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Classics 201:  The Oratory of Cicero
Essential grammar:  Clauses
The Clauses Page
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   Noun Clauses
   Adjective Clauses
   Adverb Clauses


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| Clauses.  Most Latin sentences consist of one or more clauses, or subsentences.  The clauses may coordinate with one another, in which case they are connected by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or...), or one may be subordinate to the other, introduced by a subordinating conjunction (when, if, because...).

This page is devoted to various types of subordinate clause, and their function with respect to main clauses.  They have three basic functions:  as nouns, adjectives or adverbs.

These categories might seem strange at first, but in time I hope you will agree that they make good sense, and offer a more systematic approach than a laundry list of technical terms.

Every formula on this page has two parts:  the main clause formula, and the subordinate clause formula.

NOTE:  References to Moreland and Fleischer (MF) and the online Allen and Greenough (AG) are given in parentheses.
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   Object Clauses
   Subject Clauses
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Noun Clauses.  (AG 560)

Often in Latin entire clauses or sentences are used as nouns.

There are two basic types of noun clause: subject and object.  Of the two, object clauses are perhaps easier to understand.  You already know their technical terms:

All of these subordinate object clauses depend on some kind of sensory (or "head") verb, which is located in a main clause.  In essence, these clauses are the direct objects of the head verb.

Subject clauses, in turn, are used in conjunction with impersonal verbs,  e.g. convenit, it is fitting.

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   Indirect Statements
   Indirect Questions
   Indirect Commands
   Fear Clauses
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Object Clauses.  (AG 561)

Object clauses are direct objects in sentence form, usually governed by a sensory ("head") verb.

Result clauses, which are usually adverbial, can sometimes be considered object clauses.  See below.

Indirect Statement.  (MF 100)  (AG 577)
Main:  [head verb]
Sub.:  [acc. noun] + [infinitive]
patere tua consilia non sentis?  (1.7-8)
Don't you know that your plans are exposed? esse clementem, non dissolutum videri(4.16-18)
I want myself to be merciful, I want myself not to seem cowardly.
consilia and me are the subject accusatives in these sentences, while patere, esse, and videri are the infinitives of indirect statement.  Both sentences are governed by head verbs:  sentis in the former, and cupio in the latter.

Because indirect statements require subject accusatives, you might think that only consilia and me are the direct objects.  Don't be fooled:  the whole clause after each head verb is the object.

NOTE:  In the second sentence, clementem and dissolutum are predicate accusatives.
meministi me...dicere...fore in armis certo die...C. Manlium?  (7.8-11)
Do you remember me saying that Gaius Manlius would be in arms on a certain day?
cum te Praeneste Kalendis ipsis Novembribus occupaturum nocturno impetu esse confideres, sensistine illam coloniam meo iussu meis praesidiis, custodiis, vigiliis esse munitam?  (8.24-7)
Since you admitted that you would occupy Praeneste on the very Kalends of November by a night raid, didn't you realize that that colony had been, by my order, protected by all kinds of guards?
dico te priore nocte M. Laecae domum.  (8.3-5)
I claim that you went on the previous night into the house of M. Laeca.
(dico) convenisse...complures eiusdem amentiae scelerisque socios. (8.5-6)
I claim that very many allies in the same madness and evil came together.
dixisti paulum tibi esse etiam nunc morae.  (9.22)
You said that a small thing was a delay to you.
videbam perniciem meam cum magna calamitate rei publicae esse coniunctam.  (11.21-2)
I kept seeing that the danger to myself had been linked with a great disaster to the republic.
praetermitto ruinas fortunarum tuarum, quas omnes proximis Idibus tibi impendere senties.  (14.16-18)
I pass by the ruinings of your fortunes, all of which on the next Ides you shall feel are hanging over you.
nesciat te...stetisse in comitio cum telo.  (15.24-6)
He doesn't know that you stood in the assembly with a weapon.
nesciat (te) manum consulum et principum civitatis interficiendorum causa paravisse.  (15.24-7)
He doesn't know that you prepared your band for the purpose of murdering the consuls and the best men of the state.

Indirect Question.  (MF 202)  (AG 330, 331)
Main:  [head or inquiry verb]
Sub.:  [question word] + [subjunctive]
quid proxima, quid superiore nocte egeris, ubi fueris, quos convocaveris...(nos) ignorare arbitraris?  (1.9-12)
Do you think that we do not know what you did last night, on the night before that, where you were, whom you called together?
What makes a direct question different from an indirect question is the subjunctive mood, which marks the fact that the question has been subordinated to a "head" verb.

An example in English.  Who are you? is a direct question.  Let us put a sensory verb in front of this question:  I know who are you.  This is improper English.  Proper:  I know who you are.  A slight change in word order marks the fact that our question is indirect.  So it is with the subjunctive in Latin, a change in mood to reflect a change in sentence structure.

In our example, then, egeris, fueris, and convocaveris are all perfect subjunctives (not future perfect indicatives), which in direct questions would be egisti, fuisti, and convocavisti.

These three indirect questions are the objects of ignorare, which is an infinitive of indirect statement governed by arbitraris.

statuisti quo quemque proficisci placeret, delegisti quos Romae relinqueres, quos tecum educeres.  (9.18-20)
You decided where it was pleasing for each person to set out, you chose whom you would leave at Rome, whom you would take with you.

Indirect Command.  (MF 52)  (AG 563, substantive clauses of purpose)
Main:  [command verb] + [optional receiver noun]
Sub.:  [ut / ne] + [subjunctive]     -or-

Sub.:  [acc. noun] + [infinitive]  (with iubere)

decrevit quondam senatus, ut L. Opimius consul videret...  (4.1-2)
The senate once decreed that Lucius Opimius, the consul, should look out...
As in the case of indirect question, the subjunctive marks the fact that what was once an direct command is now indirect.  The entire clause, from ut through videret, is the object of decrevit.

Had Opimius been ordered not to do something, the subordinating conjunction would have been ne instead of ut.

si te interfici iussero... (5.25 and 12.30)
If I shall have ordered you to be killed...
exire ex urbe iubet consul hostem.  (13.35-6)
The consul orders the enemy to depart the city.

Fear Clauses.  (MF 279)  (AG 564)
Main:  [fear verb]
Sub.:  [ne / ut] + [subjunctive]
erit verendum mihi, ne...quisquam (hoc) crudelius factum esse dicat.  (5.26-7)
I shall have to fear that someone will say this thing was done too cruelly.
Of all the twisted constructions you will encounter in Latin, clauses of fearing are arguably the most twisted.

The overall concept is simple.   A verb of fearing is a "head" verb, and by now you are used to the idea that this kind of verb can take a clause as a direct object.  You understand, for instance that in the scheme:

I fear [that something will happen],
[that something will happen] is the object of I fear.

The problem lies with the subordinating conjunction.  You might expect ut to be that conjunction:

I fear [ut] [something will happen].
But what Latin prefers is:
I fear [ne] [something will happen],
where ne simply means "that"—without any negative quality at all.

Why?  Let's look at a simplified version of our Ciceronian sentence:

vereor ne quisquam dicat.
I fear that someone will say.
In old Latin, these two ideas would have been paratactic (MF 17, AG), i.e. placed side by side in separate sentences:
ne quisquam dicat.  vereor.
Let someone not say!  I am afraid.
In this scenario, ne quisquam dicat is a direct negative wish.  vereor simply reinforces this wish, giving the reason for it.  When in later Latin the two sentences became combined—through syntaxis (MF 19, AG 268), or more precisely, hypotaxis (MF 15, AG 268)—the word order was changed, but not the ne.

If a ne is translated as "that" in clauses of fearing, then reverse logic dictates that ut is translated "that...not," e.g.:

vereor ut quisquam dicat.
I fear that someone will not say.
In this case, reverse logic is correct.

One point more.  Note that our actual sentence begins verendum erit mihi, which is a passive periphrastic construction.  verendum, then, is a predicate nominative with the linking verb erit:  it will have to be feared by me.

What does verendum modify?  To what does the subject "it" refer?  The answer is one and the same:  the clause ne...dicat.  In other words, the clause [that someone will say] is the true subject of erit.  It is in this case a subject clause rather than an object clause.

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Subject Clauses.  (AG 561)

You are accustomed to thinking of subjects as the endings of verbs, or as nouns that agree with these endings.  Occasionally, however, a sentence will have a subordinate clause as the subject, especially when that sentence utilizes an impersonal verb.

Impersonal Verbs.  (MF 267)  (AG 207)
Main:  [impersonal verb]
Sub.:  [noun in acc. / dat.] + [infinitive]
ad mortem te, Catilina, duci iussu consulis iam pridem oportebat(2.18-19)
It was right, Catiline, that you be lead to death long ago by the decree of the consul.
confestim te interfectum esse, Catilina, convenit.  (4.14-15)
It was fitting for you to have been killed at once, Catiline.
In both examples, te and its accompanying infinitive clauses are the subjects of the impersonal verbs oportebat and convenit.  Both clauses, as subjects, are what was right and fitting.
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   Relative Clauses
   Rel. Characteristic
   Rel. Purpose Clause
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Adjective Clauses.

Just as Latin clauses are used as nouns, so they may be used as adjectives, modifying some aspect of a main clause just as adjectives modify nouns.

Relative Clauses.  (MF 114)  (AG 279)
Main:  [verb] + [noun, a.k.a. antecedent]
Sub.:  [rel. pronoun] + [indicative verb]
Habemus...senatus consultum,...ex (quo)...te interfectum esse convenit.  (4.11-15)
We have a decree of the senate, as a result of which it was fitting for you to have been killed.
The relative clause in this sentence does nothing more than define which decree Cicero means:  not the good decree, not the bad decree, but the [as a result of which it was fitting for you to have been killed] decree.  The clause is an adjective that modifies consultum.

Be careful to distinguish relative clauses from relative clauses of characteristic, which use the subjunctive.

exclusi eos, quos tu ad me salutatum mane miseras.  (10.28-9)
I shut out those whom you had sent to me to give morning greetings.
id, quod est primum et quod huius imperii disciplinaeque maiorum proprium est, facere nondum audeo.  (12.26-8)
That thing, which is prime and which is a proper part of my authority and of the teaching of our ancestors, I do not yet dare to do.
praetermitto ruinas fortunarum tuarum, quas omnes proximis Idibus tibi impendere senties.  (14.16-18)
I pass by the ruinings of your fortunes, all of which on the next Ides you shall feel are hanging over you.

Relative Clauses of Characteristic.  (MF 234)  (AG 535)
Main:  [verb] + [noun, a.k.a. antecedent]
Sub.:  [rel. pronoun] + [subjunctive verb]
quam diu quisquam erit qui te defendere audeat, vives.  (6.1-2)
As long as someone exists of the sort who dares defend you, you will live.
The difference between a regular relative clause and a relative clause of characteristic lies in the basic meaning of the subjunctive mood.  If the indicative mood describes facts—things that are—the subjunctive describes almost-facts—things that would, could, should, or might be.

Had Cicero used the indicative:

quisquam erit qui te defendere audet,
we would translate the relative clause as:  someone exists who (in fact) dares defend you.

Replacing audet with audeat means that we are no longer dealing with simple facts, but with possibilities.  The qui-clause no longer refers to the person who dares defend Catiline, but to any person with the characteristic of doing so.

Regardless of our translation, the clause remains adjectival in function.

quid est...quod iam amplius expectes?  (6.1-2)
What more could you expect?  (Lit., what thing is there, the sort which you expect further?)
hic sunt in nostro numero, huius urbis...exitio cogitent. (9.11-15)
Here in our number there are those kind who think about the ruin of this city.
quid est...quod te...delectare possit?  (13.1-2)
What sort of thing exists that can delight you?
nemo est...qui te non metuat, nemo qui non oderit.  (13.2-4)
There is no one of the sort who does not fear you or hate you.
cui...adulescentulo, quem corruptelarum illecebris irretisses...?  (13.7-9)
To what little boy, the sort whom you had entrapped with the bait of bribery...?
cum scias esse horum neminem qui nesciat... (15.23-4)
Since you know that there is no one of these men of the sort who doesn't know...

  Relative Clauses of Purpose.  (MF 236)  (AG 531.2)
Main:  [verb] + [noun, a.k.a. antecedent]
Sub.:  [rel. pronoun] + [subjunctive verb]
reperti sunt duo equites Romani qui te ista cura liberarent.  (9.23-4)
Two Roman knights were found to free you from that care.
This relative clause not only modifies the antecedent equites like an adjective, but also indicates why the equites were found.  In other words, it modifes the main clause like an adverb as well.

If we had ut instead of qui, we would have a normal purpose clause.  Compare also supines and gerundives.

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   Cum Clauses
   Purpose Clauses
   Result Clauses
   Proviso Clauses
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Adverb Clauses.

"How, where, or when, condition or reason, these questions are answered when you use an adverb..."

So the song runs—and rightly so.  These questions are also answered by many Latin subordinate clauses.  You know that adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.  Adverb clauses modify the main clauses under which they appear, denoting such things as:

Cum Clauses.  (MF 248)  (AG 545, 549)
Main:  [typical sentence]
Sub.:  [cum] + [indicative / subjunctive verb]
Tum denique interficiere, cum iam nemo tam improbus...inveniri poterit.  (5.30-2)
Then at last you will be executed, when no one so indecent can be found.
dixi...caedem te optimatium contulisse...tum, cum multi principes civitatis Roma...profugerunt.  (7.15-19)
I said that you had planned the slaughter of the upper class at that time, when many nobles of the state fled from Rome. consulem in campo et competitores tuos interficere voluisti...  (11.16-18)
When you wanted to kill me, the consul, and your opponents...
When cum means when, it takes the indicative mood, just as with the conjunction ubi.  This usage is called cum-temporal, and is what we have in the above examples.
cum te Praeneste Kalendis ipsis Novembribus occupaturum nocturno impetu esse confideres, sensistine illam coloniam meo iussu meis praesidiis, custodiis, vigiliis esse munitam?  (8.24-7)
Since you admitted that you would occupy Praeneste on the very Kalends of November by a night raid, didn't you realize that that colony was, by my order, protected by all kinds of guards?
cum morte superioris uxoris novis nuptiis domum vacuefecisses...  (14.11-12)
Since you had emptied your house for a new marriage via the death of your previous wife...
cum scias esse horum neminem qui nesciat...  (15.23-4)
Since you know that there is no one of these men of the sort who doesn't know...
When cum means since or although, it takes the subjunctive.

Whatever the case, a cum clause is always adverbial in regard to its main clause.

Purpose Clauses.  (MF 50)  (AG 530, final clauses)
Main:  [action verb]
Sub.:  [ut / ne] + [subjunctive verb]
vives...praesidiis obsessus, ne commovere te contra rem publicam possis(6.35)
You will live burdened by my watch, so that you not be able to move yourself against the republic.
ne...possis fulfills an adverbial function by offering a reason or purpose for the main clause.

Had the purpose been a positive one, the subordinating conjunction would have been ut.

Compare this kind of purpose clause with supines, gerundives, and relative clauses of purpose.

(hoc) ego praetermitto..., ne in hac civitate tanti facinoris immanitas aut exstitisse aut non vindicata esse videatur.  (14.14-16)
I pass by this thing in order that the enormity of so great a crime seem neither to have existed nor to have been condoned in this state.

Result Clauses.  (MF 232)  (AG 537)
Main:  [action verb]
Sub.:  [ut / ut non] + [subjunctive verb]
fuit ista quondam in hac re publica virtus, ut viri fortes...hostem coercerent(3.27-9)
There was once in this republic that courage, with the result that brave men restrained the enemy.
In most sentences with a result clause, the main clause establishes some extraordinary circumstance—something of such significance that there follows some sort of consequence, or result.
The result itself is introduced by the conjunction ut, as in our example.  The fact that brave men put down an enemy was a result of the extraordinary courage in the republic at that time.

Positive result clauses are easily confused with positive purpose clauses, for both use ut.  Be sure to check the main clause for words like tam, ita, or tantus, which mark the extraordinary qualities that generate result clauses (ista is the marker word here).

Negative result clauses and negative purpose clauses are rarely confused.  The latter are introduced by ne, the former by ut...non.

Opimius...videret ne (ali)quid res publica detrimenti caperet(4.1-2)
Opimius looked out so that the republic notreceive anything of detriment.
Here the result clause is actually an object clause governed by videret.  Another term for it is substantive clause of result (MF 233, AG 568).

NOTE:  The negative for this special kind of result clause is ne, rather than ut...non.

quot ego tuas petitiones ita coniectas, ut vitari posse non viderentur, ...effugi!  (15.32-5)
How many times I fled your attacks hurled in such a way that they seemed not to be able to be avoided.

  Proviso.  (MF 252)  (AG 528)
Main:  [action verb] or [state of being]
Sub.:  [dum] + [subjunctive verb]
magno me metu liberabis, dum modo inter me atque te murus intersit. (10.6-7)
You will free me from great fear, provided thatthere is a wall between you and myself.
In this example, the dum-clause (combined here with modo) is almost an if-clause.  It states the provision necessary if the main clause is to be true.

NOTE:  dum plus the indicative mood is very much like cum plus the indicative—it is strictly temporal, and means "while."

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   Future More Vivid
   Future Less Vivid
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Conditions.  (MF 38)  (AG 514)

Conditions are a type of adverb clause with so many variations as to warrant their own section.

Conditional clauses are introduced with si (if) or nisi (if not, unless), and indicate under what circumstance or condition the main clause is (or would be) true or untrue.

What students often do not realize is that conditional clauses are actually subordinate clauses, with si or nisi as the subordinating conjunction.  The reason for this misunderstanding is that "if-clauses" (as conditional sentences are popularly called) usually come before "then-clauses," and so appear to be main clauses.

The technical terms for "if-clause" and "then-clause" are protasis and apodosis, respectively.  (MF 38, AG 512)

There are six basic conditional sentences in Latin, three that utilize the indicative mood and three that utilize the subjunctive.  Below are the conditions we have encountered in Cicero thus far:

Future More Vivid.  (MF 38)  (AG 516)
Main:  [indicative future verb]
Sub.:  [si / nisi] + [indicative future verb]
si (te) interfici iussero, erit verendum mihi...  (5.25-6)
If I shall have ordered you to be put to death, it will be to be feared by me...
The main problem with conditional sentences is that they often do not follow textbook cases.

For instance, the formula above says that a future more vivid condition requires the future indicative in both clauses.  In our "if-clause," however, we have a future perfect indicative:  iussero.  The sense is clear, the future perfect adding greater precision to Cicero's view of the future.  But our example illustrates the considerable freedom enjoyed by the Romans in actual practice.

NOTE:  The future more vivid is so named because it requires the indicative mood.  That is, it refers to facts in the future.  It is therefore more realistic or vivid than the future less vivid, which requires the subjunctive.

si te interfici iussero, residebit in re publica reliqua coniuratorum manus.  (12.30-1)
If I shall have ordered you to be killed, there will remain in the republic a residual band of conspirators.
sin tu...exieris, exhaurietur ex urbe tuorum comitum magna et perniciosa sentina.  (12.31-3)
Or if you shall have departed, there will be drained from the city the great and dangerous sewage of your companions.

Future Less Vivid.  (MF 38)  (AG 516)
Main:  [subjunctive present verb]
Sub.:  [si / nisi] + [subjunctive present verb]
nos...satis facere rei publicae videmur, si...furorem ac tela vitemus.  (2.16-17)
We seem to do enough for the republic, if we should avoid anger and violence.
Once again, we see the difference between theory and reality when it comes to conditional sentences.

Our formula specifies the present subjunctive in both clauses.  In the main clause, however, we find the present indicative, videmur, in place of videamur.  We have, then, a mixed conditional.

Had Cicero written videamur, we would translate:  We would seem...if we should avoid...  Note the distinctly subjunctive translation.  In fact, the future less vivid is often called the "should-would" conditional.

NOTE:  The future less vivid is so named because it requires the subjunctive mood.  That is, it refers to almost-facts in the future.  It is therefore less realistic or vivid than the future more vivid, which requires the indicative.

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Last modified 6 April 1999