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Why is -ne not used with esse?

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Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby karenbudde » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:55 pm

Why is -ne not used with esse forms? I am working my way through Learn to Read Latin by Andrew Keller, and the answer key does not show -ne in connection with the verb to be. Why? Thank you in advance. Karen
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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby thesaurus » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:14 pm

This doesn't sound correct, as I've definitely seen "estne" and "suntne" in writing. Perhaps it's uncommon or not a preferred construction, but I haven't seen evidence to suggest it.

Some random searching turned up some examples of every possible usage (although "summus-ne" seems rare):
sumne ego homo miser?
de gestu intellego quid respondeas: tua lege, dicis. esne igitur patriae certissimus parricida?
Estne aliquis, cui possit utile esse, non cum bonis, sed cum improbis versari?
Hic summusne pater fidei, sanctusque senatus?
"estisne vos legati oratoresque missi a populo Conlatino, ut vos populumque Conlatinum dederetis?" — " Sumus." —
At qui mecum agendumst. suntne illae ancillae tuae?
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby benissimus » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:17 pm

thesaurus wrote:Hic summusne pater fidei, sanctusque senatus?

This sample is actually not a form of esse, but from the adj summus, a, um. Sumusne does seem pretty rare, but then 1st person pl is generally one of the rarer verb forms in prose.

As to the original question, -ne is only used in yes or no questions (for direct questions, that is). It also might be on another word in the sentence, since -ne doesn't have to be added to the verb. If all else fails, remember that -ne is always optional in direct questions.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby Interaxus » Sat Mar 07, 2009 2:29 am

Keller himself (or is it Russell?) says merely (on page 27):

"-ne is an enclitic added to the first word of a sentence to indicate that it is a question. Its use in questions is optional, and it has no English translation. The word to which it is added is often a verb, since verbs often occur first in questions, but -ne may be added to other words as well."

So obviously no explicit ban on its use with 'esse' from the authors of the book ...

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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby karenbudde » Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:34 pm

I so apologize if I sounded at all dissatisfied with Learn to Read Latin as I quite enjoy it. I looked through that text twice before just giving up. Thank you for the page reference and comment. I appreciate the assistance that you have given to me! Karen
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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby DKell » Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:12 am

Indeed, everyone here has answered adequately. There is certainly no ban on the use of -ne as an enclitic to a form of sum. If there is no example in the answer key, that only means that we chose not to use one. The answer key does not contain every possible answer to a question but only one (admittedly one that seemed natural at the time of composing the answer key). The answer key was always meant to offer only one among many correct answers, certainly to the English to Latin sentences.

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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby metrodorus » Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:34 am

If you want to read a very well written discussion on question forms in Latin, then Adler's chapter on this subject is very good - as his entire text is composed of questions and answers, the subject was of great importance to him as a textbook writer.
He relies heavily on Cicero, Terence and Plautus for his forms.
You want Adler chapter 85.

There are hundreds of questions in Adler starting estne? and esne? and suntne? These, of course, have the peculiarity that they idiomatically take the dative and nominative.
Estne tibi penna?
Habesne pennam? taking the expected accusative.

You can find links to Adler's text here:


I run http://latinum.org.uk which provides the Adler Audio Latin Course, other audio materials, and additional free materials on YouTube.
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Re: Why is -ne not used with esse?

Postby Swth\r » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:45 pm

-ne is added enclitically on the word with the main interrogative strength in the sentence.
All the following examples can be translated in english as: "Is your father inside?" But each one of them asks for a differnet thing.

Estne pater tuus intus? (possibly expected answer in Englisn: Yes, he is. No, he isn't.
Paterne tuus intus est? (Possibly expected answers in English: Yes, my father. No, my mother.
Intusne pater tuus est? (possibly expected answers: Yes, he is. No, he has already left.)

Note also the use in the following double-questions:

Estne pater noster intus annon?
Estne pater noster intus an exiit?
Paterne noster intus est an mater?
Nosterne pater intus est an vester?
Intusne pater noster est an in agro?

Perhaps this was helpfull.
Dives qui sapiens est...
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