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Silly question on passives

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Silly question on passives

Postby MarcusE » Sun May 10, 2009 8:38 pm

Janua clausa est

Is that to be translated as "the door was opened" and or "the door is open" or does it depend on the contect? How does latin distinguish present time states resulting from a past action and the past passive formed by past participle and present tense of esse?

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Re: Silly question on passives

Postby benissimus » Mon May 11, 2009 12:20 am

"clausa" roughly means "in a state of having been closed", so the sentence can either refer to the past action or the resulting present state. Try to conceptualize that meaning if you can, even though it sounds odd in English.

Generally, "clausa est" will form the passive complement to the active "clausit" and requires no special consideration. I would worry about translating "clausa est" as present if the context seems to call for a present tense verb or if clausa is together with a string of adjectives (implying that it is being used adjectivally as well). There may be other hints as well, such as subordinate clauses taking primary sequence subjunctives (implying a present-tense verb).
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Re: Silly question on passives

Postby Essorant » Mon May 11, 2009 3:10 am

I think it is best to presume a past tense, unless a context speaks otherwise.

In other words, presume that janua clausa est means "the door was closed", unless there is some further context to imply otherwise.
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Re: Silly question on passives

Postby MarcusE » Mon May 11, 2009 8:50 pm

OK, this makes sense. I just wanted to be sure that I wasn´t imagining a certain ambiguity there.

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Re: Silly question on passives

Postby ptolemyauletes » Tue May 19, 2009 1:50 pm

This might help. A man walks into a room. He looks around, finds nothing, and turns back to leave. Strangely, the door, which he had left open, is now closed. He says, 'ianua clausa est.' What does this mean? It means 'the door is closed.' But how did it get that way? Because it also means 'the door has been closed.'

This is how my 1st year Latin teacher explained perfect passives to me many years ago.
'est' means 'is'
'clausa' means 'having been closed'
If you put them together you get a door that is in the state of 'having been closed'. A past action results in a present state.
Another good example of this is 'mortuus est.' In English is there really any difference between 'he has died' and 'he is dead?'

Translation, however, is all about context, so do what seems right. If the entire story is in the past tense, stick with it, but if someone is speaking then a present might well work.
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