Expressions of Existence

In Latin, expression of existence and non-existence are handled by a Relative Clause of Characteristic (subjunctive!).

Expressions of Existence

  • sunt quī discessum animī ā corpore putent esse mortem: there are some (there exist some) who think that the departure of the soul from the body constitutes death
  • erant quī hōc cēnsērent, there were some of this opinion
  • quis est quī id nōn maximīs efferat laudibus: who is there that does not extol it with the highest praise?
  • sunt quī orbem arsum modō videre velint: some men just want to watch the world burn.

Expressions of Non-Existence

  • nihil videō quod timeam: I see nothing to fear.
  • nihil est quod adventum nostrum extimēscās: there is no reason to fear our arrival.
  • nēmō est qui SuīLocō tamen ūtātur: no one uses MySpace anymore.

A&G add that with these phrases the indicative is possible but less common, and point out that certain grammar books reference these phrases as ‘Relative Clauses with an Indefinite Antecedent.’

The Essential AG: 535a, 525an1, 535an2


Answering ‘No.’

There are several ways to respond ‘no’ in Latin.

1. The first is to repetition the verb of the question and add nōn, which expresses denial.

  • Do you sing?—I do not sing: canisne?—nōn canō.
  • Does your father jog?—No, he doesn’t: currit parēns?—nōn currit.

2. As with affirmations, there are a number of places where this would get awkward, so the Romans have a variety of negating adverbs to replace the repeated verb.

  • Is this a frog?—no it is not: estne rana?—nōn est. (awkward)
  • Is this a frog?—nope. estne rana?—nōn.

There a set number of these adverbs, and they sometimes couple to form more emphatic responses.

  • nōn, no, not so
  • minimē, not at all
  • nūllo modō, by no means

Unlike the affirmations, negation responses are fairly homogenous in sense. ‘Nōn‘ is simple the tame counterpart to anything else. Some of the combinations have more a vibrant semantic character:

  • minimē vērō, certainly not
  • nōn quidem, no way!
  • nōn hercle vēro, oh, heavens no!

Some examples:

  • Is she as gorgeous as they say?—hell no. estne ut fertur in formā?—nōn hercle vēro.
  • Did you already take out the trash?—nope. stramenta exduxistī?—nōn factum.
  • Is he really so selfish?—Not at all! estne vērō tantum egoisticus?—minimē vērō.

The Essential AG: 336b

If you readers out there know of any other standard Latin ‘no’s feel free to add them below.