Workbook of Latin Grammar

The gerund and gerundive

Gerunds are verbal nouns and are employed when a verbal action functions as a noun in a sentence (ie. ad dīcendum “for speaking”, morandō “by delaying”, etc.). The gerund is a neuter 2nd declension noun which may appear only in the singular and only in the genitive, dative, accusative or ablative case.

Coniūrātiōnem nāscentem nōn crēdendō conrōborāvērunt.

“They strengthened the nascent conspiracy by not believing.”

Galba in hīs locīs legiōnem hiemandī causā conlocāvit.

“Galba stationed his legion in this region for the sake of passing the winter.”

When the verbal action functioning as a noun has a recipient, then the gerundive construction is preferred. In this assignment, all discussion of the gerundive form (a name generally applied to the future passive participle) is limited to its use in constructions parallelling to the gerund.

The gerundive, a verbal adjective, and can only be used to express verbal actions in which the action has a recipient. When a gerundive phrase is formed, the recipient is expressed with a noun and the gerundive is declined in agreement with the noun in gender and number. The case of the gerundive phrase is determined by the grammatical function of phrase in the sentence (ie. ad arma capienda “for taking arms”, in trānsportandīs legiōnibus “in transporting the legions”). Unlike the gerund, the gerundive may be any gender and number. Like the gerund, however, a gerundive phrase may only appear in the genitive, dative, accusative or ablative case.

Omne dēsīderium litterīs mittendīs accipiendīsque lēniam.

“I will alleviate all longing by sending and receiving letters.”

Ad rēs gerendās satis est per sē ipsa ratiō.

“Reason itself, by itself, is sufficient for administering one’s affairs.”

In Latin, the gerund is always active while the gerundive is always passive. Despite this difference, we always translate both constructions actively in English.

Quod didicistī agendō cōnfirmēs oportet.

“It is important that you strengthen that which you have learned by doing.”

Sapientī prōpositum est in vitā agendā omnia rēctē facere.

“The wise person’s purpose is to do all things rightly in conducting life.”

(literally, “The wise person’s purpose is to do all things rightly in life being led.”)

While gerunds and gerundives are often translated into English as gerund (ending in -ing), sometimes an ordinary noun is more suitable.

Spectēmur agendō! “Let us be judged by our action.”

(literally, “Let us be judged by doing.”)

When the action in a gerundive phrase is translated into English as an ordinary noun, the recipient of the action is generally translated accompanying the preposition “of”.

Praetor lūdīs faciendīs praeest. “The Praetor oversees the exhibition of games.”

(literally, “The Praetor oversees games being done.”)

The gerund and gerundive can only appear in the following cases: genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative. The most common functions of gerund and gerundive in each case are detailed below.

The gerund and gerundive possess four main functions in the genitive:

1. Expressing an objective (or subjective) genitive with a noun possessing verbal force or certain adjectives (see Assignment 4)

2. Accompanying a noun and expressing the aim or purpose of that noun, especially after notions of time or (tempus, occāsiō, etc.) or intention (ratiō, consilium, etc.), usually translated “for”

3. Accompanying the ablative singular forms causā and grātiā, each meaning “for the sake of”

4. Expressing a genitive of definition (sometimes called an appositional genitive), in which the genitive provides an intended specific meaning to the noun it modifies, ie. mos canendī (“the custom of singing” “the custom, that is to say, singing”)

Amor habendī mē nōn tangit. “A love for possession does not touch me.”

Occupātiōnem populī Rōmānī prō occāsiōne rebellandī habuērunt.

“They deemed the preoccupation of the Roman people as an opportunity for rebellion.”

In hīs locīs Caesar nāvium parandārum causā morābātur.

Caesar remained in this region for the sake of equipping his fleet.”

Pater ipse haud facilem esse viam colendī voluit.

“The Father himself has willed that the way of farming is by no means easy.”

The gerundive (and rarely the gerund) is least common in the dative, but possesses three likely functions in this case:

1. Expressing purpose and, in particular, the gerundive is used to express purpose in phrases of legal procedure (see Assignment 3, including additional notes)

2. Accompanying expressions of suitability and appropriateness (see Assignment 3)

3. Accompanying verbs which take a dative object

Comitia creandīs cōnsulibus habuit.

“He held elections for the selection of consuls.”

Hīs audiendīs credendīsque opportūna multitūdō Syrācūsās cōnfluēbat.

“A crowd, prone to hear and believe these things, flocked to Syracuse.”

Pater tuus armīs faciendīs praefuit. “You father oversaw the manufacture of arms.”

The gerund and gerundive have one main function in the accusative, which is as the object of a preposition. The vast majority of accusative gerunds and gerundives accompany the preposition ad either in expressions of purpose or after phrases indicating suitability and appropriateness. In general, the accusative of the gerund and gerundive is preferred to the dative in this context.

Tempus idōneum ad īnsidiandum atque cēlandum ēligunt.

“They chose an occasion suitable for lying in ambush and concealing it.”

The gerund and gerundive can express a range of functions possessed by the ablative, by far the most common of which are:

1. Expressing an ablative of means

2. Functioning as the object of a preposition (especially in and dē)

Prōtea ōrandō nōn flectēs. “You will not soften Proteus by praying.”

Inter vōs in dīcendō dissimillimī estis.

“You are most dissimilar from one another in speaking.”

Senātus probat rem dē mittendīs lēgātīs.

“The Senate approved the motion on sending legates.”

An infinitive, never a gerund or gerundive, is used to express the subject of a verb or as the predicate of a linking verb. The infinitive, used in this way, may have an object and may either be modified by an adverb or by an adjective in the neuter singular.

Multīs parāvisse dīvitiās nōn fīnis miseriārum fuit sed mūtātiō.

“For many, obtaining wealth was not an end of miseries, but a change of them.”

Quod vīvere est diū morī?

“What sort of living is dying for a long time?”

Some additional notes

Despite the tendencies described above, it is not uncommon for the gerund to appear with a direct object (but a direct object is regular only with a gerund in the genitive or ablative).

Patriam antīquam videndī ūlla spēs mihi nōn est.

“I do not have any hope of seeing my ancestral homeland.”

Avāritia multa concupīscendō omnia āmīsit.

“Greed loses much by desiring everything.”

A gerundive may be used even when the recipient would not usually be expressed by the accusative.

Tarquinius per speciem aliēnae fungendae vicis suās opēs firmāvit.

“Tarquin firmed up his power through the appearance of preforming another’s duty.”

A gerund or gerundive in the accusative is rarely found with other prepositions, such as ob.

Ab illō pecūniam ob absolvendum accēpistī.

“You received money from him for the purpose of his acquittal.”

The ablative of the gerund and gerundive is sometimes found expressing specification (see Assignment 13), separation, and with the prepositions ex and ab.

Currendō omnēs superābit. “He will surpass all in running.”

Cum ipse tribūnus essem, abstinuī causīs agendīs.

“While I myself was tribute, I abstained from pleading cases.”

Temperantia cōnstat ex praetermittendīs voluptātibus corporis.

“Temperence consists of omitting the pleasures of the body.”

Āverterat senātum ab audiendīs precibus eōrum.

“He diverted the senate from hearing their prayers.”

Activity 1

Identify whether the verbal noun in English would best be expressed in Latin by a gerund, a gerundive, or an infinitive. Provide the most regular construction.

Sample: The mother bear brings it into shape by licking. Answer: gerund

Sample: This day was lawful for holding elections. Answer: gerundive

Sample: Deceiving a gullible girl is not a hard-earned honor. Answer: infinitive

We prolong the hours by weeping.

The remainder of the year was consumed in rebuilding the walls and towers.

They wanted to linger continually and learn his reasons for coming.

Living itself is shameful for me.

Many people came out of a zeal for seeing a new city.

Numa applied his mind to the selection of priests.

You consume your study in handing over the deeds of great men to memory.

Every which thing that comes about by hoping is outside our control.

What was god’s reason for making the world?

On account of the slaughter of their own, they thought nothing about resisting.

A great part of goodness is wanting to become good.

The Gauls were inexperienced in the arts of besieging cities.

Love is my reason for following.

Virtue is sufficient for living well.

Gods and humans chose this place for founding a city.

Activity 2

Indicate the case of the identified gerundive and then translate the gerundive phrase.

Sample: Haec faciunt recuperandōrum suōrum causā.

Answer: genitive, “for the sake of recovering their own”

Sample: Terra Carseolīs frīgida et olīvīs ferendīs apta nōn est.

Answer: dative, “for producing olives”

Sample: Ūnus eōrum ad comitia habenda Rōmam redībit.

Answer: accusative, “for holding elections”

Sample: Lucius Icilius sēditiōnēs agrāriīs lēgibus prōmulgandīs ciēbat.

Answer: ablative, “by proclaiming agrarian laws”

Menapiī legātōs ad eum pācis petendae causā mittunt.

dē versibus faciendīs rogās.

Tarquinius habuit ōrātiōnem compositam ad conciliandōs animōs plēbis.

Ambiorīx illud pollicitus est et iūre iūrandō confirmāvit.

Cūra pācis tenendae mihi fuit.

Vīs ventī apta faciendō ignī coorta est.

Ego in accūsandō atque in explicandīs crīminibus operam cōnsūmam.

Ūtor Pythagorēōrum mōre exercendae memoriae grātiā.

Cōnsulēs nōbilitāsque ad impediendam lēgem in contiōne cōnsistunt.

Aristotelēs ait īram esse cupiditātem dolōris repōnendī.

Petrēius cum paucīs equitibus occultē ad explōranda loca proficīscitur.

Lēx dē abolendīs dīvitiīs fertur.

Neuter hostem vulnerāvit suī prōtegendī corporis memor.

Cīvitātī cūrandae adhibitus sum.

Lēgātī ad Vercingetorīgem dē pāce et dē amīcitiā conciliandā pūblicē missī sunt.

Mīlitēs per diem tōtum viā faciendā fatīgātī sunt.

Quīdam observandārum nūbium perītī sunt.

Numa sacerdōtibus creandīs animum adiēcit.

Ubiī nāvium magnam cōpiam ad trānsportandum exercitum pollicēbantur.

Poscēbat tempus ēvocandōrum testium.

Simple Sentences

Translate the following sentences using grammar from this assignment.

Hoc est discendī tempus.

Prūdentia est vīvendī ars.

Excurrunt ad arcendam hostium vim.

Ūnus diēs parandō exiliō dabitur.

Diēs hīs agendīs cōnsūmptus est.

Praesidium ad tuendōs sociōrum agrōs missum est.

Ad mē saepe scrīpsistī dē nostrō amīcō plācandō.

Ille hoc āvertendae suspīciōnis causā prōposuit.

Supervacuum est dolēre sī nihil dolendō prōficiās.

Mēns eōrum minime resistēns ad calamitātēs ferendās erat.

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) Perseus bargains with the parents of Andromeda that he may wed her in return for slaying the monster Cetus.

Hōra ad ferendam opem brevis est.

2) Seneca, in his old age, professes to know the path toward living well.

Rēctum iter, quod cognōvī sērō et lassus errandō, aliīs mōnstrō.

3) Caesar claims that many in Rome were compelled to turn against him.

Plērīs līberē dēcernendī potestās ēripitur.

[Plērīs, abl. “from the majority”; līberē, adv. with dēcernendī]

4) Ovid looks back upon his fall from fortune.

Dōnec eram sospes, tangēbar titulī amōre quaerendīque nōminis mihi ārdor erat.

5) Caesar dispatches his commanders at the outbreak of civil war and goes to Spain.

Caesar in praesentiā Pompeī sequendī ratiōnem omittit et in Hispāniam proficīscī cōnstituit.

[in praesentiā, “in the present circumstance”; Pompeī, gen. s. “Pompey” (for the form, see Assignment 15); proficīscī, deponent inf.; cōnstituit, “decide”]

6) Scipio addresses his troops before engaging in battle with Hannibal.

Priusquam ēdūceret in aciem, adhortandōrum mīlitum causā ōrātiōnem est exōrsus.

[ēdūceret, “lead forth troops”; aciem, battle formation]

7) Marcus Valerius Corvus attempts to draw the Etruscans into battle.

Novus cōnsul Etrūscōs vastandīs agrīs ūrendīsque tēctīs ēlicere ad certāmen nōn potuit.

[Novus cōnsul, refers to Corvus; tēctīs, “homes”]

8) Seneca suggests that the term tyrant would have been an apt fit for Sulla.

Quid Lūcium Sullam appellārī tyrannum prohibet, cui inopia hostium fīnem occīdendi fēcit?

[appellārī, “X to be called Y” where both X and Y are accusative]

9) Tarquinius Priscus enrolls 100 new Senators.

Nec minus memor rēgnī suī firmandī quam memor augendae reī pūblicae centum in patrēs lēgit.

[centum, object of lēgit; in patrēs lēgit, “appoint to membership in the Senate”]

10) Aeneas sleeps aboard his ship in anticipation of sailing away from Carthage.

Aenēās celsā in puppī certus eundī somnōs carpēbat rēbus iam rīte parātīs.

[puppī, abl. the stern of the ship]

11) The Trojans react to seeing Sinon, a Greek, led into their midst.

Undique vīsendī studiō Troiāna iuventūs circumfūsa ruit et captō inlūdere certant.

[captō, dative object of the compound verb inlūdere; certant, “vie” or ‘endeavor”, the subject is “they” referring to the Trojan youth from the previous clause]

12) Seneca employs analogy to explain the relationship between wisdom and knowing.

Sapere sapientiae ūsus est, quōmodo ēloquentiae ēloqui, quōmodo oculōrum vidēre.

[quōmodo, “in which way”; quōmodo… quōmodo, resupply ūsus est in each clause]

13) The orator Lucius Licinius Crassus says that reading is a necessary supplement to oratory.

Omnis ēlegantia loquendī, quamquam expolītur scientiā litterārum, tamen augētur legendīs ōrātōribus et poetīs.

[quamquam, “although”; litterārum, here “grammar”]

14) Ovid claims (perhaps in jest) that it is better that a woman not read at all than for his poetry to be blamed on account of it being salacious.

Nīl igitur mātrōna legat, quia ab omnī carmine ad dēlinquendum doctior esse potest.

[legat, jussive from legō]

15) Cicero claims that the difficult moments of his life are well-suited to biography.

Etsī varietātēs fortūnaeque vicissitūdinēs mihi optābilēs in experiendō nōn fuērunt, in legendō tamen erunt iūcundae, habet enim praeteritī dolōris sēcūra recordātiō dēlectatiōnem.

[sēcūra recordātiō, subject of habet]