Impersonal Verbs

If an impersonal verb is defined as a verb used in finite forms without a subject expressed, English now has no such verbs; the last survivors in this once fairly large category were me seems, me thinks, me lists, which have been all but extinct for centuries. A broader definition allows for the addition of a dummy third person singular pronoun, i.e. “it”, devoid of any specific reference. This allows English to match Latin’s “weather-verbs”; e.g. “It is raining”, “It is snowing”. Greek and Latin grammarians did not consider such “weather-verbs” as being truly impersonal, but rather explained that the appropriate deity (most often Zeus/Jupiter, the sky-god, was to be understood as being the subject; cf. e.g. Martianus Capella, Marriage of Philology and Mercury 4.389.

The passive form efficitur is noteworthy, in that the verb is a compound of facio, which does not itself have a present passive system (being replaced by fio, fiam, fiebam); see Chapter 15.

Thesaurus Verborum

The word for “liver” in the Romance languages (Ital. fegato, Fr. foie, Span. higado, Romanian ficat) is derived not from iecur itself, but from (iecur) ficatum, which means literally “figged liver”, and refers to the practice of feeding animals intended for gourmet dining on figs (ficus, fici fem. 2). fici is also the Latin term for “haemorrhoids”. Fegato is particularly remarkable: with its accent placed irregularly on the first syllable, it is one of the very few Italian words which lack a true rhyme.

Horologia Latina

A few final words of sundial wisdom. Scroll down for a translation.

  1. absente sole languesco.
  2. afflictis lentae, celeres gaudentibus horae.
  3. breves sunt, sint utiles.
  4. fac hodie: fugit haec non reditura dies.
  5. silens loquor.
  6. sit ultima felix.
  7. sole orto spes; descendente pax.
  8. tempori servio.
  9. utere praesenti memor ultimae.
  10. veniet quae non sperabitur hora.

These poems are all recorded in turba scriptorum as a guide to the pronunciation of Latin. If you listened to them when you began the course, their grammar, syntax and vocabulary will then presumably have seemed rather mysterious. By now, however, you will have mastered all their grammar and syntax: the hortatory subjunctive, the genitive of value, the gerundive, temporal clauses in secondary sequence, purpose clauses, the partitive genitive, indirect statement, conditional clauses, impersonal verbs, the ablative of comparison, negative commands, indirect questions. Only a few words will still be unfamiliar, and the sense even of these you will easily be able to guess, drawing on the context and on your understanding of how Latin words are constructed.

Vīvāmus, mea Lesbia, atque amēmus,

rūmōrēsque senum sevēriōrum

omnēs ūnius aestimēmus assis!

sōlēs occidere et redīre possunt:

nōbīs cum semel occidit brevis lux,

nox est perpetua ūna dormienda.

dā mī bāsia mille, deinde centum,

dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,

deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

dein, cum mīlia multa fēcerīmus,

conturbābimus illa, nē sciāmus,

aut nē quis malus invidēre possit,

cum tantum sciat esse bāsiōrum. Catullus 5

Nullī sē dīcit mulier mea nūbere malle

quam mihi, nōn sī sē Iuppiter ipse petat.

dīcit: sed mulier cupidō quod dīcit amantī,

in ventō et rapidā scrībere oportet aquā. Catullus 70

Quintī, sī tibi vīs oculōs dēbēre Catullum

aut aliud sī quid cārius est oculīs,

ēripere eī nōlī, multō quod cārius īllī

est oculīs seu quid cārius est oculīs. Catullus 82

Ōdi et amō. quārē id faciam, fortasse requīris?

nescio, sed fierī sentio et excrucior. Catullus 85

Horologia Latina

  1. When the sun is not here, I fade.
  2. The hours are slow to the afficted, fast for the joyful.
  3. Hours are short, so let them be useful.
  4. Do it today: this day is fleeing, and will not return.
  5. I speak silently.
  6. May your final hour be happy.
  7. At sunrise, let there be hope, at sunset, peace.
  8. I am a slave to time.
  9. Use the present hour mindful of your last.
  10. The hour will come that will not be expected.