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CL 302:  Private Lives, Private Worlds
Essential grammar
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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.

Cicero's letters are referenced by book, letter, and section (e.g.  16.4.3), with AA designating the epistles ad Atticum, and AF the epistles ad familiares.

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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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Genitives.  (MF 26)  (AG 341)

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

  Partitive.  (MF 154)  (AG 346)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun / adj. of portion]
  haec...regio...nostrorum est cum oppidorum tum etiam praediorum.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.1)
This area is not only one of our towns, but also one of our estates.
Here oppidorum and praediorum represents a larger class of things, of which regio is a sub-class or part.  In other words, oppidorum and praediorum are the sources of regio.

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

  Quality.  (MF165)  (AG 345)
([source noun in gen.] + [modifying adj.]) + [specific noun]
ad Curium vero, suavissimum hominem et summi officii summaeque humanitatis, multa scripsi.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
Indeed, I have written many things to Curius, the most pleasant man, and (a man) of highest duty and humanity.
officii and humanitatis qualify hominem almost as adjectives.  We could, if we wanted, translate, A very dutiful and humane man.

Still, it is important to emphasize the primary meaning of these genitives:  officii and humanitatis are the sources of Curius' man-ness.  This use of the genitive is basically partitive.

  Objective.  (MF 178)  (AG 347)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun with verbal force]
quae sit...concitatio multitudinis, ignoro.  (Cicero, AF 14.13)
I don't know what the rousing of the multitude is.
Here the multitude is a source of rousing.  That is, they are prone to be stirred up by demagoguery.

This use of the genitive is called objective because the verbal idea of concitatio governs multitudinis just as a verb governs an accusative direct object.  It is as if Cicero had written:  "I don't know how he rouses the multitude"—i.e. how they are the object of his influence.

cum Vestalem eam legisset perpetua virginitate spempartus 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.
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.
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.
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.

  Subjective.  (MF 178)  (AG 343, note 1)
[source noun in gen.] + [noun with verbal force]
perfertur ad me...te nec animi neque corporis laboribus defatigari.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1)
It is reported to me that you are fatigued neither by the labors of mind nor of body.
quae sit istius vis..., ignoro.  (Cicero, AF 14.13)
I don't know the power of that man.
Here animi and corporis are the sources of labor, while istius (that man) is a source of power.

This usage differs from the objective genitive in that the genitives are perceived as the subjects of the implied actions (laboribus and vis);  mind and body are performing labors, while that man is exercising his power. In the example for the objective genitive, someone is rousing the multitude (concitatio multitudinis), not the other way around.

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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]
exculto enim animo nihil agreste, nihil inhumanum est.  (Cicero, AA 12.46.1)
Truly, the polished mind has nothing rough or ignoble. (Lit., there is a polished mind.)
We have a simple fact:  nihil agreste (aut) inhumanum est, nothing rough or ignoble exists.  The dative animo is the reference point for this fact:  with reference to the mind.

The idea of possession, which you are used to thinking is genitive, is in this case a variation on reference:  there is nothing rough or ignoble to the mind, therefore the mind possesses none of these things.

dabo operam, ne mea valetudo tuo labori desit.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2)
I'll take care that my well-being not be lacking to your effort.
mihi nullo loco desse vis.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.4)
You wish to fail me in no respect.
deesse, to be lacking or to fail, is from de + esse.  It is a linking verb, and requires dative referents to indicate to whom or to what a thing is lacking.

The idea of possession is best perceived by substituting non for dedabo operam, ne mea valetudo tuo labori non sit, I'll take care that my well-being not be not present for your effort—i.e. that your effort have my well-being.

Faustulo fuisse (ei) nomen ferunt.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.7)
They say that (his) name was Faustulus.
Here the dative referent (e.g. the pronoun ei) must be understood.  Faustulo is in agreement with this referent.

  Agent.  (MF 88)  (AG 374)
[dative referent] + [nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [gerundive predicate]
considerandum (esse) vobis...puto.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.1)
I think you should consider.  (Lit., it must be considered by you.)
The passive periphrastic expresses duty or obligation, and requires a dative of agent (here vobis), which indicates to whom the obligation is referred

Objective.  (MF 218)  (AG 367, 368)
[dative referent] + [verb of being]
te rogo, sumptu ne parcas.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.2)
I ask you to spare no expense.
corpori servi.  (Cicero, AF 16.4.5)
Preserve your body.
parcere (to be sparing) describes Tiro's desired state of being.  Since a state of being is technically not an action, the verb has no accusative direct object.  Rather, it is used in conjunction with a dative noun, in this case sumptu, which is the reference point of Tiro's sparing.

Likewise the verb servire (to be a slave), which has as its referent the dative corpori.

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

The first example contains an indirect command.

Purpose.  (MF 131)  (AG 382)
[noun in nom.] + [linking verb] + [noun in dat.]
utinam ea res...voluptati sit.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.4)
I wish that this thing be a pleasure.  (Lit., be for the purpose of pleasure.)
The idea of referentiality is still at work here.  In this example, the matter at hand (ea res) is described with reference to some purpose or end in view, namely voluptas.

The above example also contains a main clause use of the subjunctive, the subjunctive of wishing.

Double Dative.  (MF 131)  (AG 382, note 1)
[nom. noun] + [linking verb] + [dat. referent] +  [dat. of purpose]
utinam ea res ei voluptati sit.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.4)
I wish that this matter be a pleasure to him.
tibi enim magnae curae esse certo scio.  (Cicero, AF 14.19)
I certainly know that (it) is a great concern for you.
The so-called double dative construction combines the dative of purpose with a second dative, which expresses the primary meaning of reference (in fact, it is called the dative of reference).

In the above examples, you understand that voluptati and curae are the datives of purpose, the ends in view.  ei and tibi, then, are the people to whom these purposes are referred.  In this sense, these datives are 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!]
me miserum!  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1, 14.1.5)
Wretched me!
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 wretched me, or Consider wretched me).  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.)] + [typical sentence]
conficior et dies et noctes.  (Cicero, AA 12.46.1)  I am worn away all day and all night.
apud dies, ut excuser, videbis.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
You will see to it that I am excused to Appuleius daily.
The accusative of duration (or extent) of time indicates how long an action occurs.  That is, it describes the endpoint of an action in time.

In the first sentence, dies and noctes describes the periods of time in which Cicero is worn away.  The extent of time is vast—all day and all night.  (The plurals simply indicate that it happens day after day and night after night.)

The second sentence is somewhat anomalous because the preposition in precedes dies, which in theory could stand alone.  The expression in dies is idiomatic, but the sense is clear:  Please excuse me to Appuleius, all day, every day.

Compare the ablative of time.

crescente in dies grege iuvenum, seria ac iocos celebrare.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.9)
While the crowd of youths was growing day by day, they experienced both serious things and jokes.
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   Degree of Difference
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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, but remembering where, from where, or how as the main idea of the ablative will get you far.

  Origin or Source.  (MF 102)  (AG 403a)
[origin noun in abl.] + [verb of being or originating (optional)]
Tulliolam nostram...ex eo tantos percipere luctus!  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1)
To think that our little Tullia derives such pains from that man!
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), which is the situation above.

Because this sentence is basically an accusative of exclamation in clause form, it requires an infinitive to express action.  The syntax is no different from an indirect statement.

Cause.  (MF 164)  (AG 404)
[origin noun in abl.] + [verb of being or originating (optional)]
te ista virtute, fide, probitate, humanitate in tantas aerumnas...incidisse!  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1)
To think that you, because of your courage, faith, uprightness, and nobility, have fallen into such catastophes!
Cause as an ablative idea follows from its primary meaning of from where, or perhaps even how.  Here the ablative nouns describe the cause of Terentia's fall.

NOTE:  Because this sentence is basically an accusative of exclamation in clause form, it requires an infinitive to express action.  The syntax is no different from an indirect statement.

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.
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.

Separation.  (MF 102)  (AG 400, 401, 402)
[origin noun in abl.] + [verb of separation or motion]
video omnes bonos abesse Roma.  (Cicero, AF 14.18.1)
I see that all the nobles are away from Rome.
The ablative of separation follows closely from the primary meaning from where.  In this 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.

in hac solitudine careo omnium colloquio (Cicero, AA 12.15)
In this solitude I lack the conversation of (with) all men.
enim mihi in perpetuum fundo illo carendum est.  (Cicero, AA 12.46.1)
Truly I must lack that place forever.
The verb carere, to lack, contains an inherent idea of separation, which in turn invokes the ablative.  colloquio and loco are therefore the things from which Cicero is separated.  This is the rule with carere:  it takes not an accusative direct object, but an ablative of separation.

Comparison.  (MF 152)  (AG 406)
[comparative adj. / adv.] + [abl. noun to be compared]
nihil est mihi amicius solitudine.  (Cicero, AA 12.15)
There is nothing more friendly to me than solitude.
quanto me felicior Daphne uicina.  (Apuleius, AA 9.5.18-19)
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 nothing is friendlier than—separated from—solitude.

Degree of Difference.  (MF 152)  (AG 414)
[word of difference, real or implied] + [abl. noun / adj. defining the difference]
(haec) si..."fato facta" putarem, ferrem paulo facilius.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.1)
If I thought these things had been "accomplished by fate," I would endure them a little more easily.  (Lit., more easily by a little.)
intellego, quanto...fuerit facilius manere domi quam redire.  (Cicero, AF 14.1.2)
I understand how much more easy it was to remain at home than to come back.  (Lit., that it was easier by how much.)
quanto me felicior Daphne uicina.  (Apuleius, AA 9.5.18-19)
The ablative of degree of difference catches the primary ablative meanings from where and how at once.

On the how side, the adjectives paulo and quanto modify (in an adverbial sense) the comparatives facilius, defining how each situation is easier.

On the from where side, paulo and quanto distinguish or separate the idea of more easily / easier from other ideas of the same.  That is, to say that something is facilius paulo, more easy by a little, implies that there is also (say) something more easy by much (multo) or by nothing (nihilo).

Time (When).  (MF 116)  (AG 423)
[abl. noun of time] + [typical sentence]
quae sit istius vis hoc tempore..., ignoro.  (Cicero, AF 14.13)
I don't know what his power is at this time.
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.

mirantur tam brevi (tempore) rem Romanam crevisse.  (Livy, AUC 1.9.10)
They marvelled that the Roman state had grown within such a brief time.
This is an example of the ablative of time within which, an offshoot of the ablative of time.  Here we are dealing with not so much a point as a range of time.

  Absolute.  (MF 162)  (AG 419)
[noun in abl.] + [abl. adj] and/or [abl. participle]
sunt qui Larentiam, volgato corpore, 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, since her body had been made public (since she made her body public).
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, Livy offers the circumstances in which or reason why Larentia was called a lupa.  He might have used a cum clausecum corpus volgavisset (since she had made her body public).  The ablative absolute, however, does much the same thing, and in fewer words.

crescente in dies grege iuvenum, seria ac iocos celebrare.  (Livy, AUC 1.4.9)
While the crowd of youths was growing day by day, they experienced both serious things and jokes.
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.
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.
lucernam', ait, 'actutum mihi expedis, ut erasis intrinsecus sordibus diligenter, aptumne usui, possim dinoscere.  (Apuleius, AA 9.7.17-19)
uocato Myrmece, soleas illas offerens et ignouit ex animo et, uti domino redderet, cui surripuerat, suasit.'  (Apuleius, AA 9.21.12-14)
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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 our readings.

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.
nec herciscundae familiae, sed communi diuidundo formula dimicabo.  (Apuleius, AA 9.27.28-29)
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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 24 March 1999