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Gerundives & Gerunds

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Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby katzenjammer » Fri May 04, 2018 4:47 pm

So, in this sentence:

"Legendo noscimus multa."

We know many things by reading.

And "legendo" is an ablative gerund. It is a substantive, is active in meaning (and neuter singular).

But, this sentence:

"Libris legendis noscimus multa."

We know many things by reading books.

I know legendis is a gerundive - but only because it's in the plural. But suppose it said "libro legendo" lol?

I suppose I also have a hint that legendis is a gerundive because as a verbal adjective agrees with a noun - but is it really modifying "libris"? I suppose the literal translation would be: "by way of books to-be-read"?

Any advice on how to distinguish these? Not looking just for this sentence but generally.

Thanks! :)
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Re: Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Fri May 04, 2018 6:07 pm

Well, when the noun and the participle agree, you've got a gerundive. Good question about the singular -- looking at the grammars, they tend to use plural examples for the ablative usage, but I suppose libro legendo would be "by reading a/the book."

When you first learn this, you would actually expect something like libros legendo. But the Romans were allergic to this, and instead would write libris legendis...
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Re: Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby RandyGibbons » Sun May 06, 2018 6:50 pm

It may be that if you tallied the examples in grammar books or in extant Roman literature, you'd find more instances of the gerundive in the plural than in the singular. But the gerundive is in no way limited to the plural. For example, triumvir agro dando.
Any advice on how to distinguish these?

Just about any decent Latin grammar provides enough 'rules' and examples for you to get the gist. For example, sections 500-507 in Allen and Greenough.

I do remember getting confused about this when I was learning Latin. But in hindsight I realize that's because I was spending too much time trying to understand the grammar books and not enough time simply reading more Latin. Try this experiment:

(1) Read through the discussion and the examples in whatever grammar book you're using.

(2) But then at least temporarily set aside any attempt to memorize a satisfactory distinguishing definition of 'gerund' and 'gerundive'.

(3) Set aside any attempt to learn usage dicta such as Barry's "the Romans were allergic to this" (which is a valid observation about apparent ancient preferences, but it doesn't mean you won't ever encounter the less favored usage).

(4) Now read these sentences:

Legendo noscimus multa.
Libros legendo noscimus multa.
Libris legendis noscimus multa.

(5) Don't ask yourself if it is the gerund or the gerundive, just ask yourself what the sentence means. In each case, isn't it obvious?
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Re: Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Sun May 06, 2018 10:56 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:(3) Set aside any attempt to learn usage dicta such as Barry's "the Romans were allergic to this" (which is a valid observation about apparent ancient preferences, but it doesn't mean you won't ever encounter the less favored usage).


:shock: :roll: :lol:
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Re: Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby mwh » Mon May 07, 2018 2:36 am

Randy that’s all very well but (1) however averse (allergic?) we may be to grammatical labels it’s arguably worth knowing how to distinguish a gerundive from a gerund (Barry neatly answered that, it's easy), and (2) as a learner I’d want to ask how libros legendo and libris legendis differ in meaning and usage, and not be fobbed off with Well they mean the same thing but one's more common than the other.
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Re: Gerundives & Gerunds

Postby RandyGibbons » Mon May 07, 2018 2:24 pm

it’s arguably worth knowing how to distinguish a gerundive from a gerund

Why?

In any case, step 1 in my little experiment suggested to katzenjammer is to (re-)read the grammar book's coverage of the gerund and gerundive. I'm not agin' it (personally, like many other adult learners, I find grammar interesting). What I'm asking of katzenjammer and others is to ask themselves, is there some line I've crossed where, if I think about it, I understand the Latin perfectly well, and if so, what's the value of constantly, in my reading, asking myself gerund or gerundive, dative of this or dative of that, etc? Or, if my Latin ain't where I want it to be yet, is a given 30 minutes of my time better spent taking the eighth crack at the grammar book or simply reading more Latin?

That the right question to ask yourself when you're reading is, what does this sentence mean? And if I'm not sure, what about it specifically am I unsure of? I suggest that the answer to that is usually not, I don't understand if this is a gerund or a gerundive. This at least is all that I can suggest, in hindsight, from my own experience.

And I always want to be clear that I am not and never was a teacher. If I were, I understand I would have to be able to explain points of grammar in detail and convincingly.
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