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Chapter 28

RULE 1: The subjunctive is the mood of uncertainty. It is used primarily in subordinate clauses.

RULE 2: The present subjunctive is formed by changing the thematic vowel (generally, from a to e or e/i to a). Remember this sentence: SHE READS A DIARY.

I. Grammar

If the subjunctive were still fully active in English, learning Latin would much easier because English speakers would have something in their own language to build from, but unfortunately the English subjunctive is now largely a "schoolbook" form with little relevance to the spoken language. In other words, "If this be true, . . ." now sits on a dusty shelf in the Museum of Good English—horrendum dictu!—so you'll be learning as much about your own tongue as the Romans' in this and the next few lessons.

A. The Subjunctive Mood

If anything, the subjunctive is the mood of uncertainty. It's generally applied to verbs to show potentiality, volition, exhortation, prohibition, deliberation and other situations in which a speaker's statement does not necessarily reflect established fact or recognizable certainty.

B. The Translation of the Latin Subjunctive

With no clear counterpart in English—no single English word (such as "might," "may," "would") can cover the Latin in any way that's even remotely comprehensive—the Latin subjunctive has to be identified in form and usage independent of translation. Thus, you must learn to match the subjunctive form to its use and then disregard both, rendering the Latin subjunctive as an English indicative or in a way that accords with the proper English expression of a particular construction. Accordingly, then, when drilling subjunctive forms, you'll be asked to identify that the verb is subjunctive in form by writing an "S" next to it. After that, we'll address the use of this mood in context and you'll learn how to tell what constructions in Latin require the subjunctive mood and how to translate each.

C. The Formation of the Present Subjunctive in Latin

In the present tense, a simple change of thematic vowel shifts the mood of the verb from indicative to subjunctive. Here are the components of a Latin verb in the present-tense system and the information conveyed by each of these components:

modifies verb action
basic meaning
mood & conjugation
person/number & voice

Although there is a simple guideline for changing the present verbs of the four conjugations from indicative to subjunctive (a > e; e/i > a), here is a good mnemonic device: SHE READS A DIARY. The vowels of the English words match the subjunctive markers of the Latin conjugations in order from first to fourth/third -io.

Note the first-person singular present subjunctive in third, third -io and fourth conjugations (e.g. ducam) is identical in form to the first-person singular future indicative. Context will dictate whether to interpret ducam as "I will lead" or "let me lead."

For practice with the formation of the present subjunctive, click here for a worksheet on subjunctive forms.

D. The Use of the Subjunctive

By the end of the class, you will have learned ten uses of the subjunctive, two of which are included in this chapter: the jussive subjunctive and purpose clauses.

1. Jussive Subjunctive

The jussive subjunctive is different from the other subjunctive constructions we will cover in this class in that it has a corresponding verb form in English: "Let . . . !," "May . . . !" Also unlike most other subjunctive constructions we'll encounter, it serves as the main verb of the sentence. On the other hand, similarly to other subjunctive constructions, it is negated with ne (not non).

2. Purpose Clauses

From the perspective of English speakers, one of the hardest features of Classical Latin to learn is that there is no infinitive of purpose (e.g. "I went to the store to buy bread"). Instead, the Romans use the subordinate conjunctive ut/ne + the subjunctive mood to express purpose. This has a counterpart in English: "I went to the store so that I might buy bread."

E. Reading and Recitation

Here is a link to the Reading for this chapter, a selection of poems by Martial.

II. Vocabulary

arma: A plural noun, with no singular in Classical Latin.

cedo: This word often means little more than "go." As a base verb, it has many important compounds (see discedo in this chapter's vocabulary). Note that cedo (in its unprefixed form) takes a dative (indirect) object, rendering the sense "yield to, submit to."

discedo: The prefix dis- means "apart, separately," cf. dispel, disperse, dissuade, (and with assimilation) divide, differ.

praesto: A compound of sto stare steti statum.


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