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CL 302:  Private Lives, Private Worlds
Essential grammar
The Clauses Page
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   Main Clauses
   Subordinate 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...). |
NOTE:  References to Moreland and Fleischer (MF) and the online Allen and Greenough (AG) are given in parentheses.
Main Clauses.  (MF)  (AG)

Every sentence has at least one main clause;  some have more.  It is, generally speaking, not productive to offer a systematic breakdown of the various types of main clause.  What follows, then, is a select outline of the more unusual kinds.

Note that all of the main clauses discussed below use the subjunctive mood.  This is unusual, because the subjunctive is typically found in subordinate clauses.  (In fact, the term subjunctive is from sub + iungere, to join under, i.e. to subordinate.)

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Wishes.  (MF)  (AG)
[utinam / ne] + [present, imperfect, or pluperfect subjunctive verb]
utinam ea res ei voluptate sit!  (Cicero, AF 14.1.4)
Would that this matter be to his liking!
That the subjunctive is the mood for wishes is not surprising:  wishes describe a world contrary to established fact.  This world is a subjunctive, rather than an indicative, one.

Deliberative.  (MF)  (AG)
[question word] +  [non, if negative] + [subjunctive verb]
nam quid ego de Cicerone dicam?  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1)
For what am I to say about Cicero?
When one deliberates, one is pondering one's options.  Since options are courses of action that are not yet established, they are expressed as subjunctive verbs.

Deferential.  (MF)  (AG)
[non, if negative] + [subjunctive verb of saying / thinking / wishing]
velim diligenter etiam atque etiam vobiscum...consideretis.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.2)
I should really like you to caonsult among yourselves again and again.
velim tabellarios instituatis certos.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.2)
I should like you to employ trusty couriers.
The subjunctive velim expresses a wish that is not quite a wish.  In other words, had Cicero written volo in each case, his wish would be a matter of fact:  I (in fact) want you to...

velim, then, states what Cicero wants in an ideal world—which we all know is far from reality.  Moreover, the subjunctive is here felt to be more polite than an outright indicative.  Hence the term deferential.

Conditions.  (MF 38)  (AG 514)

Certain conditional sentences require the subjunctive in the main, or "then," clause.  Because of the adverbial force of the "if" clauses, however, conditions are treated below.

   Noun Clauses
   Adjective Clauses
   Adverb Clauses
Subordinate Clauses.  (MF)  (AG)

This section 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.

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   Obj. Noun Clauses
   Subj. Noun 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
   Clauses of Fearing
   Clauses of Doubting
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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] cupit esse secum.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.3)
Plancius wants me to be with him.
tibi enim aeque magnae curae esse certo scio.  (Cicero, AF 14.19)
I surely realize that (this) is of equally great concern to you.
In the first sentence, me is the subject accusative, while in the second, some sort of accusative (e.g. this) must be supplied.  Both sentences are governed by head verbs:  cupit in the former, and scio in the latter.

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

Faustulo fuisse (ei) nomen ferunt.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.7)
They say that (his) name was Faustulus.
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.
priori Remo aurguriumvenisse fertur.  (Livy, AUC 1.7.1)
An aurgury is said to have come to Remus first.
volgatior fama est ludibrio fratris Remum novos transiluisse muros.  (Livy, AUC 1.7.2)
The more common story is that Remus leapt over the new walls in mockery of his brother.
mirantur tam brevi (tempore) rem Romanam crevisse.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.10)
They marvelled that the Roman state had grown in such a brief time.
unam...specie ac pulchritudine insignem...raptam (esse) ferunt.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.12)
They say that one, outstanding in (lit. because of) her appearance and beauty was carried off.
ferunt, multis suscitantibus cuinam eam ferrent, ...Thalassio ferri clamitatum esse.  (Livy AUC 1.9.12)
They say that, when many asked to whom they were carrying her, it was shouted that (she) was being carried to Thalassius.

Indirect Question.  (MF 202)  (AG 330, 331)
Main:  [head or inquiry verb]
Sub.:  [question word] + [subjunctive]
tu igitur, quid faciendum sit, iudicabis.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
You, therefore, shall judge what should be done.
nescio, quid intersit, utrum illuc nunc veniam an ad decem annos.  (Cicero, AA 12.46.1)
I don't know why it matters whether I come there now or in ten years.
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 examples, then, sit, intersit, and veniam are the subjunctives, which in direct questions would be est, interest, and venio.

In the second sentence, intersit sets off two indirect questions of its own, marked by (whether...or).

ferunt, multis suscitantibus cuinam eam ferrent, ...Thalassio ferri clamitatum esse.  (Livy AUC 1.9.12)
They say that, when many asked to whom they were carrying her, it was shouted that (she) was being carried to Thalassius.

Indirect Command.  (MF 52)  (AG 563, substantive clauses of purpose)
Main:  [command verb] + [optional receiver noun]
Sub.:  [ut / ne] + [subjunctive]
multa scripsi, ...ut...te ad se traferret.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
I wrote many things, (namely) to take you under his care.
velim tabellarios instituatis certos.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.2)
I should like you to employ trusty messengers.
As in the case of indirect question, the subjunctive marks the fact that what was once an direct command is now indirect.

In the first sentence, the entire clause, from ut through traferret, is basically the object of scripsi.  In the second sentence, Cicero has ommitted the ut, which should follow velim.

Had Cicero given orders not to do something, the subordinating conjunction would have been ne instead of ut.

Fear Clauses.  (MF 279)  (AG 564)
Main:  [fear verb]
Sub.:  [ne / ut] + [subjunctive]
Lyso enim noster vereor ne neglegentior sit.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
I'm actually afraid that our Lyso is a tad negligent.
in hac quidem re vereor ne etiam contra (sit).  (Cicero, AA 12.46.1)
In this matter I fear that it is indeed to the contrary.
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 first Ciceronian sentence:

vereor ne Lyso neglegentior sit.
I fear that Lyso is a bit negligent..
In old Latin, these two ideas would have been paratactic (MF 17, AG 268), i.e. placed side by side in separate sentences:
ne Lyso neglegentior sit.  vereor.
Let Lyso not be a bit negligent!  I am afraid.
In this scenario, ne quisquam dicat is a direct negative wishvereor 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 Lyso neglegentior sit.
I fear that Lyso will not be a bit negligent.
In this case, reverse logic is correct.

Clauses of Doubting.  (MF)  (AG)
Main:  [non] + [verb of doubting or hesitating]
Sub.:  [quin] + [subjunctive]
non dubito, quin...te neque navigationi neque viae committas(Cicero, AF 16.4.1)
I don't doubt that you should entrust yourself neither to a sea voyage or to the road.
When a thing is doubted, it is usually in the accusative case.  The doubting of an idea, however, requires the subordinating conjunction quin plus the subjunctive.
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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]
tua et mea (re) maxime interest te valere.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.4)
It is of greatest interest to you and to me that you be well.
vos non liceat (Cicero, AF 14.18.2)
You see to it that it is not prohibited to leave.
In the above examples, the phrases te valere and exire are the subjects of the impersonal verbs interest and non liceat, respectively.  In other words, they indicate what is of interest and what is not allowed.
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   Relative Clauses
   Rel. Char. Clauses
   Rel. Purp. Clauses
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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]
haec...regio in qua ego sum nostrorum est.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.1)
This area in which I am right now is one of ours.
Be careful to distinguish relative clauses from relative clauses of characteristic, which use the subjunctive.

Relative Clauses of Characteristic.  (MF 234)  (AG 535)
Main:  [verb] + [noun, a.k.a. antecedent]
Sub.:  [rel. pronoun] + [subjunctive verb]
habeto...neminem esse, qui me amet.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.4)
consider that there is no one (of the sort) who loves me.
cum erit, cui (litteras) des, dabis.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
When there will be the kind to whom you can give the letter, you shall give it.
sunt qui Larentiam...lupam inter pastores vocatam (esse) putent.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.7)
There are those kind who think that Larentia was called a "lupa" among the sheperds.
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.

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

Relative Clauses of Purpose.  (MF)  (AG)
Main:  [verb] + [noun, a.k.a. antecedent]
Sub.:  [rel. pronoun] + [subjunctive verb]
medico ipsi puto aliquid dandum esse, quosit studiosior.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.3)
I think something should be given to the doctor himself, so that he become more attentive by means of it.
Here the relative pronoun quo replaces the conjunction ut and the pronoun eo.  This use of the relative pronoun borders on the adverbial.

Compare regular purpose clauses and ad + gerundive.

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   Cum Clauses
   Purpose Clauses
   Result 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]
cum erit, cui (litteras) des, dabis.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
When there will be the kind to whom you can give the letter, you shall give it.
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 our examples.
sed vos, cum praesertim tam pauci sitis, volui esse quam coniunctissimos.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.4)
But you, especially since you are so few, I wanted you to be as close as possible.
cum a me litteras accepisset, mihi nullas remisit.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
Although he had gotten a letter from me, he sent me none.
cum Vestalem eam legisset perpetua virginitate spem partus adimit. (Livy, AUC 1.3.11)
He took away the hope of offspring by means of perpetual virginity, since he had selected her (as) a Vestal.
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]
fac valeas et ad me tabellarios mittas, utsciam quid agatur.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.6)
Take care to be well and to send me couriers, so that I know what is happening.
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 ad + gerundive and relative clauses of purpose.

ferunt, ...identidem ne quis (eam) violaret, Thalassio ferri clamitatum esse.  (Livy AUC 1.9.12)
They say that, so that no one would violate (her), it was shouted that (she) was being carried to Thalassius.
at ego misera pernox et per diem lanificio neruos meos contorqueo, ut intra cellulam nostram saltem lucerna luceat. (Apuleius, AA 9.5.16-18)
istud ego quinque denariis cuidam uenditaui, et adest, ut dato pretio secum rem suam ferat.  (Apuleius, AA 9.6.26-28)
lucernam', ait, 'actutum mihi expedis, ut erasis intrinsecus sordibus diligenter, aptumne usui, possim dinoscere.  (Apuleius, AA 9.7.17-19)

Result Clauses.  (MF 232)  (AG 537)
Main:  [action verb] + [marker word]
Sub.:  [ut / ut non] + [subjunctive verb]
sperat posse fieri, ut mecum in Italiam decedat.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.3)
He hopes it can happen that he return with me to Italy.
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.

vos non liceat.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.2)
You see to it that it not be prohibited to depart.
Here the result clause is actually an object clause governed by videte.  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.

adnisurus pro se quisque sit ut...parentium etiam patriaeque expleat desiderium.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.15)
(Romulus said that) each one would work as best he could (pro se) with the result that he would satisfy the desire for parents and fatherland.
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   Future More Vivid
   Future Less Vivid
   Pres. Contr. Fact
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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:

Simple.  (MF)  (AG)
si (habemus)...Pompeium et Caesarem, non est desperandum.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2)
If we have Pompey and Caesar, we need not despair.

Future More Vivid.  (MF 38)  (AG 516)
Main:  [indicative future verb]
Sub.:  [si / nisi] + [indicative future verb]
si nos premet eadem fortuna, quid puero misero fiet?  (Cicero, AF 14.1.5)
If the same fortune shall weigh us down, what will happen to our poor boy?
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.

Future Less Vivid.  (MF 38)  (AG 516)
Main:  [subjunctive present verb]
Sub.:  [si / nisi] + [subjunctive present verb]
si me amet, beatior sim.  If (s)he should love  me, I would be rather glad.
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.

Present Contrary to Fact.  (MF)  (AG)
Main:  [subjunctive imperfect verb]
Sub.:  [si / nisi] + [subjunctive present verb]
si (haec)..."fato facta" putarem, ferrem paulo facilius.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2).
If I thought these things "accomplished by fate," I would endure them a bit more easily.
The subjunctive is required beacuse the condition would be true, if only the main clause were true.  That is, the present contrary to fact deals in unreality, in what is contrary to established fact.

Note that the imperfect, not the present, subjunctive is required in both clauses.

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Last modified 25 March 1999