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CL 302:  Private Lives, Private Worlds
Essential grammar
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.
Degree of Adjectives.  (MF 150)  (AG 123)

All adjectives have three degrees:  positive, comparative, and superlative.  The positive degree is the default, expressing a simple quality.  When that quality becomes greater, the adjective changes to comparative degree.  When the quality becomes as great as it can be, the adjective changes to the superlative degree.

In English it is usually just a matter of adding the appropriate suffixes:  great, great-er, great-est.  Sometimes, however, the comparison of adjectives is irregular:  good, better, best.

Such regularities and irregularities apply in Latin as well.

Regular Comparatives.  (MF 150)  (AG 120, 124 etc.)
[noun stem] + [-ior (masc. and fem.)] / [-ius (neut.)]
Here is a sample declension:  amans, loving
As you can see, comparatives are third declension adjectives.

Sometimes the translation "[adj.]-er" does not apply.  Instead, "rather [adj.]" or "too [adj.]" may be required.

Comparatives are used just like any adjectives:

nihil est mihi amicius solitudine.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
Nothing is dearer to me than solitude.
amicius is a predicate nominative adjective, modifying nihil in case, number, and gender.

solitudine is an ablative of comparison.  See also the entry on quam, below.

Regular Superlatives.  (MF 150)  (AG 124, 125, 126)
[noun stem] + [-issim-] + [1st / 2nd  declension adj. endings]
Example:  amans, loving = amant + issim + us / a / um etc.
ad Curium, vero, suavissimum hominem...multa scripsi.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
I have indeed written many things to Curius, the most pleasant man.

Comparatives and Superlatives with Quam.  (MF 151, 152)  (AG 292, 291c)
[comparative adjective] + [quam]

[quam] + [superlative adjective]

neque...(est) ista maior admonitio quam [admonitiones] quibus...conficior.  (Cicero AA 12.56.1)
There is no piece of advice greater than (the pieces of advice) by which I am worn away.
maior is a predicate nominative adjective, modifying admonitio in case, number, and gender.

maior establishes the idea of comparison, which quam (than) picks up upon.  Note how the things compared (admonitiones understood) are in the same case as admonitio, nominative.  This is the norm with quam, which if not used here, would be replaced by the ablative of separation.

sed vos...volui esse quam coniunctissimos.  (Cicero AF 14.1.4)
But I wanted you to be as close as possible.
quam + superlative has an entirely different meaning than the comparative + quam.

In the above example, quam marks the highest possible quality of the superlative.  The translation "as [adj.] as possible" is standard.

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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.]
nihil est mihi amicius solitudine.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
There is nothing dearer to me than solitude.
sed adhuc pares non sumus.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
But as of yet we are not evenly matched.
amicius modifies nihil in case, number, and gender.  pares modifies the "we" of sumus, also in case, number, and gender.

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

Accusative.  (AG 392, 393)
[noun in acc.] + [linking verb] + [adj. in acc.]
si Lentulum tam studiosum habemus...  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2)
If we have Lentulus so industrious...
si (te) plane confirmatum videro...  (Cicero, AF 16.4.1)
If I shall have seen you obviously recovered...
In the above examples, studiosum and confirmatum are accusative in order to modify Lentulum and te, respectively.  Both Lentulum and te are accusative because they are the objects of habemus and videro, respectively.

On the other hand, they are accusative because habemus and videro set up indirect statements, with esse understood in each case.

If this were direct statement, we would have something like this: si Lentulus est tam studiosus and si tu confirmatus es.  The addition of habemus and videro mandates a change from predicate nominative to predicate accusative.

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.

sunt qui Larentiam...lupam inter pastores vocatam (esse) putent.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.7)
There are those who think that Larentia was called a "lupa" among the sheperds.
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   Pass. 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:

scripsi ad nuntio remittendo. (Cicero, AF 14.13)
I wrote to you concerning the filing of the divorce.
The key words are de nuntio remittendo, lit. concerning the decree to be remitted (filed).  This phrase replaces de remittendo nuntium, gerund + noun, where remittendo would take nuntium as a direct object.

The reason why nuntio remittendo is identifiable as noun + gerundive is that nuntio is clearly ablative, which means that remittendo must be an adjective.

multi mortales convenere, studio etiam videndae novae urbis.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.6)
Many people gathered because of the desire of seeing the new city.
Palatium Romulus, Remus Aventinum ad inaugurandum templa capiunt.  (Livy, AUC 1.6.4)
They set up zones:  Romulus to take augury on the Palatine, Remus on the Aventine.
signoque dato iuventus Romana ad rapiendas virgines discurrit.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.10)
And when the signal was given, the Roman youth ran here and there for the purpose of stealing the maidens.
The last two sentences use ad + the gerundive to express purpose.  Compare this construction with purpose clauses and relative clauses of purpose.
nec herciscundae familiae, sed communi diuidundo formula dimicabo.  (Apuleius, AA 9.27.28-29)

Passive Periphrastic.  (MF 87)  (AG 196, 500.2)
[nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [gerundive predicate] + [dat. agent]
non est desperandum.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2)
It must not be despaired.
ius enim dandum tibi non fuit.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.1)
Truly, soup should not have been given to you.
quid faciendum sit, iudicabis.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
You will judge what ought to be done.
The passive periphrastic, which expresses duty or obligation, is nothing more than the gerundive functioning as a predicate nominative after a linking verb.

In sentences 2 and 3, dandum modifies ius in case, number, and gender (nom. sing. neut.), while faciendum does the same for quid.  Usually the linking verb is in the present indicative, not the subjunctive.  We have sit because iudicabis sets up an indirect question.

desperandum in sentence 1 modifies the general circumstance, which is conceived as a neuter idea:  it must not be despaired.

tibi in sentence 2 is not a dative of agent, which is the norm with passive periphrastics.  Rather, it is simply an indirect object.


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Last modified 23 March 1999