum, minus, minimē, not enough, less, least
  • nūper, ——, nūperrimē, newly, most newly
  • temperē, temperius, —— seasonably, more seasonably

Most of these are either disconnected from their corresponding adjectives (semantically), or are defective in either comparative or superlative form. However, the real outlier here is the multum/ō, magis/e, maximē set, which is an aggregate of various options. Multō is of course the ablative singular neuter for the positive adjective, and mage the neuter accusative of the comparative adjective.

Magis and maximē may also be paired with other adjectives to create their comparatives, especially in adjectives ending in -eus or -ius (in the positive.)

  • idōneus, magis idōneus, maximē idōneus, fit, more fit, most fit

The Essential AG: 128, 218a

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

Comparison of Adjectives

There are a variety of ways to hide the stem of a adjective in its nominative form.

  • baburrus, -a, -um (stem barburo-) silly
  • levis, -e (stem levi-) fickle
  • fēlīx (stem fēlīc-) blessed
  • hebes (stem hebet-) dull

However, the majority of adjectives of all stem formations become comparatives and superlatives in the same way: with the addition of -ior (m/f) / ius (n) for comparatives, and the addition of -issimus, -a, -um for superlatives.

  • baburrus, -a, -um / baburrior, -ius / barburrissimus, -a, -um
  • levis, -e / levior, -ius / levissimus, -a, -um
  • fēlīx / fēlīcior, -ius / fēlīcissimus, -a, -um
  • hebes / hebetior, -ius / hebetissimus, -a, -um

There are a few things to note here. If an adjective is compared regularly,

  • It’s case ending will always have two options (m/f or n) for the comparative and three options (m or f or n) for the superlative, regardless of how many it had for the positive.
  • Stress accents will always appear on the penultimate vowel (for comparatives) or the ultimate vowel (for superlatives) of the stem.

babúrrior, baburríssimus / lévior, levísssimus / fēlícior, fēlīcíssimus / hebétior, hebetíssimus

Of course, it can always shift further forward, but never further back. The comparatives declines like so:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.42.56 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The superlatives decline like a regular first/second declension adjectives, regardless of how their positives decline:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.49.18 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The Essential AG: 120, 123-4

Archaic and Derived Superlatives

Recall the standard stem for Latin comparatives is -issimus. However, most student of Latin are familiar with a  variety of alternative, irregular forms. For instance:

  • Bonus, melior, optimus
  • Malus, peior, pessimus
  • Magnus, maior, maximus

These are all more archaic forms of the superlatives. (Hence there appearance in very basic, common adverbs, which we can predict would be more resistant to phonological change due to frequency of use.)

  • timus
  • īmus
  • summus

Furthermore, A&G note that certain superlative adjectives are derived from their comparative forms, not from their positives. They aren’t explicit about how this works, but the example they offer is extrēmus, which might go exterior –> *exterīmus –> extrēmus.

  • A&G compare this to the derivative development of ‘childish’ superlatives like the English furtherer and furtherest. Again, this is all a little mysterious to me, as a non-phonologist. If anyone has thoughts, I would love to hear them.

The Essential AG: 130an2

Greek and Latin Comparatives

There is a certain kinship between Greek and Latin (a) comparative and (b) superlative forms, as well as between (c) a particular branch of Latin positive adjectives and Greek comparatives.

To recall your knowledge of positives, comparatives, and superlatives in each language, let’s view  a few examples:

  • Dark, darker, darkest
  • niger, nigrior, nigerrimus
  • μέλας, μελάντερος, μελάντατος
  • Big, bigger, biggest
  • magnus, maior, maximus
  • μέγας, μείζων, μεγίστος
  • Dear, dearer, dearest
  • cārus, cārior, cārissimus
  • φίλος, φιλότερος, φιλότατος
  • Sweet, sweeter, sweetest
  • suavis, suavior, suavissimus
  • ἡδύς, ἥδιος, ἥδιστος

I struggle here to explain the precise interrelations between the various forms above, because A&G are quite tight-lipped about the matter (everything in this post is drawn from two far-disparate footnotes). However, we see a certain kinship between:

  • the Latin comparative (n.) -ius [e.g. nigrior (m/f), nigrius (n)] and the Greek -ίων [e.g. μείων (smaller, less)]
  • the Latin superlative –issimus [suavissimus] and the Greek -ιστος [ἥδιστος]

(these ^^ are also both relative to the English superlative [e.g. sweetest])

  • the Latin positive –ter (ater, atra, atrum) and the Greek -τερος (φιλότερος)

I think that last one is a bit of a stretch, so don’t shoot the messenger (of AG 214bn), but shoot me a comment if you disagree either with their claim or with my reading of their claim, and explain why.

The Essential AG: 124n1, 214bn

Uses of Quam (Comparisons)

Uses of Quam (part 1 of 3)

Origin of Quam

Quam is derived from the feminine singular accusative of the interrogative pronoun quī, quae, quod 

Summary of Use

Quam has many and various uses in Latin

It appears most commonly as the standard means of comparison between two adjectives, adverbs or clauses (part 1)

  • Two things compared with quam will always appear in the same case
  • There are better and worse (common and less common) ways to compare with quam

The phrases quam ut, quam quī, quam sī and quam (alone) may also initiate a subjunctive statement (part 2)

  • These include clauses of purpose, characteristic and comparison

The compouds quamquam and quamvīs are concessive particles, taking either subjunctive or indicative clauses (part 3)

Quam and its compounds have several other functions (part 4)

Comparative Quam

Placing quam between two comparative adjectives or adverbs is a standard method of comparison

  • The line was more long than broad: longior quam lātior aciēs erat.

Placing magis quam between two positive adjectives or adverbs is also common

  • She is more renowned than is honorable for a queen: clārā magis quam honestā reginae est.

Placing quam (alone) between two positives or a comparative and a positive is a “rarer and less elegant” means of making a comparison (AG, 292 n)

  • The prophet is more eloquent than wise: vatēs disertus quam sapiēns est.

Quam may also compare one clause to another

  • I never saw a shrewder man than Phormio: hominem callidiōrem vīdī nēminem quam Phormiōnem.
  • It is better to suffer than to do an injustice: accipere quam facere praestat iniuriam.

Quam or the Ablative of Comparison?

Where a noun, pronoun, adjective or adverb in the nominative or accusative is the subject of comparison, the ablative of comparison is standard

  • Silver is less precious than gold, gold than virtues: vīlius argentum est aurō, virtūtibus aurum.

Where these are not in the nominative or accusative, or where the relative (comparative) statement is a clause, quam is preferred

  • The old man is in this respect in a better position than a young man: senex est eō meliōre condiciōne quam adulēscēns.
  • For examples of quam with comparative clauses, see (3.4) above

Be warned–the poets walk all over this rule

cariōr est illīs homō quam sibi : man is dearer to those (the gods) than to himself

(Juvenval, Satires, 10.350)




Comparative Subordinate Conjunctions

Comparative Subordinate Conjunctions

Summary of Use

Conjunctions are either coordinate or subordinate

  • Coordinate conjunctions connect “coordinate or similar constructions” (AG, 223a)
  • Subordinate conjunctions connect a main clause with the clause it modifies (i.e. subordinates)

Comparative subordinate conjunctions are sub-class of subordinate conjunctions imply both comparison and condition between the two clauses

Comparative subordinate conjunctions may introduce indicative or subjunctive clauses, often hinged on the presence of near the conjunction

  • ut, utī, sīcut, prout, and praeut will produce indicative clauses
  • velut, velutī and ceu may produce either indicative or subjunctive clauses
  • tamquam (tanquam), quasi, ut sī, ac sī and velut sī will produce subjunctive clauses

Indicative Exempla

ut, utī, sīcut, or velut, just as, like

  • Fātur ut fātur meus pater: He speaks just as my father speaks.
  • Pugnat utī quae nihil āmittere habet: She fights like one with nothing to lose.
  • Ex altā arbore cadunt sīcut sidera summō caelō: they fall from the high tree. like stars from high heaven

prout or praeut like as, exactly as

  • these are more precise or emphatic than those at (2.1)
  • Fātur prout fātur meus pater: He speaks just like my father speaks.
  • Vidēris praeut tuus pater: You look exactly like your father.

ceu, just as, like

  • a poetic variant of those at (2.1)
  • tenuis fugit ceu fūmus in aurās: Fleeting, he flees as smoke in air.

Subjunctive Exempla

tamquam (tanquam), quasi, ut sī, and velut sī, as if

  • He mourns as if Asia were closed: luget tamquam clausa sit Asia
  • He speaks as if he were my father: fātur quasi meus pater sit.
  • She fights as if she had nothing to lose: pugnat ut sī nihil āmittere habeat.
  • They dreaded his cruelty as if he were present: crūdeēlitātem horērent velut sī cōram adesset.

ac sī, exactly as if

  • this is more emphatic than those at (3.1)
  • You do exactly as if you had asked me: similter facis ac sī mē rogēs. 

Famous Phrase: si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi

(if you will be at Rome, live in the Roman custom; if you will be elsewhere, live as those there)

[attributed to St. Ambrose, who received it as advice, this is the very clumsy predecessor do our own ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’]