Workbook of Latin Grammar

Optative subjunctives

The independent subjunctive, a use often termed the optative subjunctive, may be used to express what one would like to happen or wishes would have occurred in the past. In particular, the optative subjunctive expresses an exclamatory wish (ie. Valeās! “May you fare well!”) as opposed to a declarative statement describing the content of one’s desires (ie. Volō tē valēre! “I want you to fare well.”).

The optative Subjunctive is frequently negated by , sometimes by nōn.

A wish for the future is expressed by a present tense subjunctive. It is generally translated into English by placing the word “may” before the subject of the exclamation.

Meī cīvēs valeant! “May my fellow citizens fare well!”

A present subjunctive expressing a wish is often accompanied by the particle utinam. This particle signals the optative force of the verb and requires no additional translation in English.

Utinam animum ab īrā revocēs! “May you recall your mind from anger!”

Utinam haec experiāris! “May you not experience these things!”

Wishes expressed by past tenses of the subjunctive indicate that the wish is unfulfilled. Unfulfilled wishes are regularly accompanied by utinam and are best translated into English with the subject preceded by the phrase “would that”.

An unfulfilled wish for something to be true in the present is expressed by the imperfect subjunctive.

Utinam Aenēās ipse adesset! “Would that Aeneas himself were present!”

Illud utinam vērē scrīberem! “Would that I did not write this truthfully!”

An unfulfilled wish for something to have happened in the past is expressed by the pluperfect subjunctive.

Utinam hīs officiīs contenta fuissem!

Would that I had been contented with these duties!”

Utinam moderatius secundās rēs ferre potuisset!

Would that he had been able to bear favorable things more moderately!”

Some additional notes

In earlier Latin, an unfulfilled wish in the past is sometimes expressed by the imperfect subjunctive (see Woodcock §115).

The perfect subjunctive appears rarely with optative force. However, when it is used, the perfect subjunctive represents a possible wish in reference to a past action.

Tuā pāce dīxerim! “May I have spoken with your allowance!”

The optative subjunctive is sometimes introduced by ut, quī, or ō sī.

Quī utinam omnēs ante mē sententiam rogārentur!

Would that all were asked their opinion before me!”

Activity 1

For each of the following verbs, convert the verb from the present subjunctive into the imperfect subjunctive while preserving person, number, and voice. Then translate the verb as an optative subjunctive.

Sample: dent, “may they give!” Answer: darent, “would that they gave!”

Sample: loquātur, “may she speak!” Answer: loquerētur, “would that she spoke!”

valeās, “may you be well!”

sīs, “may you be!”

scrībam, “may I write!”

dīcar, “may I be said!”

aspiciant, “may they see!”

frangātur, “may it be broken!”

liceat, “may it be permitted!”

agātur, “may it be done”

vīvat, “may he live!”

sequāmur, “may we follow!”

Activity 2

For each of the following verbs, convert the verb from the imperfect subjunctive into the pluperfect subjunctive while preserving person, number, and voice. Then translate the verb as an optative subjunctive.

Sample: venīrent, “would that they came!” Answer: vēnissent, “would that they had come!”

Sample: vellēs “would that you wanted” Answer: voluissēs, “would that you had wanted”

vocārēs, “would that you summoned!”

stāret, “would that she stood!”

prōficerētur, “would that it (n.) was accomplished!”

possem, “would that I were able!”

essent, “would that they were!”

dēlērentur, “would that these things (n.) were erased!”

cēderet, “would that he fell!”

tangerem, “would that I touched!”

manēret, “would that it remained”

darēs, “would that you gave!”

Activity 3

Translate the highlighted phrases into the Latin subjunctive using the provided vocabulary.

Sample: Would that my brother lived! (vīvō) Answer: vīveret

Sample: May I be able to accomplish the things already undertaken! (possum) Answer: possim

Sample: Would that it (n.) had seemed best to you! (videō) Answer: vīsum esset

May these things be longer lasting! (sum)

Would that the Roman people (s.) possessed one neck! (habeō)

Would that they did things equal to their words! (agō)

May I see that day! (videō)

Would that I had always obeyed you! (pāreō)

May something be done! (agō)

Would that the whole city (s.) lay fallen! (iaceō)

Would that he was at Rome! (sum)

Would that they had done it! (faciō)

May this famous city remain standing! (stō)

Would that this had pleased you from the beginning! (placeō)

May they deny it! (negō)

May you (s.) remember me! (memorō)

Would that they were willing to relieve me of this labor! (volō)

May the gods favor our undertakings! (secundō)

Simple Sentences

Translate the following sentences using grammar from this assignment.

Veniat quī tē amat!

Utinam hoc numquam ēvēnisset!

Iuppiter hoc ōmen āvertat!

Utinam illīs contentī essent!

Utinam in sententiā permansissem!

Mea uxor virum absentem amet!

Utinam nēmō in urbe esset dīves!

Moriar sī quicquam ēlegāntius fierī potest.

Utinam plūra in meum mentem dē honōre illōrum virōrum venīrent!

Utinam haec calamitās ex hominum memoriā ēvellī posset!

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) During the siege of Sagentum, Hanno warns his fellow Carthaginians about the future perils of provoking war with the Romans.

Utinam vātēs falsus sim!

2) Seneca laments the effect of logical puzzles on moral philosophy.

Utinam tantum nōn prōdessent! Nocent.

[tantum, “only”; prōdessent... Nocent, the subject of each verb is the logical puzzles Seneca ridicules and we should supply nōbīs as the object of each verb]

3) The Lemnian queen Hypsipyle curses Jason with endless exile after he has abandoned her in his search for the Golden Fleece.

Exulet et quaerat in tōtō orbe fugam!

4) Phoebus wishes that he could revoke his promise to give Phaethon anything he wanted.

Utinam licēret prōmissa nōn dare!

[prōmissa, substantive, accusative direct object of dare; licēret, with infinitive “it is permitted” (see Assignment 9)]

5) Cicero complains that some of Catiline’s allies still remain in the city.

Utinam Catilina sēcum suās omnēs cōpiās ēdūxisset!

6) Cicero imagines the possibility of dwelling in peace alongside Catiline.

Ita salvā rē pūblicā vōbīscum perfruī mihi liceat!

[perfruī, deponent infinitive, takes an ablative object; liceat, “it is permitted”]

7) Cicero, in defense of Milo for the death of Clodius, vocalizes Milo’s thoughts if he should be convicted (which he inevitably was).

Meī cīvēs ipsī tranquillā rē pūblicā sine mē, sed propter mē tamen, perfruantur!

[perfruantur, takes an ablative object]

8) Medea wishes that the Symplegades smashed her and Jason together, creating a lasting union.

Symplēgades utinam nōs compressōs ēlīsissent meaque ossa adhaerērent ossibus tuīs!

[Symplēgades, nom. plur. a rocky barrier in the sea famously bypassed by the Argo]

9) A senator’s criticizes consular tribunes who are fighting over military command.

Bellum utinam, quī adpetunt, cōnsīderātius concordiusque quam cupiunt gerant!

[Bellum, the object of adpetunt, cupiunt, and gerant]

10) Sinon begins his deception by claiming the Greeks had long desired to withdraw from Troy.

Saepe Danaī Troiā relictā fugam mōlīrī cupīērunt et fessī longō bellō discēdere; fēcissentque utinam!

[Danaī, nom. plur. “Danaans” or “Greeks”; fugam mōlīrī, “take flight”]

11) Publius Scipio laments that war with the Carthaginians now imperils the city of Rome.

Utinam hoc certāmen prō decore tantum vōbīs et nōn prō salūte esset!

[decore, from decus; tantum, “only”]

12) Narcissus flees the unwanted embrace of the nymph Echo.

Narcissus fugit fugiēnsque, “Aufer manūs!” ait “Moriar ante quam sit tibi cōpia nostrī!”

[cōpia, with an objective gen., here “power over” (see Assignment 4)]

13) After prying into some of his brother’s letters and seeing himself slandered, Cicero wishes that neither of them had ever been born.

Haec ad tē diē nātālī meō scrīpsī. Quō utinam susceptus nōn essem aut nē quid ex eādem mātre posteā nātum esset!

[Quō, “on this day”, a connecting relative (see Assignment 20); susceptus... essem, here “be born”; quid, where we would expect quis, here “anyone”]

14) Seneca wishes that humans, like bees, were incapable of causing injury more than once.

Utinam eadem lēx hominī esset et īra cum telō suō frangerētur nec saepius licēret nocēre quam semel nec alienīs vīribus exercēre odia!

[licēret, “it is permitted”; alienīs vīribus, abl. means; exercēre, here “bring to fruition”]

15) The Greek Achaemenides, abandoned on the isle of Polyphemus, introduces himself to the Trojans and explains how he joined the Greek expedition to Troy.

Profectus sum ad Troiam genitōre paupere (mānsissetque utinam fortūna!).

[Profectus sum from proficiscor; genitōre paupere, ablative absolute with an implied form of sum (Assignment 2), “since my father was a poor man”; fortūna, ironically referring to his poverty]