In Psalm cxxv, Little Office of the BVM, Baronius Press, I see:

In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion: facti sumus sicut consolati:

Which it translates as:

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: we became like men that are comforted.

Using wiktionary.org, I discovered that convertendo is future passive participle ablative. (I tried the Latin dictionary at tuffts.edu: no hits.)

This does not seem to agree with the translation, which speaks of the turning again as if it were a past event.

What is going on here?

1 Answer 1


The important thing here is to make a distinction between the gerund and the gerundive. The gerund looks exactly like the masculine or neuter singular forms of gerundive, but they are two different things. Gerundive is also known as passive future participle, and this alternative name describes its use quite well. Gerund is more like the infinitive; infinitive is only used in nominative and accusative functions, and other cases are covered by gerund and supine. The gerund is a noun, the gerundive is an adjective, so to say.

In your example convertendo is a gerund. In convertendo means literally "in turning", and is more naturally translated here as "when turning". Here gerund (as infinitive or supine would) describes the action of turning in general, not really referring to present tense — or any other tense.

I hope this makes the situation clearer. Let me know if there is something more you would like to have explained about this.

  • 2
    I'm sure you're right that it's a gerund, but the sentence looks ungrammatical. What verb is dominus the subject of?
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 16:48
  • @TKR: Yes, it's not proper Latin. The author clearly didn't know some of the basic rules of Latin. Such things happened in the Middle Ages...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 17:45
  • The Vulgate has "in convertendo Dominum captivitatem Sion facti sumus sicut consolati". That seems no better, but St. Jerome knew Latin. What gives? I wonder if it's supposed to be a super-literal translation of the Hebrew, to the extent of flouting actual Latin grammar rules.
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 19:07
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta Completely agreed that it's tangential -- I simply found it weird enough to be worth wondering about in comments. Looks like this is indeed an extreme Hebraism (this specific phrase is mentioned toward the bottom of the Wiiki section).
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 19:23
  • 1
    @DavidCharles This doesn't look to me like an example of what's usually called "dangling nominative" -- those tend to be sentence-initial topical nominatives as in the first Wiki example Deus meus, impolluta via ejus, but this is something more unusual.
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 17:32

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