Monday, May 31, 2010

Strategy: Conditions without Verbs

You probably remember studying conditional (or hypothetical) sentences in Latin and perhaps you memorized those labels such as "future less vivid" condition or "past contrary-to-fact," depending on what types of indicative or subjunctive verbs were used in the sentence. In this strategy tip, I want to highlight how you can actually leave out the verb in the "if" part of the condition (the "protasis" as it is called), so that you can express the idea of a hypothetical situation in just two simple words, without even having to use a verb.

First, let's review some of the conditional particles that you can use to express a hypothetical idea. Of course, you have si (if) and nisi (if not; unless), for straightword conditions. In addition, there is a whole series of concessive participles that are very useful that express the idea of "even it" or "even though" in English: etsi, tametsi, etiamsi, licet and quamvis.

So, you can take any one of those hypothetical participles and use them without a verb to express a hypothetical idea - all you need is a noun or adjective or prepositional phrase, something that will link the hypothetical idea to the main sentence.

Here's an example. When I saw this word list - equus - res - discipulus - iste - animal - I knew I wanted to say something about how the horse is a good pupil, while the donkey (who is often the opposite of the horse in the world of proverbs) is not a good pupil. Here's how I described the donkey: asinus nihil discit, etiamsi verberatus, "the donkey doesn't learn anything, even if (he is) beaten." Without having to worry about what kind of verb to use there, I was able to use an adjective (a participle, as it turns out, but any adjective will do) in order to express a hypothetical idea. If you want to see how the whole thing turned out, here it is.

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Do you have some good strategies for doing the Vocabulary Challenge in Latin? Share your ideas here! Here are some strategies that I've used in writing my responses.

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