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Primum and Primus

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Primum and Primus

Postby pmda » Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:58 am

Some help with Primus / Primum.

I'd like to clarify something that I think I understand.

Primum is an adverb that is used for sentences to describe something happening first or someone doing something first. E.g.

Discipulus non statim intrat, sed primum ianuam pulsat;

Primus is an adjective to describe someone or thing who is first to do something or first to happen or first on a list. E.g.

Sextus, qui ante Marcum et Titum ad ludum advenit, primus ludum intrat.

In Orberg's LLPSI Ch. XV he has:

Sextus statim librum suum aperit, sed Titus, qui librum non habet, 'Ego' inquit 'librum no habeo'.

If Titus had had a book to open and Sextus opened his first I take it one could write:

Sextus primus librum suum aperit.

But if Sextus was opening his book prior to greeting the teacher then one could have:

Sextus primum librum suum aperit et deinde 'Salve magister' inquit.

Do I have this right?
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Re: Primum and Primus

Postby modus.irrealis » Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:09 pm

Yes that's right. Also remember that primus like you say is an adjective and can agree with any noun, so you could say something like

eum primum interfeci

which is ambiguous between "he was the first I killed" and "I first killed him (and then did something else)".
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Re: Primum and Primus

Postby pmda » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:22 am

Thank you very much for this.
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Re: Primum and Primus

Postby Imber Ranae » Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:53 pm

pmda wrote:Sextus, qui ante Marcum et Titum ad ludum advenit, primus ludum intrat.

I realize this has nothing to do with the topic, but I do not think this sentence is formulated correctly. The preposition ante is not used to show relative time. Here I would take it to mean "before the time of Marcus and Titus", i.e. before they even existed. To show that Sextus arrived earlier than the others did, you need to use the adjective prior with quam instead.

Sextus, qui ad ludum prior quam Marcus et Titus advenit, primus ludum intrat.

I suppose you could use an ablative of comparison as well: Sextus, qui ad ludum prior Marco et Tito advenit...[etc.]
Ex mala malo
bono malo uesci
quam ex bona malo
malo malo malo.
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Re: Primum and Primus

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:15 am


I think it's worthwhile to add that "primum" should not be confused with "primo" (which I personally do far too often).
According to the "New Latin Grammar" by Allen & Greenough (section 322 d) the differences in meaning between "primum" and "primo" are as follows:
Primum means first (first in order, or for the first time), and implies a series of events or acts. Primo means at first, as opposed to afterwards, giving prominence merely to the difference of time :
hoc primum sentio, this I hold in the first place.
aedis primo ruere rebamur, at first we thought the house was falling.

NOTE. In enumerations, primum (or primo) is often followed by deinde, secondly, in the next place, or by tum, then, or by both in succession. Deinde may be several times repeated (secondly, thirdly, etc.). The series is often closed by denique or postremo, lastly, finally. Thus, -- primum de genere belli, deinde de maguitudine, tum de imperatore deligendo (Manil. 6), first of the kind of war, next of its magnitude, then of the choice of a commander.

I hope that this is not too confusing.

Carolus Raeticus
Sperate miseri, cavete felices.
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