The Present and Imperfect Subjunctive in Subordinate Clauses I

The following chapters outline the general principles of sequence as it appears in various idioms. It must be stressed at the outset, however, that some constructions permit further refinements, to explain which would be beyond the scope of this course, and that even the most careful writers allow many deviations from the strict application of sequence. To use an indicative rather than a subjunctive form is not, however, permissible in any of the constructions discussed in this chapter and the next. Chapters 26 and 27 will discuss idioms in which either the indicative or the subjunctive may be used, with the precise sense intended by the writer determining the choice of mood of the verb in the clause.

Secondary tenses are also known as historic tenses.

Purpose clauses are sometimes known as final clauses, i.e. clauses which state the intended end (finis). Whereas ut/ne and the subjunctive is by far the most frequent construction used to express purpose, it can be expressed in several other ways also. For the predicate dative so used, see Chapter 16, for gerund(ives) and the supine see Chapter 20, for relative clauses, see this chapter. Future participles are occasionally used to express purpose, but only after a verb of motion in the main clause; e.g. Romam eo Caesarem visurus, “I am going to Rome to see Caesar”.

English uses an infinitive much more frequently than a finite clause in order to express purpose: “I went to feed the pigs” or “I went in order to feed the pigs”, rather than “I went in order that I might feed the pigs”. Although the present infinitive was originally the dative or locative case of a noun, used to denote purpose, that use of the infinitive is rare in classical Latin, and should not be imitated.

The conjunction “lest” is now unpopular, especially in British English, being regarded as highly formal or archaic, no doubt at least partly because it is properly constructed with a verb in the subjunctive, which has fallen from favor. Precisely because of its links with the subjunctive, however, it offers a closer equivalent to ne in many subordinate clauses than do more current idioms.

Result clauses are also known as consecutive clauses, i.e. clauses which state consequences. In the sentence “The pirate loved the girl so much that he became a farmer”, the pirate’s becoming a farmer is the result and consequence of the intensity of his love for the girl.

That result clauses should be constructed with the subjunctive runs counter to the general principle expressed in Chapter 22, that the indicative is used mostly to refer to actual events or circumstances, the subjunctive mostly to events or circumstances which are in some way merely hypothetical.