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©Damen, 2003

Chapter 17

RULE 1: A relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in number and gender, but not case; it derives its case from its use in its own clause.

I. Grammar

This lesson centers on the relative pronoun, a form you've used all your life but may not have thought about how it really functions.

A. The Relative Pronoun(s) in English

A relative pronoun introduces a relative clause, so called because the pronoun "relates" the clause to the main sentence, e.g. "She is the girl who loves me." In this sentence, who links the relative clause (who loves me) to the main sentence (She is the girl). There are no fewer than five ways to represent the relative pronoun in English:

1. Who: I have a friend who eats fish.
2. Which: And I have a fish which eats friends.
3. That: It's a piranha that eats people.
4. What: What my piranha eats is none of your business.
5. Zero: Unless you're my friend, why do you care about the food my piranha eats? [The omission of the relative pronoun here is parallel to the omission of that, a common practice in English, e.g. "Go ahead and jump in. I assure you <that> this is a friendly fish."]

B. The Formation of the Latin Relative Pronoun

The formation of qui, quae, quod, the relative pronoun in Latin, is relatively simple: the base qu- + first/second declension endings, with the usual pronoun exceptions. Note the following:

1. qui is masculine nominative singular and plural;
2. the irregular form quae does double duty, as expected, for both feminative nominative singular and neuter nominative/accusative plural (cf. -a in first/second declension), but the same form also serves as the feminative nominative plural form;
3. like illud, aliud, istud and id, the neuter nominative/accusative singular quod ends in -d;
4. the endings, -ius and -i, of the genitive and dative singular are the usual forms seen in the pronoun;
5. quem and quibus exhibit third-declension endings;
6. and finally, there are no mandatory long marks.

C. The Syntax of the Relative Pronoun in Latin

Relative clauses are a type of subordinate clause. Subordinate clauses have their own "grammar" (subject, verb, possibly also objects and prepositional phrases) and, though linked into a main sentence in some way, they do not serve as part of it. The relative pronoun which introduces the relative clause links the clause to the sentence through its antecedent, a word (usually a noun) in the main sentence, for instance:

Judge, here is the student who murdered his Latin teacher.

In this sentence, Here is the student is the main sentence which stands on its own grammatically and, while who murdered his Latin teacher has its own subject and verb, it is not an independent statement but a (relative) clause. This who is to be distinguished from the interrogative who which asks a question and tends to come at the front of a sentence or thought, e.g. "Who murdered the Latin teacher?"

While strictly not part of the main sentence, a relative clause is linked to the main sentence grammatically through the relative pronoun which straddles both. The relative clause in the example above is who murdered his Latin teacher, and its antecedent is the student which it describes or modifies (i.e. the relative clause tells you more about the student). The clause has its own subject (who), verb (murdered) and direct object (teacher). The who links this mini-sentence to the antecedent (student) in the main sentence. In Latin, the verb of the relative clause and everything else in the relative clause except the relative pronoun will be constructed just as if it were in a regular sentence, so the only thing that's really new about Latin relative clauses at this point is how to form the relative pronoun properly. So, that's what we'll focus on.

Since the relative pronoun functions in both its own clause and the main sentence, it is a creature of two worlds and its loyalties are naturally divided. So, what case should a Latin relative pronoun take: the case of its antecedent so that like other pronouns (e.g. hic, ille, iste) it agrees in number, gender and case with the noun it goes with; or the case that its own clause requires (i.e. nominative if it's the subject in its own clause)? Which loyalty do you think ought to be stronger, the outward pull toward its antecedent or the inward attraction of its own clause's grammar? Sometimes it's not a problem, as in the case of the sentence above ("Judge, here is the student . . ."), because the antecedent happens to be in the same case as that which the relative clause requires. But what if it's not? Consider this example:

Judge, I accuse this student, who killed his Latin teacher, of murder in the first declension!

Now the antecedent (student) is the direct object of the main sentence and should therefore be accusative, but the relative pronoun is the subject in its own clause (who killed) and should therefore be nominative. Which case is the better choice? Considering (1) that it is often no problem in actual practice to determine what noun is the antecedent of the relative pronoun—context and common sense frequently make it clear which noun must serve as the relative pronoun's antecedent—(2) that the relative pronoun will agree with its antecedent in number and gender no matter which option is chosen and that alone will often delimit the possible antecedents considerably; and (3) that one has no other guideline for construing the use of a relative pronoun in its own clause except by its case ending, the choice must be to make the relative pronoun reflect its use in its own clause rather than take the case of its antecedent. If for some reason there is difficulty determining what noun is a relative pronoun's antecedent—the problem arises rarely in actual practice—there is an unwritten rule in Latin, just as in English, that relative clauses tend to follow their antecedents directly, as in most of the examples above.

Thus arises the rule, as stated above: "A relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in number and gender, but not case; it derives its case from its use in its own clause." Click here for a worksheet on relative pronouns and their formation.

II. Vocabulary

aut: Latin doesn't have a separate word for "either"; it simply uses the word aut ("or") in both halves of the pair (aut . . . aut) to denote "either . . . or . . ."

coepi: This verb lacks present-tense forms; thus, linguists call it "defective." Its perfect infinitive (a form you don't know yet) is coepisse, meaning "to begin." It takes the place of the present infinitive as the second principal part of this verb but supplies no particular grammatical information necessary to the proper conjugation of the verb. This verb takes a complementary infinitive.

incipio: = in- + capio, with the expected vowel gradation. Just as in English, the literal Latin meaning "to take on" implies "to begin." Like coepi, it takes a complementary infinitive. The difference in meaning between coepi and incipio is negligible, cf. English start and begin.

neglego: A compound of ne(c) + lego ("choose"), literally "not to choose."

factum: The substantive of the perfect passive participle of facio in the neuter, meaning literally "a thing having been done."

III. Sentences

Practice and Review

5. Remember that quam as an adverb means "how."

8. It's best to take illa with femina, though it can be construed with pericula.

IV. Review for Test 3

Test 3: Review


I. Please give the proper Latin form of the underlined word(s) in each of the sentences below. Include prepositions if they are necessary. (20 pts.)

1. God helps those who help themselves.

2. The troops went across the sea.

3. The rights which we once had have now been lost.

4. The sons whose fathers are alive will fight for freedom.

5. He is the citizen to whom we entrusted our liberty.

6. The force of the troops themselves will conquer.

7. He loved the memory of his own mother.

8. He was helped by the opinions of wiser men.

9. He spoke with truth and conviction.

10. In an age like ours no one knows the difference between who and whom.

II. Translate the following verb forms -- PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO TENSE! If necessary, write the tense out to the side to show that you know it. (20 pts.)

1. coepistis

2. timent

3. current

4. dicite

5. sentire

6. iuvimus

7. iaciebam

8. traxeras

9. fuisti

10. fugerint

III. Give the proper form of the adjective which agrees (in NUMBER, GENDER AND CASE) with the nouns to the left. (10 pts.)


1. urbe
______________________________ ______________________________________

2. nomina
______________________________ ______________________________________

3. deorum
______________________________ ______________________________________

4. iuris
______________________________ ______________________________________

5. mare
______________________________ ______________________________________

IV. Fill in the blanks with the correct PRINCIPAL PARTS (PRESENT INDICATIVE, PRESENT INFINITIVE, PERFECT INDICATIVE, PERFECT PARTICIPLE) of the Latin verbs below. (10 pts.)

Pres. Inf. Perf. Perf. Part.

incipere _________________ inceptum

________________ _________________ deletum

committere _________________ ________________________

iungere _________________ ________________________

________________ ieci iactum

V. Translate the following sentences into good English which shows that you know the syntax of the Latin sentences. Answer the grammar questions appended. (40 pts.)

1. Post haec tempora mala quibus ipsi vitam agimus, filii filiaeque nostrae bene vivere incipient.



What case is tempora and why? _____________________________________________________
What case is quibus and why? _____________________________________________________
What mood is vivere and why? _____________________________________________________

2. Ex Italiâ mecum fûgit, quoniam veritatem ante Caesarem dicere non potuimus et iram istius timuimus.



What case is Italiâ and why? __________________________________________________
What case is me and why? __________________________________________________
What case is Caesarem and why? __________________________________________________

3. Cives quibuscum ad Asiam veniebas regi isti se commiserunt, et nunc omnes sunt miseri.



What case is Asiam and why? __________________________________________________
What case is regi and why? __________________________________________________
What case is miseri and why? __________________________________________________

4. Ei qui sunt cari dis cum ratione animisque se semper gerunt.



What case is qui and why? __________________________________________________
What case is dis and why? __________________________________________________
What case is ratione and why? __________________________________________________



I. 1. qui 6. ipsarum
  2. mare 7. suae
  3. quae 8. sententiis
  4. quorum 9. cum veritate
  5. cui 10. aetate

1. you (pl.) have begun
6. we have helped
2. they fear
7. I was throwing
3. they will run
8. you had drawn
4. say! (pl.)
9. you have been
5. to feel
10. they will have fled

1. longâ (urbe)
brevi (urbe)
2. longa (nomina)
brevia (nomina)
3. longorum (deorum)
brevium (deorum)
4. longi (iuris)
brevis (iuris)
5. longum (mare)
breve (mare)


incipere INCEPI inceptum




IACERE ieci iactum

V. 1. After these bad times in which we ourselves are living (lit. lead life), our sons and daughters will begin to live well.
tempora: accusative, object of post
quibus: ablative of point in time
vivere: infinitive, complementary with incipio

2. He fled with me out of Italy, since we were not able to speak the truth in front of Caesar and feared that (grrr!) man's anger.
Italiâ: ablative, object of ex
me : ablative of accompaniment
Caesarem: accusative, object of ante

3. The citizens with whom you came to Asia entrusted themselves to that (grrr!) king, and now they all are unhappy.
Asiam: accusative, object of ad
regi: dative, indirect object
miseri: nominative, predicate adjective

4. Those who are dear to the gods always conduct themselves with reason and courage.
qui: nominative, subject (in its own clause)
dis: dative, with carus ("dear to . . .")
ratione: ablative of manner


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