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I read in my Latin to English and English to Latin dictionary that the genitive plural of res is used to strengthen an adjective. However, my latin teacher said that he thought that if a superlative wasn't strong enough one could use valde in addition. So which is more correct, and why would rerum be used to strengthen an adjective?

  • Are you using Cassell's? If so, what is says is "used to strengthen a superlative", not just any adjective; it gives the example rerum pulcherrima Roma "Rome, most beautiful of all things", where you can probably see how this phrasing is "stronger" than just saying "Rome, most beautiful". – TKR Jun 11 '16 at 19:18
  • (Btw in the last sentence did you mean "adjective" instead of "adverb"?) – TKR Jun 11 '16 at 19:32
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I am not perfectly sure I interpret your question correctly, but I assume you mean one of two things. In both of them it is not that important that it is rerum; it could be almost any other genitive that fits the context.

  1. I think rerum strengthens an adjective in a different way than superlative or valde does. For example, peritus means "experienced". Therefore "very experienced" could be valde peritus or peritissimus. If you want to say "experienced in many things", you could say variarum rerum peritus. This of course requires that the adjective can take a genitive attribute in the first place; for example peritus, cupidus, memor and plenus do so.

  2. If you mean rerum strengthening superlative, then it is an instance of partitive genitive. For example rerum dulcissimus means "the sweetest of things". Similarly nostrum sapientissimus means "the smartest one of us".

I have to disagree with your teacher — if I understand correctly. I have never seen valde strengthening a superlative, and it sounds weird to me. Compare this to English, where it makes sense to strengthen "the most beautiful" to "the most beautiful of all flowers" but not to "the very most beautiful".

  • In my latin class, we translate superlatives to 'very adjective' more than 'most adjective' so valde peritissimus would mean very very experinced. – tox123 Jun 11 '16 at 19:36
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    @tox123, it is indeed often more idiomatic English to translate Latin superlatives to "very". Nevertheless, I see the underlying meaning of superlatives same in both English and Latin; superlatives are just used much more absolutely (independently) in Latin. I find valde peritissimus to be weird to the point of being ungrammatical, but I am ready to change my mind of someone can offer a classical use example. (Asking for such would make a decent question here.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 11 '16 at 19:50
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    @tox123 This is probably a good illustration of how translating leads one astray when learning a language. Often, a good translation of one word and a good translation of another word don't combine to form a good translation of a phrase, because words combine differently in the two languages. – Ben Kovitz Jun 11 '16 at 20:16
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    @tox123 BTW, 'very adjective' is sometimes a false translation of the Latin superlative. For example, it would be quite wrong in translating Omnium montium Terrae altissimus est Everestius. The precise meaning has to be understood from context, using common sense; a rule that ignores context can't do the job. – Ben Kovitz Jun 11 '16 at 20:39

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