The impersonal phrase ‘fit ut‘ may be rendered in English as ‘it happens that…’ or ‘it comes about that…’ and takes a subjunctive clause in Latin. This ut-clause may be classed as one of result.
Recall that fit is the third person singular active indicative of fiō, which bears a complicated relationship to faciō, explained best by Mark Damen here. For more information on fiō, don’t bother with the Perseus edition of Lewis and Short. Even the advanced entry looks like this—
So detailed! So precise!
Here are a few examples of fit ut in action—
Fit ut hominēs causā nullā multa timeant: It (often) happens that men fear many things with little (good) reason.
Fit ut imbri crebrō certāmen differat: It is the case that, with the heavy rain, the match shall be cancelled.
Two related of clauses of effort take a substantive clause of purpose with ut + subjunctive. They are classed under the general heading of such phrases that denote an action directed toward the future.
I will give it my best shot so that you will be satisfied: huic optīmam operam dābō tibi gratum sīs.
Let us attempt it now, to spare ourselves later pains: operam nunc dēmus ut postmodo onera vītēmus.
I will chew this over tomorrow: huic negōtium dābō postrīdiē.
Take care of this matter so that the plants do not die: huic negōtium dāte ne germina excīdant.
Note this alternative construction for operam dare.
He made the effort for the sake of learning: operam dedit discēndō. (gerundive clause)
Quite closely relate to expression of existence / non-existence are expressions of past time, which make use of the phrase est cum and fuit cum, which may be translated as ‘there was a time when…’ Like the phrases that describe existence, these make use of a relative clause of characteristic (w/ subjunctive!) to describe an indefinite period of present/past time.
est cum …. present subjunctive
fuit cum …. imperfect subjunctive
est cum in omnis virī aevō domum parentis linquat: there comes a time in every man’s life when he must leave the home of his father
est cum omnibus deceat: there is a season for all things
fuit cum mihi quoque initium requiēscendī fore iūstum arbitrārer: there was a time when I thought a beginning of rest would be justifiable on my part
fuit cum nōn altior meīs genibus essēs: there was a time when you were no taller than my knees
To understand the distinction between a substantive clause and a relative clause, follow this link.
Of substantive clauses, those that take the subjunctive have two central uses:
To express purpose
To describe results
Both such clauses either take ut or nē (where the purpose/results are negative).
He warns him to avoid all suspicious activities: monet ut omnēs suspīciōnēs vītet.
I beg that you aid her: tē rogō ut eam iuvēs.
He persuades them to leave: persuādet ut abeant.
He orders his men not to return: suīs imperāvit nē redeant.
A few things to note in the examples above:
The third phrase would look identical as either a substantive clause of purpose or result. One must use context to determine whether he is in the process of persuading them to leave, or whether he has already achieved this result.
The verbs that take substantive clauses may also take secondary objects (I beg you; He orders them) in any case except the nominative.
Substantive Clauses of Purpose are used with a variety of verbs and verbal phrases to denote actions that have future/planned directive. Such as:
(id) agō, agere, ēgī, actum, I do it (so that)
censeō, censēre, censuī, censum, I think, suppose, judge, recommend
ēdīcō, ēdīcere, ēdīxī, ēdictum, I publish, decree
mandō, mandāre, mandāvī, mandātum, I order, command
precor, precārī, precātus sum, I beg, pray
In general, verbs of admonishing, asking, bargaining, commanding, decreeing, determining, permitting, persuading, resolving, urging and wishing are apt to take an ut/nē substantive clause of purpose. For a fuller list, see A&G 563 fn1.
In poetry, don’t be surprised to find an infinitive clause standing as a substitute for the substantive. There are also more common prose variations for particular verbs and verbal phrases under this general heading, which I’ll sort through in coming posts.
A&G define the substantive clause as “a clause…used as a noun,” in contrast to the relative clause, which operates in place of adjectives or adverbs.
I am the man whom you are seeking. (relative clause, as adjective)
She ascended, as Ariadne ascended with Dionysius. (relative clause, as adverb)
They warned us this would happen. (substantive clause, as noun)
She wishes to see you immediately. (substantive clause, as noun)
To tease this out more explicitly, the relative clauses redefine or redescribe ‘man’ and ‘ascended,’ whereas the substantive clauses are effectively an apposition of the verb.
They warned us this would happen = their warning was ‘this would happen’
Shes wishes to see you immediately = this is her wish: to see you immediately
A&G refine this, stating that a substantive clause will always apposite a nominative or accusative case. (In the example above, she wishes x and they warned us x would both be in the accusative in Latin.)
English is partial to abstract nouns, where Latin is partial to verbal phrases.
She demanded an investigation: postulābat ut quaestiō habērētur.
Substantive Clauses Take Four General Forms:
Indicative Clauses with quod
Indirect Questions (with the Subjunctive)
This fourth form, the infinitive (with possible subjective accusative) is not properly a clause. Still these often replace ut clauses with the subjunctive, and are the mainstay of indirect discourse.