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


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| Nouns.  In and of themselves nouns are not difficult to understand.  What is difficult, however, is trying to make sense of case endings—not necessarily what case a noun is, but why.  Other complications arise when verbs are turned into nouns (gerunds) or when, as often happens, clauses take on the duties of nouns.

In this section the concept of the noun is gradually expanded from an individual element (person, place, thing) 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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Cases.  (MF 26)  (AG 338)

The case of a noun determines its grammatical relationship to other nouns, or other elements of a sentence.  You are familiar with the common meanings of the various cases:

  • nominative:  subject
  • genitive:  possession
  • dative:  indirect object
  • accusative:  direct object
  • ablative:  means or instrument
Yet as you have learned, the genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative cases have many other meanings, which seem at times to overlap.  Still, each of these has a primary meaning:
  • genitive:  source
  • dative:  reference
  • accusative:  endpoint of action
  • ablative:  where, from where, or how
Most of the technical terms for case usage (e.g. objective genitive) are simply terms of convenience.  That is, the function of a case, whatever a grammar might call it, can usually be understood as evolving from these primary meanings.
Some of the more notable case uses in Cicero's First Catilinarian are detailed below.
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   Charge or Penalty
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Genitives.  (MF 26)  (AG 341)

The primary meaning of the genitive is source, which means that in one way or another, a noun in the this case inspires or causes—is the source of—some other noun or action.  This simple concept is easily understood in the following uses of the genitive:

  Partitive.  (MF 154)  (AG 346)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun / adj. of portion]
  quem nostrum ignorare arbitraris?  (1.11-12)
Which one of us is ignorant, do you think?
nostrum, the genitive plural of nos, denotes the full range of people from which the one ignorant person (quem) might come. (ali)quid res publica detrimenti caperet.  (4.2) that the republic not receive anything (any part) of detriment.
Here detrimenti represents the entire range of harmful things, while (ali)quid refers to just one of those things, whatever it might be.

We could just as well translate (ali)quid detrimenti as, anything harmful.

NOTE:  the partitive genitive is sometimes called the genitive of the whole, a label that catches the case's primary meaning of source.

(dico) convenisse...complures eiusdem amentiae scelerisque socios.  (8.5-6)
I claim that very many allies in the same madness and evil came together.
ubinam gentium sumus?  (9.9-10)
Where in the world are we?  (Lit., in what part of races are we?)
id, quod est primum et quod huius imperii disciplinaeque maiorum proprium est, facere nondum audeo.  (12.26-7)
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.
nam si te interfici iussero, residebit in re publica reliqua coniuratorum manus.  (12.30-1)
For if I shall have ordered you to be killed, there will remain in the republic a residual band of conspirators.
quod privatarum rerum dedecus non haeret in fama?  (13.5-6)
What scandal of your private affairs does not adhere to your reputation?
cum scias esse horum neminem...  (15.23-4)
Since you know that no man among these (men) exists...

  Quality.  (MF165)  (AG 345)
([source noun in gen.] + [modifying adj.]) + [specific noun]
habemus...huiusce modi...consultum.  (4.11-12)
We have a decree of this very sort.
modi represents the entire possible range of decrees, of which Cicero is referring to one in particular.  This use of the genitive is basically partitive.
exhaurietur ex urbe tuorum comitum magna et perniciosa sentina.  (12.32-3)
There will be drained from the city the massive and dangerous sewage of your comrades.
nemo est extra istam coniurationem perditorum hominum.  (13.2-3)
No one exists beyond that conspiracy of dangerous men.
quae nota domesticae turpitudinis non inusta vitae tuae est?  (13.4-5)
What mark of domestic scandal has not been burned into your life?

  Objective.  (MF 178)  (AG 347)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun with verbal force]
te nihil timor populi...movit?  (1.5)
Did fear for the people move you not at all?
Here the people (populus) are a potential source of fear to Catiline.

This use of the genitive is called objective because the verbal idea of fear (timor) governs populus just as a verb governs an accusative direct object.  It is as if Cicero had asked:  "Didn't you fear the people?"—i.e. weren't they the object of your fear?

meministi me...dicere...fore in armis certo die...C. Manlium, audaciae satellitem atque administrum tuae?  (7.8-11)
Do you remember me saying that Gaius Manlius, the servant and helper of your boldness, would be in arms on a certain day?
praetermitto ruinas fortunarum tuarum.  (14.16-17)
I pass by the ruinings of your fortunes.

  Subjective.  (MF 178)  (AG 343, note 1)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun with verbal force]
eos...mors ac rei publicae poena remorata est?  (4.9-10)
Did death and the punishment of the republic make them wait?
Here the republic (rei publicae) was the source of punishment.

This usage differs from the objective genitive in that the republic is perceived as the subject of the implied action (poena);  the republic was doing the punishing.  In the example for the objective genitive, Catiline should have been the one fearing the people (timor populi), not the other way around.

compressi conatus tuos nefarios amicorum praesidio et copiis.  (11.18-19)
I quashed your evil efforts by the vigilance and assistance of friends.

  Memory.  (AG 350)
[source noun in gen.]  + [verb / adj. of remembering / forgetting]
obliviscere caedis atque incendiorum.  (6.5-6)
Forget slaughter and arson.
This use of the genitive is essentially objective, with the verbal idea of forgetting taking a genitive direct object.

  Charge or Penalty.  (MF 39)  (AG 352)
[source noun in gen.] + [verb of accusation] + [direct object]
me...inertiae nequitiaeque condemno. (4.19)
I  condemn myself for my sloth and negligence.
Cicero accuses himself of sloth (inertia) and negligence (nequitia);  they are the source of or bases for his accusations.
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   Double Dative
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Datives.  (MF 26)  (AG 360)

Datives usually indicate reference or interest;  that is, they show the impact of a verb on a noun, but the impact is of secondary concern to the sentence.  The action is more important;  its effect or cause, expressed by the dative, is in some way less important.

  Possessive.  (MF 88)  (AG  373)
[dative referent] + [noun in nom.] + [linking verb]
non deest rei publicae consilium.
The republic does not lack a plan.
The sentence above is a variation on est rei publicae consilium, The republic has a plan (lit. There is a plan with reference to the republic).  deesse, to be lacking, is from de + esse.

So Cicero says that the plan is not lacking, and the dative rei publicae indicates that it is not lacking with reference to the republic.

  Agent.  (MF 88)  (AG 374)
[dative referent] + [nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [gerundive predicate]
(hoc) erit verendum mihi.  (5.26)
This will be to be feared by me.
The passive periphrastic expresses duty or obligation, and requires a dative of agent (here mihi), which indicates to whom the obligation is referred.

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

Objective.  (MF 218)  (AG 367, 368)
[dative referent] + [verb of being]
Maelium, novis rebus studentem, occidit. (3.26)
He killed Maelius, who was eager for revolution.
studere (to be eager for) describes Maelius' state of being.  Since a state of being is technically not an action, the verb has no accusative direct object.  We say, then, that studere is an intransitive verb.

As such it is used in conjunction with a dative noun, in this case novis rebus (revolution), which is the reference point (referent) of Maelius' eagerness.

Objective datives are sometimes called datives of direct object, because they function as accusative direct objects.

  Double Dative.  (MF 131)  (AG 382, note 1)
[nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [dat. referent] +  [dat. of purpose]
dixisti paulum tibi esse etiam nunc morae.  (9.22)
You said that a small thing was (for the purpose of) a delay (with reference) to you.
The so-called double dative construction combines the dative of purpose (MF 131, AG 382) with a second dative, which expresses the primary meaning of reference (in fact, it is called the dative of reference).

In the above example, morae is the dative of purpose, the end in view.  tibi, then, is the person to whom this purposeis referred.  In this sense, the dative of reference is  basically possessive.

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Accusatives.  (MF 27)  (AG 386)

The accusative case indicates the endpoint of action.  In theory, every action has a direct impact on somebody or something;  the person or thing that receives the impact is put into the accusative case.

  Exclamation.  (MF 252)  (AG 397d)
[noun in acc.] + [optional interjection O!]
O tempora!  O mores(2.12)
O the times!  O the customs!
The accusative of exclamation generates the smallest possible Latin sentence.  When a speaker or author wishes to draw attention to something, he or she places that thing in the accusative case—without a verb, almost as if he or she were too agitated to include one.

It helps, perhaps, to understand a verb, e.g. Look at the times (tempora), or Consider the customs (mores).  But the essential message of the accusative of exclamation is, This noun is the endpoint of my attention, and it should be yours as well.

  Time (Duration).  (MF 116)  (AG 423)
[word of time in acc. (pl.)] + [verb]
vicesimum iam diem patimur hebescere aciem.  (4.10-11)
Now for the twentieth day we let our edge grow dull.
The accusative of duration (or extent) of time indicates how long an action occurs.

In this sentence the phrase vicesimum diem denotes the endpoint of the Senate's action.  patimur basically has two  objects:  one is the noun clause habescere aciem, and the other is diem;  in a sense both objects tell what the Senate has allowed to happen.

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   Origin or Source
   Degree of Difference 
   Time (When)
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Ablatives.  (MF 27)  (AG 398)

The ablative is perhaps the most multifaceted of the Latin cases, with a broad array of uses and meanings.  Determining a primary meaning is therefore difficult, remembering where, from where, or how as the main idea of the ablative will get you far.

  Origin or Source.  (MF 102)  (AG 403a)
[source noun in abl.] + [verb of being or originating (optional)]
interfectus est...Gracchus, clarissimo patre, avo, maioribus(4.3-5)
Gracchus, (descended) from a most reknowned father, grandfather, (and) ancestors, was put to death.
Although source is properly a genitive idea, the ablative overlaps in its capacity to indicate from where something arises.

NOTE:  This construction does not require a preposition, although one may appear from time to time, such as e(x).

  Separation.  (MF 102)  (AG 400, 401, 402)
[origin noun in abl.] + [verb of separation or motion]
reperti sunt duo equites Romani qui te ista cura liberarent.  (9.23-4)
Two Roman knights were found to free you from that care.
multi principes civitatis Roma...profugerunt.  (7.17-19)
Many important people of the state fled from Rome.
The ablative of separation follows closely from the primary meaning from where.  In the last sentence the nobles are separated from Rome.

NOTE:  Roma is here used without a preposition—names of cities seldom are.  Had the nobles been away from (say) the Forum, Cicero would have written a Foro.

exhaurietur ex urbe tuorum comitum magna et perniciosa sentina.  (12.32-3)
There will be drained from the city the massive and dangerous sewage of your comrades.
quae libido ab oculis, quod facinus a manibus umquam tuis, quod flagitium a toto corpore afuit?  (13.6-8)
What pleasure was ever absent from your gaze, what crime from your hands, what disgrace from your whole body?

  Comparison.  (MF 152)  (AG 406)
[comparative adj. / adv.] + [abl. noun to be compared]
luce sunt clariora nobis tua consilia omnia.  (6.7)
All your plans are clearer to us than daylight.
The ablative of comparision contains a separative / from where idea.  If we say, for example, that X is better than Y, we are really saying that X is separated from Y in terms of goodness (good being the positive form of better).

In the example above, Cicero says that Cat.'s plans are clearer than—separated from—daylight.

  Degree of Difference.  (MF 152)  (AG 414)
[word of difference, real or implied] + [abl. noun / adj. defining the difference]
iam intelleges multo me vigilare acrius.  (8.2)
For you will inderstand that I am much more keenly vigilant.
The ablative of degree of difference catches the primary ablative meanings from where and how at once.

On the how side, the adjective multo modifies (in an adverbial sense) the comparative acrius, defining how Cicero's vigilance is keener.

On the from where side, multo distinguishes or separates the idea of more keenly from other similar ideas.  That is, to say that something happens acrius multo, more easily by a little, implies that there is also (say) something happening more keenly by a little (paulo) or by nothing (nihilo).

  Time (When).  (MF 116)  (AG 423)
[abl. noun of time] + [typical sentence]
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...  (8.24-5)
Since you admitted that you would occupy Praeneste on the very Kalends of November by a night raid...
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.
fuisti igitur apud Laecam illa nocte.  (9.17)
You were at Laeca's house that night.
cum proximis comitiis consularibus me consulem in campo et competitores tuos interficere voluisti...  (11.16-18)
When in the latest consular elections you wished to kill me, the consul, and your opponents in the Campus Martius...
The reason why Latin often puts words of time in the ablative is directly related to the primary meaning of this case.  You know that the ablative can mean where;  from where it is a small conceptual jump to when, which is nothing more than a location in time.

Compare the accusative of time.

  Absolute.  (MF 162)  (AG 419)
[noun in abl.] + [abl. adj] and/or [abl. participle]
Mario et...Valerio consulibus, est permissa res publica.  (4.6-7)
The republic was allowed, when Marius and Valerius (were) consuls.
The term absolute is from the Latin absolutus, which means disconnected.  Accordingly, an absolute construction is gramatically and syntactically separate from the main clause.

The reason why Latin requires absolutes in the ablative is because such constructions usually define when the main clause happens, as also happens in ablative constructions of time.

Sometimes an ablative absolute defines the circumstances in which the main clause occurs, and so taps into the primary ablative meaning of how.

Technically speaking, then, ablative absolutes function as adverb clauses, which sometimes describe how or when main clauses occur.

In the above example, Cicero wants to describe when it was that the republic had permission to act.  Instead of saying, ubi Marius et Valerius erant consules, he places the names in the ablative and modifes them with consulibus.  No verb or subordinating conjunction (ubi) required.

haec ego omnia, vixdum etiam coetu vestro dimisso, comperi.  (10.26-7)
I discovered all these things scarcely after your meeting had been adjourned.
compressi conatus tuos nefarios...nullo tumultu publice concitato.  (11.18-20)
I quashed your evil efforts with no outcry publicly raised.
num dubitas id me imperante facere?  (13.34-5)
What, do you hesitate to do this with me ordering it?
nesciat te...Lepido et Tullo consulibus stetisse in comitio cum telo.  (15.24-6)
He doesn't know that you, when Lepidus and Tullus were consuls, stood in the assembly with a weapon.
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Gerunds.  (MF 265)  (AG 501)

Gerunds are verbal nouns;  that is, they are nouns, formed from the present stems of verbs, which represent the verb as a singular action.  They are translated as [verb]-ing, whatever the verb happens to be.  Note that the action is in the active, not the passive, voice.

Like all nouns, gerunds have case, number, and gender, and can be taken as direct objects, indirect objects, and so on.  Yet they retain verbal properties, and can govern other nouns or introduce subordinate clauses just as verbs do.

  Formation.  (MF 265)  (AG 501)
[pres. stem of verb] + [-nd-] + [neut. sing. noun ending]

Example:  amare, to love = ama + nd + i / o / um / o, loving

The full declension of the above gerund is as follows:
of loving
to or for loving
loving (as a direct object)
by means of loving
As you can see, there are no nominative gerunds.  To express the idea of loving in the nominative, we use the infinitive, for example:

amare est vivere.  To love is to live (or, Loving is living).

NOTE:  gerunds exist only in the second declension, only in the singular, and only in the neuter.  If you see what looks to be a feminine or masculine gerund, or a gerund in the plural, then you are doubtless looking at a gerundive instead.

  Usage.  (MF 266)  (AG 502)
There is little space to go into the usage of the gerund here;  nor have we yet encountered any gerunds in the First Catilinarian.

Until we do, however, bear in mind once more that gerunds are nouns.  They are used very simply, often in prepositional phrases.  Some examples:

vivit amandi causa. She lives for the sake of loving.
se amando dat.  He gives himself to loving.
amandum amat.  He loves loving.
amando vivit.  She lives by means of loving.
Problems arise when gerunds, in their verbal capacity, take direct objects.  We could for instance, modify our last example thus:
amando libros vivit.  She lives by means of loving books.
In this case amando governs libros as its object.  In practice, however, such constructions are rare.  Rather than gerund + noun, the Romans favored noun + gerundive.  See the section on the basic usage of gerundives for an explanation of the difference between these constructions.
Supines.  (MF 281)  (AG 159b)
Supines are also verbal nouns;  that is, they are nouns, formed from the perfect passive stems of verbs, which represent the verb as a singular action.  Note that the action is in the active, not the passive, voice.

Like all nouns, supines have number, gender, and case—although they appear only in the accusative and ablative singular masculine.  They retain verbal properties, and can govern other nouns or introduce subordinate clauses just as verbs do.

Formation.  (MF 281)  (AG 159b)
(perfect passive stem) + (4th decl. acc. / abl. ending)

Example:  amare, amatus, to love = amat + um / u

The full declension of the above supine is as follows:
for the purpose of loving
in respect to loving
As you can see, there are no nominative, genitive, or dative supines;  given the limited usage of the supine, there is no need for them, either.
NOTE:  to repeat, supines exist only in the fourth declension, only in the singular, only in the masculine, and only in the accusative and ablative.  If you see what looks to be a feminine or neuter supine, or a supine in the plural, then you are doubtless looking at a perfect passive participle instead.

Usage.  (MF 281)  (AG 159b)
We have only encountered one of the two uses uf the supine thus far:  the supine of purpose (the accusative supine).

Basically, the supine replaces ut plus a subjunctive verb, which are the ingredients of the basic purpose clause.  Consider the following sentence:

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.
Here the supine salutatum does the work of the clause ut salutarent.

Compare this expression of purpose with purpose clauses, gerundives, and relative clauses of purpose.

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   Object Clauses
   Subject Clauses
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Noun Clauses.  (AG 560)

Often in Latin entire clauses are used as nouns, although you might not be accustomed to thinking of them in this way.

The concept is actually very simple.  In class we have stressed sentence structure—main clauses and subordinate clauses.  It is the subordinate clauses that are noun clauses, governed by main clauses just as nouns are governed by other verbs.

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

All of these subordinate 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.

Fuller explanations of the various kinds of noun clause are given in  the Clauses Page.

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Last modified 6 April 1999