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Use of the Subjunctive

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Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Einhard » Thu May 28, 2009 5:57 pm

Hey all,
Just a quick question on the use of the subjunctive. i know it's used with various clauses and as a jussive, but I've aso spotted it in sentences where those causes don't seem to apply, and am curious as to how it is translated. For exampe:

Nescio utrum tres contiuri maneant an in exsilium contenderint (W, 31, P&R 11)

Why is the present subjunctive of "manere" used here instead of the pres indicative? Shoud it be transated as "may remain" rather than simpy "remain"? That might be correct gramatically, but it makes the transation slighty cumbersome. If "maneant" is used simpy as "[they] remain", why bother with the subjunctive?

Simiarly, there's

Quid vesper et somnus ferant, incertum est (W, 31, SA 9)

I woud think that it shoud be transated as "What evening and sleep may bring, it is uncertain". If that is not the case, and the "may" shoud be omitted, why use the subj rather than the indic?

Thanks,
Einhard.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby adrianus » Thu May 28, 2009 6:12 pm

Salve Einharde
"may/would/should remain" and "may bring" are perfect in English/perbona sunt anglicé.
In English as in Latin (but not much these days in English), uncertainty and the hypothetical or unreal may be expressed using the subjunctive.
Anglicè sicut latinè (at his diebus rarenter anglicé) modo subjunctivo comprehendantur illae res quae sunt incertae vel irreales hypotheticaeve.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu May 28, 2009 6:38 pm

There's also the fact that indirect questions in Latin require the subjunctive, and that could be the reason here as well. I read the first one as "I don't know whether the three conspirators are staying or whether they have hastened into exile." The second one could also then be "what evening and sleep will bring" but I don't see much difference between that and "may/might/... bring".

In other words, you can't (as far as I know) use the indicative there, so the distinction between indicative and subjunctive is neutralized and it depends on context. Tense distinctions are also neutralized because of the sequence of tenses, so a present subjunctive can represent a future, a perfect subjunctive can represent an imperfect, and so on.
Last edited by modus.irrealis on Thu May 28, 2009 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby adrianus » Thu May 28, 2009 6:38 pm

Your first sentence contains indirect questions. Indirect questions take the subjunctive.
Quaestiones indirectae subjunctivum modum habebunt.
I do not know whether the three conspirators might still be here or would have hastened into exile.
[Modernly] I don't know if the three conspirators are still here or have hastened into exile.


Ah, we posted at the same minute, modus.irrealis.
En! In eâdem minutâ scripsimus, modus.irrealis.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu May 28, 2009 6:47 pm

And our translations are very similar too, which is a good thing because I had to spend some time thinking about how to best render contendere in exsilium :D
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Einhard » Thu May 28, 2009 7:06 pm

Ah, so the subjunctive can be used indepedently of any clauses to assert uncertainty? That's helpfu; pity Wheeock didn't think to include it! Everytime I saw a subjunctive on its own I was automaticaly translating it with "let"!!


I don't see how the first is an indirect question though. Woudn't it have to be directed at someone? It seems more of a statement of uncertainty to me rather than a question of any kind. Or am I missing something?

Thanks for the info though. It's good to have a clearer understanding of the subjunctive as expressing uncertainty. I was beginning to think that the Romans just loved the jussive!!
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu May 28, 2009 7:30 pm

Einhard wrote:I don't see how the first is an indirect question though. Woudn't it have to be directed at someone? It seems more of a statement of uncertainty to me rather than a question of any kind. Or am I missing something?

It's just like in English where you can use indirect question with verbs of asking (I asked him whether they had left) or with verbs of knowing (I didn't know whether they had left). You're right that in the latter case it's not directed at anyone, but in both English and Latin, the two don't seem to be distinguished grammatically.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby adrianus » Thu May 28, 2009 7:47 pm

Note also that question words are a sign of indirect questions. Plus you can ask a question of yourself.
Nota etiam ità. Indicium quaestionis est usus adverbiorum (pronominumque) interrogativorum, ut "demiror cur.../quomodò.../utrùm.../quis.../quid.../quàm.../quò.../quandò.../quotiens..." Praeterea, quaestionem tibi ipsi ponere potes.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Lucus Eques » Thu May 28, 2009 9:22 pm

By indirect question, it is meant this:

Direct question: "Can I go?"
A sentence containing the same question indirectly: "I don't know whether I can go or not."

That indirect part will be in the subjunctive in Latin.

If you already knew that, then forgive my pedantry. :)
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Einhard » Fri May 29, 2009 4:44 pm

Thanks all. It seems that I'm learning as much about the finer points of English grammar as its Latin counterpart!!
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Lucus Eques » Fri May 29, 2009 8:50 pm

Einhard wrote:Thanks all. It seems that I'm learning as much about the finer points of English grammar as its Latin counterpart!!


That's the beauty of it. :)

I believe all English speakers should have the opportunity to learn the languages that have contributed most to English:

Latin
French
Greek
German (through analogy with English as a Germanic language — possibly Scandinavian languages would be equally useful to this end, but German's popularity is practical, and its case system reveals the patterns of Old English)
Old English / Anglosaxon

I think the rest are quite ancillary at best — what do you all think?
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby adrianus » Sat May 30, 2009 12:14 pm

If only there were more hours in the day and life were not so short, Lucus.
Plus utinam horarum in die sint, Luce, ne vita tam brevis.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby ptolemyauletes » Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:14 pm

Not sure if anyone said this and I missed it, but both of the example sentences are indirect questions.

What might evening and sleep bring? It is uncertain.


PS, if anyone would like, I can send you my class handout on Independent Subjunctive uses. Partly written by me, partly stolen, it seems to have been useful to my students in the past.
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Re: Use of the Subjunctive

Postby Einhard » Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:32 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:

PS, if anyone would like, I can send you my class handout on Independent Subjunctive uses. Partly written by me, partly stolen, it seems to have been useful to my students in the past.


Don't mind if I do ptolemy! Any help is greatly appreciated! I presume you'd need my email addy?

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