Workbook of Latin Grammar

Rēfert and interest

The verbs rēfert and interest (from intersum) are both used as impersonal verbs with the meaning “it is important”, “it matters”, “it concerns”, or “it makes a difference”.

The subject of rēfert or interest can be expressed in one of four ways:

1. A neuter singular pronoun (illud, hoc, quid, etc.)

2. An infinitive or an accusative and infinitive phrase

3. An indirect question

4. A noun clause introduced by ut (or nē, if negative) and having a subjunctive verb

Quid hoc rēfert? “Why does this matter?”

Maximē interest tē esse Rōmae. “It is especially important that you are in Rome.”

Quid interest quis dīxerit? “What difference does it make who said it?”

Magnī utrius nostrum interest ut tē videam.

“It is of great important for both of us that I see you.”

With both rēfert and interest, the person concerned may be expressed by the ablative feminine singular of the possessive adjective (meā, tuā, suā, nostrā, and vestrā only).

Id nihil tuā rēferēbat. “It didn’t concern you at all.”

Permultum interest meā tēcum circumīre et tē ostentare.

“It is very important to me to go canvassing with you and to put you on display.”

Where no possessive adjective exists, the person concerned is expressed by the genitive (eius, eōrum, Rōmānōrum, Cicerōnis, etc.). This use of the genitive, however, is regular only with interest (not rēfert).

Hoc nōn illīus magis interest quae accēpit, quam meā quī dedī.

“This is not more important to her who received it than I who gave it.”

Hoc eōrum vehementer interest. “This matters greatly to them.”

The genitive is also used with the phrases reī pūblicae, commūnis salūtis, and similar notions.

Interest reī pūblicae et commūnis salūtis Caesarem cum Pompeiō conloquī.

“It is important to the republic and to the common good that Caesar speak with Pompey.”

When it is not a person concerned but a thing that is regarded, the prepositional phrase ad + accusative is used (“with regard to” or “to”). This construction is only regular with interest, not rēfert.

Magnī hoc ad honōrem meum interest.

“This makes a great difference with regard to my honor.”

Frequently, the degree of importance may be expressed with an adverb, a neuter accusative adjective, or a genitive of value.

Hoc maximē interest. “This is especially important.”

Multum rēfert quae sit persōna suādentis.

“What the character is of the one giving advice makes a great difference.”

Magnī rēfert quid velit. “It matters greatly what he wants.”

The indeclineable form nihil frequently accompanies rēfert or interest with adverbial force.

Hoc docē, doleam necne doleam nihil interesse.

“Show me this, that it makes no difference whether I experience pain or I do not.”

The interrogative adverb quid frequently accompanies rēfert or interest, meaning "why does it matter”, “what difference does it make”, etc.

Quid rēfert nēminem scīre cum tū sciās?

What difference does it make that no one knows, since you know?”

On its own, the phrase quid rēfert? means “what difference does it make?” or simply “so what?”.

Some additional notes

According to Woodcock (§213 note), rēfert appears to have begun as mea (tua/etc.) rēs fert, but the phrase became rēfert over time. Because of this, the form of the possessive adjective changed to agree with rē, as though the compound contained the ablative singular of rēs.

With the verb interest only, a thing regarded may sometimes be expressed with the genitive and persons concerned are rarely expressed with ad + accusative or simply a dative (see the note for Allen and Greenough §355).

Activity 1

For each of the following sentences, indicate if the highlighted phrase would be best expressed by a possessive adjective (in the ablative feminine singular), a genitive, or ad + accusative. Answer with the most regular construction.

Sample: Nothing matters to me now. Answer: possessive adjective

Sample: This was important to others and especially to the Rhodians. Answer: genitive

Sample: They think that the food you eat matters to the keenness of the mind. Answer: ad + acc

Why difference does it make to you (s.)?

This is greatly important to them also.

It is of great importance to the younger Cicero that I come in upon him as he is studying.

It matters little to me which of your friends love me.

This would have made a great difference with regard to their opinions.

It is more important to the father than the son.

I know that it does not matter to me whether I know these things or not.

It doesn’t matter at all to the king.

May it make no difference with regard to this matter!

They believed that this would be of great concern to themselves.

Activity 2

Identify subject or subject clause in each of the following examples as one of the following: neuter pronoun, accusative and infinitive, indirect question, or an ut/ne clause.

Sample: Plūrimum rēfert aquam nōn esse in eā.

Answer: Plūrimum rēfert aquam nōn esse in eā. (accusative and infinitive)

Sample: Quantum rēfert meā quid calcem?

Answer: Quantum rēfert meā quid calcem? (indirect question)

Sample: Dīxit interesse id reī pūblicae.

Answer: Dīxit interesse id reī pūblicae. (neuter pronoun)

Sample: Magnī rēfert ut sēmina possint sēminibus commiscērī.

Answer: Magnī rēfert ut sēmina possint sēminibus commiscērī. (ut/ne clause)

Quid tamen hoc rēfert?

Nostrā rēfert animōs fortiōrēs fierī.

Interest ut vēra videantur.

Quid interest quam partem lectī premās?

Quid interest quōmodo sapiēns ad otium veniat?

Quid Milōnis intererat Clōdium interficī?

Plūrimum rēfert ut arborēs eam partem caelī spectent.

Rēfert id nōn procul esse ab oculīs dominī.

Vestrā interest nē imperātōrem pessimī faciant.

Nōn interfuit occīdentium quid dīceret.

Simple Sentences

Translate the following sentences using grammar from this assignment.

Quid id rēfert tuā?

Tuā plānē nihil interest.

Interest omnium rēctē facere.

Meā maximē interest tē valēre.

Id magis reī pūblicae interest quam meā.

Quid rēfert quantum in arcā iaceat?

Nōn meā sōlum sed etiam tuā interesse arbitror ut hoc faciās.

Nihil meā interest an inprūdēns occiderit.

Hoc verum an falsum sit meā nihil interest.

Nōn quid ferās sed quemadmodum ferās interest.

Examples in Context

Translate the following modified examples.

n) Context for the sentence(s)

Modified example sentence(s)

[grammatical and contextual notes, if any]

1) Seneca reminds Serenus that we must be attentive to moderate living.

Multum interest simpliciter vivās an neglegenter.

[an, introduces the indirect question “whether... or”]

2) Seneca imagines Octavian lamenting the hatred which he has incurred due to the proscriptions.

Quid vīvis, sī tē perīre tam multōrum interest?

[vīvis, Octavian here is speaking to himself]

3) A letter from exile, personified, admits that its writer, Ovid, enjoys some lenience, despite his ongoing exile.

Saepe rēfert quanta clementia deī sit.

[quanta, “how great”; deī, refers presumably to Augustus]

4) Cicero claims Caesar seeks to orchestrate consular elections through unconstitutional means in order to avoid an interregnum period.

Permagnī eius interest rem pūblicam ad interrēgnum nōn venīre.

[eius, refers to Caesar; interrēgnum, “interregnum”]

5) Seneca claims there is no difference in being a slave to one or many persons.

Quid interest quot dominī sint? Servitūs est ūna.

[quot, interrogative “how many”]

6) Seneca highlights the importance of consistency in thought.

Nōn quid dīcat sed quid sentiat rēfert, nec quid unō diē sentiat, sed quid assiduē sentiat.

[dīcat... sentiat... sentiat... sentiat, the subject of each verb is presumably indefinite, “someone”]

7) The elder Cato attempts to persuade the inhabitants of Spain that it is in their interest not to rebel.

Nōn nostrā magis quam vestrā rēfert vōs nōn rebellāre.

8) Seneca uses the analogy of the human body to describe the natural need for civic harmony.

Omnia membra inter sē cōnsentiunt quia singula servārī tōtīus interest.

[cōnsentiunt, here “be in harmony”; singula, acc. subject of passive infinitive servārī]

9) Cicero, as governor in Cilicia, encourages Coelius, appointed as Cicero’s subordinate, to join him in the province as soon as possible.

Hoc ego et meā et reī pūblicae et maximē tuā interesse arbitror.

[hoc, refering to Coelius’ eventual arrival in Cilicia]

10) Cicero criticizes Mark Antony’s flippant application of religious observance.

Cum tuā quid interest, nūlla auspicia sunt.

[quid, the indefinite quis, “anything” (see Assignment 5); sunt, here “there are”]

11) Cicero emphasizes the importance of surroundings in the development of the orator as a boy.

Magnī interest quōs quisque audiat cotīdiē domī, quibuscum loquātur ā puerō, quem ad modum patrēs paedagōgīque et mātrēs etiam loquantur.

[domī, locative, “at home”; ā puerō, “from boyhood”; quem ad modum, “in which way”]

12) Seneca declares that one’s preparedness to die in battle a sure sign of happiness.

Sī scit suā nihil interesse utrum anima per ōs an per iugulum exeat, hunc beatum vocā!

[scit, the subject is impersonal “someone”; anima, nom. “soul” or “life force”; vocā, imperative, “call X Y” where both X and Y are accusatives]

13) Ovid offers a metaphor in complaining that the slow transit of his poetry from the Black Sea to Rome renders it stale upon its arrival.

Nec minimum rēfert utrum intacta rosāria prīmus carpās an paene relicta sērā manū carpās.

[Nec minimum, the double negative expressing a strong positive “greatly”; prīmus, translate adverbially, “first of all”; relicta, supply rosāria; sērā manū, abl. expressing means]

14) Quintus Fabius argues that, in a time of great danger, the consulship is too important to be placed in the hands of Titus Otacilius.

Magis nūllīus interest quam tuā, Tite Otācilī, onus nōn impōnī cervīcibus tuīs sub quō concidās.

[Tite Otācilī, vocative singular, for the form see Assignment 16; cervīcibus, often plural “neck”; impōnī, passive infinitive; concidās, “you would collapse”]

15) Caesar shows Diviciacus how important it is for both of them to avoid conflict with the collected forces of their enemies.

Ipse Dīviciācum magnopere cohortātus docet quantō opere reī pūblicae commūnisque salūtis intersit manūs hostium distinērī.

[Ipse, Caesar; cohortātus, participle in agreement with ipse; quantō opere, interrogative “how greatly”; manūs, here “armed forces”]