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Cum as a conjunction

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Cum as a conjunction

Postby Dingbats » Thu Sep 09, 2004 5:23 pm

I have some problems understanding when I should use the indicative and when I should use the subjunctive with cum. Wheelock says that it should be used with the indicative only when it's temporal (when, not why) and never in the past tenses. But a tutorial I read said that the indicative is always used when it's temporal and the subjunctive when it's causal. Which is right?
Anyway, the sequence of tenses only applies when it's taking the subjunctive, right?

According to the tutorial, this should be a proper translation of "When he came to the house, he closed the door":
Cum in domum veniebat, ostium clausit. (Of course, not venebat...)
According to Wheelock, this is how it should be written:
Cum in domum veniret, ostium clausit.

I don't know which is right (both may be wrong).
Last edited by Dingbats on Fri Sep 10, 2004 5:33 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Episcopus » Thu Sep 09, 2004 6:12 pm

ack! The first one does not sound Latin :D

One of the main uses of the subjunctive is the idea that things depend on another. In my opinion, although 'cum' is translated 'when' in English and is with the subjunctive imperfect, the closing of the door is dependent upon the coming to the house. If the subjunctive clause does not occur the indicative can not either. Thus there is the very slight hint of 'Since' but not quite the idea in English.

You can use 'cum' in the past with the perfect indicative, showing the exact time of the action. Here unlike the above the idea is purely temporal.
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Re: Cum as a conjugation

Postby benissimus » Thu Sep 09, 2004 11:43 pm

Dingbats wrote:According to the tutorial, this should be a proper translation of "When he came to the house, he closed the door":
Cum in domum venebat, ostium clausit.
According to Wheelock, this is how it should be written:
Cum in domum veniret, ostium clausit.

I don't know which is right (both may be wrong).

They are both correct (assuming venebat is meant to be veniebat), but they have different meanings.

The first one is, as the tutorial says, temporal:
"When he came into the house, he closed the door"

The second one describes a causal situation, because you used the subjunctive:
"Since he came into the house, he closed the door"

You seem to be misinterpreting Wheelock, he never said to use the subjunctive when speaking temporally.


I have some problems understanding when I should use the indicative and when I should use the subjunctive with cum. Wheelock says that it should be used with the indicative only when it's temporal (when, not why) and never in the past tenses. But a tutorial I read said that the indicative is always used when it's temporal and the subjunctive when it's causual. Which is right?

I think Wheelock is being a bit strict. I don't see why cum would not be used in a past tense. I think Moreland & Fleischer explains this more accurately:

Temporal (exact) is expressed by cum + indicative.
e.g. "when you see him, go talk to him"

Temporal (vague) is expressed by cum + subjunctive.
e.g. "when I am at school, I listen to the teachers"

Causal and Concessive are also expressed by cum + subjunctive.
e.g. "Since..."; "Although..."

Anyway, the sequence of tenses only applies when it's taking the subjunctive, right?

Yes.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Postby Dingbats » Fri Sep 10, 2004 5:38 am

Thanks for your help!
So, if I understood you, the indicative is used when it's temporal and the subjunctive when it's causal? And it's always like that?
I think Wheelock said something like "when it's one of the past tenses, the subjunctive is most often used" about temporal statements.
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Postby Anna Coluthon » Sat Sep 11, 2004 7:25 pm

I am a trifle rusty at this, but:

Quick and Dirty Cum Clauses

Causal (cum=since) and Concessive (cum=although) clauses take the subjunctive, tense determined by the main verb.

Temporal (cum=when) clauses referring to the present or future take the indicative (pres, fut or fut pf) (fut for incompleted action, fut pf for completed)

Temporal clauses referring to the past take the subjunctive, impf to show incompleted action (translate cum as when or while); plupf to show completed action (translate cum as when or after).


Present temporal: times happen when things go badly
Future temporal incompleted: I will not hesitate to call on you when it is convenient
Future temporal completed: You will find out when you get here
Past temporal incompleted: I received your letter while/when I was resting
Past temporal completed: He left after/when he had finished speaking


A few further frills:

Temporal clauses occasionally use past tenses of the indicative to date or define the time of the action of the main verb--in this context cum is generally found in the combinations tum cum (at the time when) and eo tempore cum (ditto). The subjunctive may also be used, however.

Finally, when the expressed subject of the subordinate verb refers to the same person as that of the main verb, place the subject first, followed by the cum clause.

I hesitate to cite examples because on the one hand made Latin is highly unlike the real thing and on the other, I don't like to snow you with a bunch of unfamiliar vocabulary and forms by quoting.

In terms of your example from Wheelock, I myself would be strongly inclined to put the cum clause into the pluperfect--I closed the door after I had entered the house.: Cum domum introissem, januam clausi. Which I know doesn't really help you at all, I'm sorry :(

I hope this helps!
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Postby Dingbats » Sun Sep 12, 2004 6:00 am

Thanks for the long reply!
So I should never use the perfect indicative?
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Postby whiteoctave » Sun Sep 12, 2004 9:43 am

cum with the perfect indicative has a very special application: namely, it depicts the frequentative nature of a present action. for instance
'cum tibi dixi, Amor me amplectitur.' means 'whenever i speak to you, Love holds me close'.
it's a great usage.

~D

(pluperfect indic. is used for frequentative of a past action, 'whenever i spoke' etc.)
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Postby Episcopus » Sun Sep 12, 2004 3:08 pm

Yes I use that one not never, however for some one trying to establish cum as a conjunction with subj or indic it can seem quite confusing. Why the hell is it pluperfect then perfect indicative in the past?
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Postby Dingbats » Sun Sep 12, 2004 3:54 pm

Thanks for your help! :)
I'll have to practice a bit to get the hang of it, though.
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Postby ptran » Tue Sep 14, 2004 2:31 pm

The perfect indicative in the cum clause to signify the "whenever" conjunction is the perfect indicative trying to do the Greek aorist's job. The perfect is expressing something that is eternally true, and the pluperfect is its past tense counterpart- so when you say "Whenever it rains, it pours" you're declaring a gnomic truth about raining and pouring.
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