The Latin Supine

Formation of the Supine

It’s a rare bit of grammar, but we’re lucky, because it’s simple. It takes one of only four forms:

  • The supine is always a fourth-declension (the -us, -ūs declension) noun, and always appears in the accusative or ablative
  • Moreover, these forms will always have an initial t- or s-, leaving four possible endings: -tum, -sum, -tū, and -sū

The accusatives move with verbs; the ablatives move with adjectives: vēnit spectātum [he came to see]; mirabile dictū [marvelous to tell]

You have the endings, now consider the stems:

  • The supine stem is always identical to the perfect passive participle’s stem
  • amātus: amātum, amātū; rectus: rectum, rectū

Uses of the Supine

As I mentioned just above, there are four forms with two endings, and therefore two uses:

The supine accusatives, -tum and -sum are “used after verbs of motion to express purpose” (AG, 509)

  • nam vēnī dē tumultū te admonitum, quem cum abīrēs linquistī: and I’m here to remind you, of the mess you left when you ran away
  • pārentēs abībit inventum postrīdiē: she leaves tomorrow to find her parents

Not that the supine is a singular accusative, even where it follow a plural verb, or takes a plural object

The supine ablatives, -tū and – are used with a handful of adjectives, as a means of reference 

  • iste senex foedus et visū et olfactū est: that geezer is hard on the eyes and the nose
  • nulla optima via catō deglūbū est: there is no best way to skin a cat

The ablatives may also appears with fāsnefās and opus, again as a means of reference 

  • this is unholy to say: hōc nefās dictū est
  • this letter is a burden to write: literra opus scriptū est. 

The supine ablatives are commonly attached to statements about the senses, or statement denoting easy or difficulty.

Essential AG: 94.b; 509-10


Uses of the Gerundive

Uses of the Gerundive

Summary of the Gerundive

The gerundive has two distinct forms–it may appear as verbal adjective (gerundive proper) or as verbal noun [the gerund–see ‘Uses of the Gerund’ (Gerund and Gerundive)]

  • There gerundive is attributive, the gerund substantive

The gerundive, a verbal adjective, “is always passive, denoting necessity, obligation, or propriety” (AG, §500)

The gerundive proper has three uses:

  1. It may agree with a noun, conferring a descriptive sense of necessity, obligation or propriety onto that noun
  2. It may appear within the secondary periphrastic construction, as a predicate to some noun with esse
  3. With certain verbs to express purpose

The Gerundive as Adjective

  • We see a brave man, worthy to be preserved: fortem et cōnservandum virum vidēmus.
  • We hear from him that an unbearable injury is done: iniūria facta esse nōn ferenda eō audīmus.

The Gerundive with the Second Periphrastic

Recall that the second periphrastic is a construction tying some form of esse to the gerundive (‘future passive participle’)

  • Won’t he need to be heard: nōnnē audiendus eus erit?
  • The city must be taken: urbs capienda est.

The Gerundive as Impersonal Periphrastic

Note that this is the only use of the gerundive capable of taking an object, and the use that falls nearest to the gerund

Since these gerundives, like all gerunds, are neuter, they can only be distinguished in sense–gerundives always carry a tone of necessity, obligation or propriety

  • Time must be obeyed: temporī serviendum est.
  • Caesar must not be succeeded: Caesarī nōn succendum est.
  • Moderate exercise must be used: ūtendum est exercitātiōnibus modicīs (abl.)

The Gerundive of Purpose

The gerundive may appear with certain verbs, those describing giving, delivering, agreeing for, having, receiving, undertaking and demanding

  • He took care that the ships and cargoes should be kept: nāvīs atque onera adservanda cūrābat.
  • He held the temple for overseeing: aedem habuit tuendam.
  • He admitted the men for prayers: virōs petendōs accēpit.

Essential AG: 196, 500

Famous Phrase: ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam

(With that, I say that Carthage must be destroyed.)

[Cato the Elder ended all of his speeches with this line after the Second Punic War. His wishes were fulfilled, three years after his death, in 146 BC.]


Uses of the Gerund (Gerund vs. Gerundive)

Summary of the Gerund (p1/3)

Summary of Use

The gerund is a verb noun, as the English gerund, which ends in -ing

  • Reading is a doorway.

The gerund is a (neuter singular) genitive, dative, accusative or ablative declension of the gerundive, the fourth principle part of the Latin noun

  • moneō, monēre, monuī, monitus (for the gerund, imagine monitum)

An important distinction between English and Latin gerunds: Latin gerunds appear only in the oblique cases.

Where a nominative is needed, Latin uses the infinitive

  • Reading is a doorway: legēre porta est.
  • The habit of reading is a doorway: mōs legendī porta est.

Gerund vs. Gerundive

Ideally, the gerundive, a verbal adjective, will agree with its corresponding noun, while the gerund, a verbal noun, remains neuter singular

  • This isn’t helpful when working with neuter nouns

Here are some examples that we can distinguish:

  • He had a design of taking the city: ratiō urbis capiendae tenuit. (gerundive)
  • He had a design of taking the city: ratiō urbem capiendī tenuit. (gerund)
  • The phrase urbis capiendae is entirely feminine, but the phrase urbem capiendī sees a neuter verbal noun with a feminine accusative object
  • Here, the gerundive is preferred

Here’s a more challenging example:

  • I occupied myself in the forum, the Curia and the defense of my friends: in forō, in cūriā, in amīcōrum perīculīs prōpulsandīs
  • First, note that gerunds and gerundives may be placed in apposition to nouns
  • Second, see that perīculum is neuter (dative or ablative), but prōpellō takes an accusative direct object
  • Therefore, prōpulsandīs must be agreeing with perīculīs, and this must be a gerundive construction
  • The (more awkward) gerund equivalent: in amīcōrum perīcula prōpulsandīs 

A gerund with a direct object is rare, so don’t let it worry you

The Essential AG: §501-503

Famous Phrase: tenet insānābile multōs scrībendī cacoethes

(the insatiable itch of writing grips many) -Juvenal, Saturās, 7.51