Skidmore College
Classics 201:  The Oratory of Cicero
Essential grammar:  Adjectives
The Adjectives Page
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   Adjective Clauses


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| Adjectives.  The basic role of the Latin adjective is to modify a noun in case, number, and gender.  You are used to thinking of adjectives as separate vocabulary entries.  Nevertheless, adjectives can be created from verbs (gerundives) or even out of entire clauses.

In this section, as with nouns, the concept of the adjective is gradually expanded from an individual noun-modifier within a sentence, to a sentence as a whole.

NOTE:  References to Moreland and Fleischer (MF) and the online Allen and Greenough (AG) are given in parentheses.
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Predicates.  (MF 17)  (AG 283)

A predicate is the part of a sentence that (in translation) follows the main verb.  Here the term refers specifically  to what follows a linking verb like sum, esse.  In this sense, there are two types of predicate:  nominative and accusative.

Nominative.  (MF 17)  (AG 284)
[noun in nom.] + [linking verb] + [adj. in nom.]
simili senatus consulto...est permissa res publica.  (2.6-7)
The republic was allowed a similar decree of the senate.
Although the entire verb is technically permissa est, the pluperfect passive indicative of permittere, permissa functions like a predicate adjective, with est as the link to res publica.

The only caveat is that permissa est must be translated in the perfect (was allowed) and not in the present (is allowed).

NOTE:  Nominative adjectives used as predicates are often called predicate adjectives.

Accusative.  (AG 392, 393)
[noun in acc.] + [linking verb] + [adj. in acc.]
constrictam...teneri coniurationem tuam non vides?  (1.8-9)
Don't you see that your conspiracy is held constricted?
In this example, constrictam is accusative in order to modify conspiracy (coniurationem).  Conspiracy is accusative because it is the subject of the indirect statement introduced by non vides.

If this were direct statement, we would have something like this:  coniuratio est constricta, where constricta is a predicate nominative.  The addition of the "head" verb mandates a change from predicate nominative to predicate accusative.

teneri (to be held), the passive of tenere, is basically the same as esse.  It is the linking verb between coniurationem and constrictam. esse clementem, non dissolutum videri.  (4.16-18)
I want myself to be merciful, I want myself not to seem cowardly.
In this example we have the same situation as above:  clementem and dissolutum are the predicate accusatives modifying me;  esse and videri are the linking verbs.  All are governed by cupio in indirect statement.

NOTE:  If the subject is nominative, the predicate must also be nominative;  likewise for accusative subjects.  There can be no mixing and matching of cases, no nominative subjects with  predicate accusatives, or vice versa.

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   Passive Periphrastic
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Gerundives.  (MF 266)  (AG 500, 502)
Gerundives are verbal adjectives;  that is, they are adjectives formed from the present stems of verbs—in fact, they are also known as future passive participles.  They are translated as to be [verb]-ed or must be [verb]-ed, whatever the verb happens to be.  Note that the action is in the passive, not the active, voice.

Like all adjectives, gerundives have case, number, and gender, and modify nouns.  Furthermore, they may become nouns on their own (or substantives:  MF 49D, AG 288).  Yet they retain some verbal properties, as shown by their passive translation.

  Formation.  (MF 266)  (AG 500, 502)
[pres. stem of verb] + [-nd-] + [1st or 2nd decl. adj. ending]

Example:  amare, to love = ama + nd + a (nom. sing. fem.)

amanda, she who must be loved.
As you can see, there are as many gerundives as there are cases, numbers, and genders.  Since gerundives can be masculine or feminine or plural, they are easily identified as adjectives.  Conversely, if you see what looks to be a gerundive all by itself, and in the neuter singular, you are probably looking at a gerund, which is a verbal noun.

  Basic usage.  (MF 266)  (AG 503)
Gerund or gerundive?, that is the question.  In theory,  the  following sentence, which utilizes the gerund, makes grammatical sense.
amando libros vivit.  She lives by means of loving books.
amando governs libros as its object.  In practice, however, such constructions are rare.  Here is what Cicero would have written, using the gerundive:
libris amandis vivit.  She lives by means of books to be loved.
In this sentence, libros becomes libris.  That is, what was formerly a direct object is put into the case of our theoretical gerund (amando), an ablative of means.  The gerund is then replaced by a gerundive, amandis, which modifies libris in case, number, and gender.  This is the noun + gerundive construction, and it is favored over gerund + noun.

NOTE:  The above translation is very literal.  For the sake of convenience, if not sanity, we would translate as, She lives by means of loving books.  In other words, we translate as if we had gerund + noun.

Here is a noun + gerundive sentence from our reading:

nihil te hic senatus habendi locus movit?  (1.6)
Didn't this very fortified place of convening the senate move you at all?
The key words are senatus habendi locus, lit. place of the senate to be convened.  This phrase replaces locus habendi senatum, gerund + noun, where habendi would take senatum as a direct object.

The reason why senatus habendi is identifiable as noun + gerundive is that senatus is clearly genitive, which means that habendi must be an adjective.

Gerundive of Purpose.  (MF 266)  (AG 506)
[ad] + [noun in acc.] + [modifying gerundive] + [verb]     -or-

[noun in gen.] + [modifying gerundive] + [causa] + [verb]

vivis non ad deponendam, sed ad confirmandam audaciam. (4.15-16)
You live not to put aside your boldness, but to strengthen it.
The prepositions ad or causa with the noun + gerundive construction denotes purpose.

Here audaciam is the object of ad, and is modified by both deponendam and confirmandam.  To bring out the gerundives, we might translate, You live not for the purpose of (ad) putting aside your boldness, but for the purpose of strengthening it.

You might have thought deponendam and confirmandam were gerunds because they both follow ad directly.  Their feminine endings, however, reveal that they are adjectives, and so gerundives.

causa, which is the really the ablative singular of the noun cause, is used after  genitive nouns and gerundives:

nesciat (te) manum consulum et principum civitatis interficiendorum causa paravisse.  (15.24-7)
He doesn't know that you prepared your band for the sake of murdering the consuls and the best men of the state.
Compare this expression of purpose with subjunctive purpose clauses, supines, and relative clauses of purpose.

Passive Periphrastic.  (MF 87)  (AG 196, 500.2)
[nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [gerundive predicate] + [dat. agent]
(hoc) erit verendum mihi.  (5.26)
This will be to be feared by me.
The passive periphrastic, which expresses duty or obligation, is nothing more than the gerundive functioning as a predicate nominative after a linking verb.

In the above sentence, verendum modifies hoc in case, number, and gender (nom. sing. neut.)  Usually the linking verb is in the present, not the future, tense, like so:  hoc est verendum, which would mean, This is to be feared, or even, This must be feared.

mihi is a dative of agent, which is the norm with passive periphrastics.

NOTE:  In the original Latin, what Cicero has to fear is actually a subject noun clause.  See also the entry on clauses of fearing.

magna dis immortalibus habenda est atque huic ipsi Iovi Statori...gratia.  (11.8-10)
Great thanks must be rendered to the immortal gods and especially to Jupiter Stator here.
non est saepius in uno homine summa salus periclitanda rei publicae.  (11.12-14)
The highest safety of the republic ought not be risked too often on one man.

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Last modified 6 April 1999