Hillard and Botting translation help

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Propertius
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Hillard and Botting translation help

Post by Propertius » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:23 pm

Section 47, Exercise 308, Sentence 9:

Let them go: they will not be able to prevent our plan.

The second clause I understand and my translation is as followed:

consilium nostrum impedire non poterunt.

And I checked the answer and I got it correct.

But the first clause is what I’m confused about. The answer reads eant but that’s third person plural subjunctive so wouldn’t that translate to they let them go? But it looks to me like a second person command. So shouldn’t it be eos eas/eatis ([you] let them go)?

Propertius
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Re: Hillard and Botting translation help

Post by Propertius » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:41 pm

I feel like a fool. I figured it out: it’s a jussive subjunctive. I need to get a grammar book soon so that I can further read up on this. Could anyone elaborate a little bit more on this? I feel a little lost still. Is a jussive subjunctive passive? It kind of looks passive. Or am I wrong?

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Ser
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Re: Hillard and Botting translation help

Post by Ser » Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:57 am

The term "jussive" comes from iubeō iubēre iussī iussum 'to order, command'. This term is sometimes used in the study of Latin/Arabic/German/Russian grammar for something that is kind of like an imperative in that it expresses a command, but is nevertheless distinct from the proper imperative. In Latin grammar, the uses of the subjunctive with imperative meaning are called "jussive", hence the "jussive subjunctive". It is not a passive.

Languages sometimes have imperatives for the 3rd person (pre-classical Latin even had dedicated forms: sg. facitō, pl. faciuntō), in which the speaker expresses a command or a wish for a 3rd person to do something. The speaker is of course talking to someone else or talking to himself/herself, and it is typically taken either as an order for the 2nd person (so that they make sure the 3rd person does it) or simply as an emotional expression.

The subject is "they", that's why the verb appears in the 3rd person plural form.

The translation "let them go" is appropriate. The only problem is that it's old-fashioned English, which is why you find it confusing. (It confused me a lot the first time I encountered it too.) Think of it as the mathematical "let", as in "let y equal x^2". The variable "y" is not being allowed something, it is simply wished into representing the output of the function f(x) = x^2.

In contemporary English there is no good equivalent construction. We might rather say "make sure that they go", "I want them to go", "I wish that they go", "let's allow them to go", "they'd better go", etc., depending on the context. Other languages have good equivalent constructions: French qu'ils s'en aillent, Spanish que se vayan, Italian che se ne vadano.

And if you think having a 3rd person imperative of sorts is weird, there are languages such as Hungarian and Lingala that have a 1st person singular imperative. That type of imperative typically expresses notions such as "let me go", "I really must go", "I wish I could go", "I'd better go", "I wish I felt like going", etc.

Eos eas is definitely wrong.

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