Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: LICET

Today's word is LICET. This is one of my favorite words in Latin, but because it does not have a simple English equivalent, it can often make Latin students a little nervous. So: don't be nervous! Licet is a very expressive word in Latin and it's important to learn about its different meanings.

The word is the third-person form of a verb that can be used impersonally, meaning "it is lawful" or "it is permitted" (as in the English word "license"). The impersonal subject of the verb is often an infinitive: licet dicere, "speaking is allowed." It can also take a dative: mihi dicere licet, "I am allowed to speak." It also has a perfect form: mihi dicere licuit, "I was allowed to speak." Notice that English often relies on a passive construction, but the Latin is not passive; instead, it is an impersonal verb with a dative complement - but active: mihi licet.

If you are using the infinitive esse as the subject of the verb, the predicate of the infinitive is sometimes in the accusative: gladiatorem tibi esse non licuit, "you were not permitted to be a gladiator." The complement of the verb can also be in the dative, agreed with the dative complement of licet: for example, licet tibi esse otioso, "you are allowed to be lazy."

Licet can also be used with a subjunctive clause rather than a dative construction: ludas licet, "you are allowed to play."

In addition to these uses of licet as a verb, licet is also used as a conjunction meaning "even if" or "although." When used as a conjunction, licet usually introduces a subjunctive verb, as in this fine saying from Seneca: vita brevis est, licet supra mille annos exeat.

Here are some more proverbs and sayings with licet:

Si libet, licet.

Quod non est vetitum, licet.

Aliis si licet, tibi non licet.

Dum licet, fruere.

Fruere die dum licet.

Poetis mentiri licet.

Solis poetis licet insanire.

Semel in anno licet insanire

Vim vi repellere licet.

Arma armis repellere licet.

Menti quolibet ire licet.

Peccare nemini licet.

Nec scire licet omnia.

Non licet contra legem agere.

Non licet bis in bello peccare.

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.

Dum licet fugere, ne quaere litem.

Non omne quod licet honestum est.

Non licet omnibus adire Corinthum.

Amicum laedere ne ioco quidem licet.

Quidquid non licet, magis desideratur.

Omnes cupimus, at non licet ditescere.

Ad omnia trepidat, licet vel mus movet.

Bursa manet vacua, licet vox ampla tua.

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