53

I was taught that one can use the '-que' suffix to string together multiple words, in a similar way to putting 'et' between them.

Are these two equivalent? Did one have a connotation in classical (Caesar-era) Latin that the other didn't?

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    Here's what Wiktionary thinks. – MickG Feb 23 '16 at 18:17
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    see my answer – Alex B. Feb 23 '16 at 18:34
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    @AlexB.: I felt compelled to vote for your excellent reference there. But I've also added my own answer, which I think simplifies the question. – Cerberus Feb 23 '16 at 18:51
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    Note that, in terms of -que being used for related items, it causes the nouns to be adjacent, rather than separated by et. I believe that Latin writers were more aware of word order and physical relationship than we in English are. – Mainlinebrat Aug 24 '18 at 13:05
  • @Mainlinebrat: Welcome to the site! Your contribution was a bit more like a comment, so I've converted it into one. Do keep posting your answers and comments on the site! – Cerberus Aug 24 '18 at 21:52
38

The way I was taught was that, as a general rule, -que is used:

  1. When this list of things contains two items
  2. When the two are logically linked as being two of something (parent and child, master and apprentice, and so on).

So, consider the example of an opening line from Catullus:

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque

Venus and Cupid have a parent-child relationship, and so the -que makes sense.

Compare this to the opening paragraph of De Bellico Gallico:

Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit.

The Marne and the Seine are just two out of many rivers, so et is more appropriate.


That being said, this is not a hard and fast rule. You have for example in the opening chapters of Augustine's Confessions:

et quomodo invocabo deum meum, deum et dominum meum (1.2.2)

and

deus es dominusque omnium quae creasti (1.6.9)

So, the same author, using the same words just paragraphs apart, uses both et and -que.

  • This rule, if true, requires a lot of caveats. It doesn't make sense, for instance, of such phrases as "Eum occidit seque in desertum retulit." – brianpck Feb 23 '16 at 19:14
  • @brianpck - this is the case for many rules in Latin :P – mc-lunar Feb 23 '16 at 19:58
  • Haha, definitely. Honestly I think it would be generous to even call this a rule: a quick scan of Plautus reveals such phrases as "confidentes garrulique et malevoli supera lacum", "cimices pedesque pulicesque", "eum rem fidemque perdere aiunt", etc. And yes, those were the first three I found with nothing omitted :) Maybe a coincidence, but still. – brianpck Feb 23 '16 at 20:05
15

In Ecclesiastical Latin "-que" would be used in order to avoid to much repetition of the use of "et" and for drawing similarities to the original first noun in a statement, as is sometimes found various Litaniae Sanctorum.

Sancti Petri et Pauli, atque Andrea, ora pro nobis.

In this phrase we can see a similarity between Peter and Paul (Apostles of Rome) and yet at the same time another similarity between Peter and Andrew (brothers).

9

Both et and -que can often translate "and". The use of -que is more limited (see James's answer), so et is a safer choice.

The suffix -que only means "and", but et can also be used as an adverb ("also", "in addition"). Sometimes et and etiam are both equally valid. As a rule of thumb, you can use et whenever you want to add something. Sometimes etiam or quoque is better, though.

  • How often is et used as an adverb instead of as a conjunction? – Ethan Bierlein Oct 5 '18 at 14:46
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    @EthanBierlein That would actually make a very nice separate question! – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 5 '18 at 14:47
8

James Kingsbery's answer is exactly correct. If two things "belong" together, then -que is appropriate. If you were going shopping, you might be asked to pick up ova butyrumque ("eggs and butter"), but if you were talking about what you saw on your walk through the countryside you'd be more likely to talk about boves et rusticos ("cows and peasants").

1

The que suffix has a usage example with momentous consequence. Filioque was inserted into the Nicene creed in the West sometime in the Middle Ages. The result was

“... qui ex Patre Filioque procedat”

Making the Spirit proceed from both the father and son. This is one of the few theological controversies between the Catholic and Eastern churches.

Although this is medieval, not classical, the relatedness of Father and Son is emphasized by not using et. Two persons cannot be more closely related than being of one substance or being.

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