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Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

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Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby Kachikawawa » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:18 pm

Hello!!
These are lines from Lingua Latina Per se Illustrata:

"Rex eos interogavit 'num scirent ubi esset Arion et quid faceret?' Responderunt 'hominem, cum inde abirent, in terra Italia fuisse eumque illic bene vivere' "

"The king asked them if they knew where Arion was and what he did, they answered that he, when they left Italia ..."

I'm having troubles understanding whether the translation of the subjunctive is correct or not.
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Re: Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby mwh » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:29 pm

The subjunctives are imperfect rather than present because interrogavit and responderunt are past tenses.
“He asks them if they know where he is and what he’s doing” = Interrogant num sciant ubi sit et quid faciat …
“He asked them if they knew …” = Interrogavit num scirent ubi esset et quid faceret … (“… what he was doing”).

And notice “… in terra Italia fuisse (perf.) eumque illic bene vivere (pres.)”: “that the man had been in Italy and that he was (now) living well there.”

The quote marks in the book are bad, since this is not direct speech. I think we’ve noticed that with this book before.
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Re: Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby Kachikawawa » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:44 am

Thanks!! One thing that I didn't understand very well was the correlation between "Responderunt" and later on with "vivere". When they "responderunt" the man was at the same time "vivere" in Italy? I say this because in some charts it says that if we had a main verb in Perfect Indicative and we wanted an action occuring at the same time as the main verb, we should use imperfect subjunctive. But since we're dealing with indirect discourse, we don't have an "imperfect infinitive". But say we had it, should we use it instead? I don't if that made sense at all :lol:
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Re: Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby mwh » Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:38 am

I think you’ve just about got it. Here responderunt introduces indirect discourse (acc.&infin.), as you realize, and vivere would be just the same if the main verb were respondent, present tense. Responderunt/respondent eum vivere: They replied that he was living/They reply that he is living.

An indirect question uses not acc.&inf. but subjunctive, and the tense of the subjunctive depends on the tense of the main verb (more precisely, on the time reference of the leading verb), as in
interrogaverunt (past) num viveret (impf.subj.) “they asked if he was living”
versus
interrogant (pres.) num vivat (pres.subj.) “they ask if he’s living.”

(It’s a matter of what’s sometimes called “sequence of tenses.”)

Does that help at all? It can be confusing.
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Re: Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby Kachikawawa » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:24 pm

Yes, It did help!!! I've understood it completely. This was the most complex phrase I've read so far, now it became crystal clear. Thank you!!
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Re: Use of Imperfect Subjuctive

Postby mwh » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:55 pm

Great. The same “sequence of tenses” applies in many other constructions too, so getting on top of how it works will help a lot as you move forward.
E.g. in “purpose” (aka “final”) clauses:
“Hoc tibi dico (pres.) ut intelligas (pres.subj.)” “I'm telling you this in order that you may understand”
“Hoc tibi dixi/dicebam (past) ut intelligeres (impf.subj.)” “I told you this in order that you might understand”
(Here “may” and “might” are in fact relics of similar sequence rules in English; but they’ve largely fallen out of use in contemporary English. And these days we’d be more likely to say “so that” than “in order that”. English syntax gets increasingly distant from Latin.)
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