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)