Workbook of Latin Grammar

The supine an ablative of specification

The supine is a verbal expression used in a limited set of constructions. The supine form is given in Latin dictionaries and lexicons as the fourth principal part and shares its endings with 4th declension nouns. The supine however exists only in the singular and in two grammatical cases: the accusative (-um) and the ablative (-ū).

The accusative supine is used to express purpose, in particular after verbs of motion or verbs which imply motion (such as verbs of dispatching, ie. mittō). The accusative supine expresses purpose without any proposition. The accusative supine expressing purpose is translated in English with the phrases “to” or “in order to”.

admonitum vēnimus, nōn flāgitātum.

“We came to remind you, not to harass you.”

Praefectī turmārum explōrātum in omnēs partēs missī erunt.

“Squadron leaders were sent into every region in order to scout.”

The accusative supine is also used accompanying the passive infinitive of īre (īrī) to express the future passive infinitive.

Pompeius addit sē prius occīsum īrī ab Clōdiō quam mē violātum īrī.

“Pompey adds that he will be killed by Clodius sooner than I will be injured by him.”

Since the formulation of the future passive infinitive includes a supine, not a participle, the form never declines to match the gender and number of a subject accusative.

Legātiōnēs reiectum īrī putō. “I think the legations will be postponed.”

The ablative supine occurs only as an ablative of specification. For this reason, it is best to first consider the ablative of specification in general.

An ablative of specification clarifies the grounds of an idea or an action. Consider the following phrases: pulchritūdine vīcit (“she prevailed in beauty”), dīvitiīs potēns (“powerful in riches”), bellō ēgregius (“distinguished in war”). In each instance, the ablative of specification indicates a limited or specific sense in which another idea should be understood. Depending on the context, the ablative of specification often resembles other uses of the ablative including: means, cause, place, etc.

The ablative of specification is commonly translated into English using the preposition “in”.

Tyrannus ā rēge factīs distat. “The tyrant differs from the king in his actions.”

Forsitan audivērīs aliquam certāmine cursūs vēlōcēs virōs superāvisse.

“Perhaps you have heard that a woman has surpassed swift men in a contest of running.”

Sometimes an idiomatic translation is more suitable in English, for example: minor nātū (“lesser in birth” or “younger”), nōmine Gallus (“Gallus in name” or “called Gallus”), vītā superat (“surpass in life” or “outlive”).

Hostus ad urbem nōmine Cornum cōnfugit. “Hostus fled to a city called Cornus.”

The ablative which accompanies the adjectives dignus and indignus (and its cognate verbs) is often classified as an ablative of specification, for example dignus poenā (“worthy of punishment”). Expressions of worth are translated into English with the preposition “of”.

Nēmō alius est deō dignus quam quī opēs contempsit.

“None is more worthy of god than he who despises riches.”

Several nouns have idiomatic meanings when expressed as an ablative of specification, including: meō/tuō/etc. nōmine (“on my account”, “on your behalf”, etc.), meō/tuō/etc. iūre (“as is my right”, “as is your due”, etc.).

Antōniō tuō nōmine grātiās ēgī. “I thanked Antony on your behalf.”

Meō iūre tē hoc beneficium rogō. “I ask this favor of you as is my due.”

The ablative supine always expresses an ablative of specification and primarily appears accompanying neuter adjectives.

The majority of ablative supines are from verbs of speaking or perceiving (especially dictū and visū). That said, a wider range of verbs are sometimes used with this construction. The supine in the ablative cannot take an object and is almost never accompanied an adverb or adverbial phrase. The supine is translated into English as an infinitive (“to say”, “to see”, etc.).

Facile est inventū. “It is easy to find.”

Dīctū mīrābile mōnstrum aspiciunt. “They saw a portent, miraculous to mention.”

Tribūnī centuriōnēsque et proximī mīlitum grāta auditū respondent.”

“The tributes, centurions, and the soldiers nearest him respond things pleasing to hear.”

In addition to adjectives, the ablative supine can also accompany the nouns fās, nefās, and opus.

Ecce, nefās vīsū, anguis altāribus exit et exstīnctīs ignibus exta rapit.

“Look, horrible to see, a snake leaves the altar and snatches organs from quenched flames!”

Significābant quod erat scītū opus. “They made known what there was a need to know.

Some additional notes

While the accusative supine expressing purpose usually accompanies a verb of motion, examples are occasionally found in other contexts.

Fortūnā ūtī permittitis quaesītum Aenēān.

“You are allowed to use fortune to seek Aeneas.”

The periphrastic formulation fore ut is often used in places where we might expect the accusative supine + īrī. This ut clause has a subjunctive verb and is an instance of a noun clause of result (see Assignment 17).

Clāmābant fore ut ipsī sē dī immortālēs ulcīscerentur.

“They cried out that the immortal gods themselves would avenge them.”

(literally, “They cried out that it would be that the immortal gods avenge them”)

This construction is required in place an accusative supine + īrī in instances where the verb possesses no supine form (ie. possum).

Dīxī numquam ad līneam fore ut atomus altera alteram attingere posset.

“I stated that one atom would never be able to touch another perpendicularly.”

Activity 1

Using the supplied vocabulary, translate the underlined phrases below using the correct form of the supine.

Sample: She went outside the walls to seek water for sacred rites. (petō)

Answer: petītum

Sample: You will do what seems best to do. (faciō)

Answer: factū

Sample: Sempronius accomplished nothing worth remembering at that time. (memorō)

Answer: memorātū

The wise man will tell you what is better to shun. (vītō)

The Haedui sent legates to Caesar to ask for assistance. (rogō)

It is in no way easy to say. (dīcō)

How brief these things are for reply! (respondeō)

We went with a few calvary to explore. (explōrō)

Forgetful of their own liberty they come to assault another’s. (oppugnō)

This was difficult to do. (faciō)

Convicted in abstentia Marcius went into exile among the Volsci. (exsulō)

Was there ever a guest more worth hearing than Plato? (audiō)

Did we come here to see the slaughter of our allies and the burning of their homes? (spectō)

The indignity of the circumstances supplied utterances not easy for writers to relate. (referō)

Aeneas and Dido prepared to go into the woodland together to hunt. (venor)

The Capuans wanted Laevinus to go to the Senate to plead on their behalf. (ōrō)

My tongue is slow to speak. (for)

On the next day, no one was sent out to forage. (pābulor)

Activity 2

Translate the indicated Latin phrases including ablatives of specification.

Sample: Ipse Hannibal aeger oculīs ex vernā intemperiē fuit. Answer: “unwell in his eyes”

Sample: Dī illum male perdant magis mancipium animō quam condiciōne. Answer: “a slave in mind”

Sample: Haec fēmina nurūs Scythicās nōbilitāte superat. Answer: “surpasses in nobility”

Rōmānī saepe ductū Caesaris hostēs numerō superāvērunt.

Ennius fuit maior nātū quam Plautus et Naevius.

Fīlius, nōmine Hostus, castrīs praeerat.

Ille, Daedaliōn nōmine, erat ācer et bellō ferōx parātusque ad vim.

meō nōmine inimīcum eī esse nolō.

Quidquid dēsīderābis, tuō iūre exigēs.

Utrum nōn crēdimus fierī posse ut vir fortis ac strēnuus, pāce bellōque bonus, ex plēbe sit?.

Ecce venit magnō parātū dīves Philomēla, dīvitior formā!

Īlia Aniēnī placuit, quamvīs erat horrida cultū.

Diogenēs rēgem Persārum vītā fortūnāque superabat.

Simple Sentences

Translate the following sentences using grammar from this assignment.

Vēnī quaesītum ōrācula.

Nihil facilius scītū est.

Virtūs difficilis inventū est.

Tū ā nūllō nōbilitāte superāris.

Ille ad Senātum auxilium postulātum vēnit.

Illī foedus ictum īrī spopondērunt.

Spectātum veniunt et veniunt ut ipsae spectentur.

Incredibile dictū est, sed ā mē vērissimē dīcētur.

Reliquum certāmen positum erat in virtūte, quā nostrī mīlitēs facile superābant.

Cīvitās in spem ērēcta est bellum in Āfricā eō annō bellātum īrī.

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) Cephalus recalls how he used to go hunting all alone in the morning.

Vēnātum in silvās iuvenāliter īre solēbam.

[iuvenāliter, perhaps “full of youth”]

2) Caesar compliments the fighting spirit of the Albici who fought on the side of Pompey.

Nōn multum Albicī nostrīs virtūte cēdēbant.

[multum, adverbial, “much”; nostrīs, “our soldiers”]

3) Cicero suggests that some particularly vile deeds will be left unsaid during his prosecution of Verres.

Omnia praeterībō quae mihi turpia dictū vidēbuntur.

4) Aeneas recalls the horrible curse uttered by the harpy Celaeno.

Harpȳia Celaenō novum dictūque nefās prōdigium canit.

[Harpȳia Celaenō, nom.]

5) Sinon claims that the Greeks sent Eurypylus to consult Apollo about abandoning the siege.

Suspēnsī Eurypylum scītātum ōrācula Phoebī mīsērunt.

[Suspēnsī, “undecided”, this participle describes the Greeks; scītātum, from scītor, here “consult”; Phoebī, “Phoebus” an alternate name for Apollo]

6) One of the Aethiopians has asked Perseus how Medusa came to have her fabled appearance.

Perseūs ait, “Quoniam scītāris digna relātū, accipe quaesītī causam.”

[scītāris, here “ask”; quaesītī, substantive participle (see Assignment 1), “of the thing sought”]

7) Some of Caesar’s forces are separated from the main army by flood waters.

Eī, quī pābulātum longius prōgressī erant, interclūsī flūminibus nōn revertī poterant.

[revertī, deponent inf.]

8) Hannibal sends cavalry to scout while the elephants are brought across the Rhone.

Dum elephantī trāiciuntur, interim Hannibal equitēs quingentōs ad castra Rōmāna mīserat speculātum ubi et quantae cōpiae essent et quid parārent.

[trāiciuntur, “transport across”; quingentōs, “500”; ubi… quantae… quid, three indirect questions; quantae, interrogative adj. “how many”]

9) Seneca imagines an extreme deprivation in which hunger is still able to be sated.

Exercitūs inopiam omnium rērum perpessī sunt. Vixērunt herbārum rādīcibus et dictū foedīs famem tulērunt.

[foedīs, substantive “things foul”; tulērunt, here “drive off”]

10) Seneca lists various characteristics of the good and benevolent ruler.

Quī sermōne adfābilis est, aditū accessūque facilis, vultū amābilis, ille ā tōtā cīvitāte amātur dēfenditurque et colitur.

[adfābilis, “friendly”; aditū accessūque, ablative nouns or supines and practically synonyms]

11) Lucius Postumius Megellus finds the Samnite city of Feritrum utterly abandoned, except some persons and property abandoned there.

Ingressī mīlitēs refrāctīs foribus paucōs gravēs aetāte aut invalidōs inveniunt et relicta quae migrātū difficilia essent.

[gravēs... invalidōs, adjectives modifying the substantive adjective paucōs; relicta, acc.]

12) Cicero weighs the advice of his friend Sallustius who advises him to write the Dē rē pūblicā into his own voice, rather than having Scipio Aemilianus (and men of that era) voice these ideas.

Admonitus sum ab Sallustiō ea vīsum īrī ficta esse quae tam antīquīs hominibus attribuī.

[ea, “these things” referring to ideas expressed in Cicero’s writing; ficta, here “ficticious”]

13) It is argued that the recollection of great deeds brings pleasure.

Quis est quī cognōscēns cōnsilia et facta dictaque virōrum fortium atque omnī virtūte praestantium nūllā voluptāte afficiātur?

[praestantium, “surpass”; afficiātur, subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic]

14) Evander recalls to Hercules a prophecy his mother had prophecized regarding the fate of the great Greek hero.

Mea māter mihi cecinit tē auctūrum esse numerum caelestium et āram hīc dīcātum īrī.

[cecinit, “predict”; auctūrum, “increase”; dicātum īrī, from dicō, here “dedicate”]

15) The giant Cacus steals the cattle of Geryon from Hercules as the latter traverses through Italy.

Pāstor, accola eius locī, nōmine Cācus, ferōx vīribus, āversōs bovēs, quemque eximium pulchritūdine, caudīs in spēluncam trāxit.

[accola, masc. “inhabitant”; āversōs, here “stolen”; eximium, “exceptional”]