CL210: Intermediate Latin (Ovid's Art of Love)



I. Independent Uses of the Subjunctive

1. Horatory Subjunctive (Hortatory Subjunctive Handout)
2. Potential Subjunctive (Potential, Deliberative, and Optative Subj. Handout)
3. Deliberative Subjunctive (Potential, Deliberative, and Optative Subj. Handout)
4. Optative Subjunctive (Potential, Deliberative, and Optative Subj. Handout)
5 . Concessive Subjunctive

II. Uses of the Subjunctive in Dependent Clauses

1. Relative Clauses of Characteristic
2. Concessive Clauses
3. Purpose Clauses (Purpose and Result Clauses Handout)
4. Result Clauses (Purpose and Result Clauses Handout)
5. Indirect Questions
6. Fear Clauses (Fear Clauses Handout)
7. cum Clauses (cum Clauses Handout)
8. Contrary-to Fact Conditions (Conditional Sentences Handout)



The hortatory subjunctive has the sense of an exhortation or command, the kind usually introduced in English by “let” or “may”:

Let us see what’s going on.
Let a hundred flowers bloom.
Let him be given whatever he needs.
Let me be brave.
May you be happy.
May all your efforts achieve success.
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

There is some possibility of confusion, since English let also has the meaning “permit, allow” but in Latin the hortatory subjunctive simply expresses a strong desire for someone to do something, or for something to happen. In fact, the hortatory subjunctive is very similar in meaning to the imperative.

Sim fortis.
Let me be brave.

Habeas bonam fortunam.
May you have good luck.

Pecunia a civibus detur.
Let money be given by the citizens.

While the imperative is usually used in Latin for commands in the second person, the subjunctive is usually used in the first and third persons, or for negative commands in the second person. A negative command is expressed by ne plus the hortatory subjunctive.

Ne simus stulti.
Let’s not be foolish.

Ne festinetis, amici!
Don’t hurry, friends.

Ne credant se fortiores esse nobis.
Let them not believe that they are stronger than we.

The hortatory subjunctive occurs almost exclusively in the present tense, but the imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive can be used to express unfulfilled obligation in past time (e.g. mihi dixisset aliquid = she should have said something to me).


The subjunctive can be used independently in the concessive sense, in which case it has the same meaning as it would if it had appeared in a concessive clause. In these cases, you have to translate it by supplying "although," "even though," or some comparable expression:

Andromedan Perseus nigris porta[ve]rit ab Indis,
raptaque sit Phrygio Graia puella viro

Even though Perseus brought Andromeda from the black Indians
and even though the Greek girl was seized by the Phrygian man

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Verbs in a relative clause (introduced by a form of qui, quae, quod) will often be in the subjunctive if the relative clause is used primarily to characterize of the antecedent, i.e. to tell the listener or reader what sort of person or thing the antecedent is.

Marcus est vir qui numquam de aliis cogitat.
Marcus is a man who never thinks about others.

Marcus est vir qui numquam de aliis cogitet.
Marcus is the sort of man who never thinks about others.

The subjunctive is very likely to be used in a relative clause whose antecedent is either not stated or not well specified, as in Ovid, A.A. 9:

ille quidem ferus est et qui mihi saepe repugnet
He is indeed fierce and the sort who often resists me.

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The subjunctive is used in some clauses to indicate a concession, an acknowledgement that something is true even though it might seem to undercut or strongly contrast with the assertion in the main clause.

Concessive clauses are introduced in English with words and phrases like “although,” “though,” “even if,” “even though,” etc.

Although they were guilty, they went free.
Even though you’re a horrible person, I still love you.
They refuse to listen even if what he’s saying is brilliant.

In Latin, concessive clauses with the subjunctive are often introduced by quamvis (“although”). Other “particles of concession” (which we will talk about in more detail later) are ut, licet, etsi, tametsi, etiam si, quamquam, and cum.

Ovid, A.A. 21-22:

et mihi cedet Amor, quamvis mea vulneret arcu
pectora, iactatas excutiatque faces

and Love will yield to me, even if he wounds my breast with (his) bow
and shakes (his) brandished torches

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The subjunctive can be used after ut or ne to indicate a purpose, usually (but not always) the purpose of the action expressed by the verb in the main clause.

*A positive purpose is expressed by ut + the subjunctive.
*A negative purpose is expressed by ne + the subjunctive.

A purpose clause may be translated in a variety of ways, but the most "canonical" English translation would involve the phrase "so that" or "in order that" with the English verbal auxiliaries may (in primary sequence) and might (in secondary sequence):

Senatus convocatur ut consilia imperatoris audiant.

The senate is being summoned
so that they (the senators) may hear the emperor’s plans.

Cicero coniuratos necavit ne rem publicam tollerent.

Cicero killed the conspirators so that they might not destroy the republic

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The subjunctive can be used after ut indicate a result that follows from the action of the verb in the main clause.

*A positive result is expressed by ut + the subjunctive.
*A negative result is also expressed by ut + the subjunctive, with a word expressing negation             (like non, nihil, nullus, -a, -um etc.) appearing somewhere in the result clause.

A result clause will usually be distinguished from a purpose clause either by context or by the presence of certain words (specifically, demonstrative adjectives and adverbs like tam, ita, tot, tantus, -a, -um, etc.) in the main clause that signal an emphasis on the result of a quality or action:

Illud flumen tam cito fluit ut nautae timeant.
That river is flowing so fast that the sailors are afraid.

Sic dixit ut crederetur ab omnibus.
He spoke in such a way that he was believed by everyone.

Ita desiderabant divitias ut cogitarent de nullo alio.
They so desired riches that they thought about anything else.

Tot amicos habuit ut numquam solus esse posset.
He had so many friends that he was never able to be alone.

Tales versus scribit ut rex ipse eos laudet.
He writes verses of such a kind that the king himself praises them.

Scelera eius tanta erant ut tota civitas vellet eum expellere.
His crimes were so great that the whole city wanted to drive him out.

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Latin uses the subjunctive as the standard mood in indirect questions.

Quot ursi sunt in his silvis?               How many bears are in these woods?

Rogant quot ursi sint in his silvis.     They are asking how many bears are in these woods.

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*A positive fear clause, expressed by ne + the subjunctive, expresses fear or anxiety that something will happen.
*A negative fear clause, expressed by ut + the subjunctive, expresses fear or anxiety that something will not happen.

Fear clauses most commonly follow one of these three verbs, all of which mean "fear." (But they may follow other verbs too, and also phrases expressing anxiety, fear, danger, risk, etc.)

timeo, timere timui, ------
metuo, metuere, metui, metutum
vereor, vereri, veritus sum


Timemus ne mox moriamur.
We’re scared that we will die soon.

Timui ne quid scelus fecisset.
I was afraid that he had done some wicked deed.

Metuit ut imperator rediret Romam.
He feared that the emperor would not return to Rome.

Verentur ne veritas numquam sciatur.
They are afraid that the truth will never be known.

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With the subjunctive, cum may mean “when,” “since,” or “although” according to context.

Cum orator argumenta paraverit, in memoria debet omnia tenere.
When an orator has prepared [his] proofs, he ought to hold [them] all in his memory.

Cum copiae nostrae inter duo flumina sint, nocte non possumus oppugnari a hostibus.
Since our forces are between two rivers, we cannot be attacked at night by [our] enemies.

Cum urbs plena metus insidiarumque fuisset, rex tamen negavit se fugiturum esse.
Although the city was full of fear and treachery, the king nevertheless denied that he would flee.

Notice that, in the last example, the concessive ("although...") nature of the cum-clause is indicated by tamen (nevertheless).

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The subjunctive is used in conditional sentences in which the action or situation in the protasis (if-clause) of the condition did not (past), does not (present), or probably will not (future) occur.

Type of Condition
Tense of the Subjunctive
English Translation
Present Contrary-to-Fact

were (protasis); would (apodosis)

• “If I were you, I would see a doctor.”

Past Contrary-to-Fact
had (protasis); would have (apodosis)

• “If I had been there, I would have smacked him.”

Future Less Vivid
implies that the action or circumstance expressed in the protasis of the condition is seen as particularly unlikely

should (protasis) would (apodosis)

• “If you should get a job someday, I would consider dating you.”

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