What is the correct translation for "The story is not over"? "Story" here refers to the metaphorical story of our lives (so rather fabula than historia). "Not over" means that's not completed and that it continues. I'm struggling with the grammar and I'm too insecure about my own translation to go forward with it.


  • 1
    Welcome to the site! This is a well explained translation question.
    – Cerberus
    Jun 1, 2019 at 0:23

1 Answer 1


The last words of Augustus are commonly cited as:

Ācta est fābula. Plaudite!
The story is finished. Applaud!

Suetonius disagrees, and quotes a similar sentiment in Greek instead. But the objective historical accuracy of Suetonius is debatable too, so, leaving that aside…

This is a present perfective form in Latin, indicating that the action was performed, ended, and its aftereffects are now relevant (i.e. the audience is applauding in the present because the play finished in the past). It looks the same as the simple past tense, but acts like a present in some complicated grammatical ways.

We could quite easily negate this sentence, and add jam for "not yet":

Ācta non jam fābula.
The story is not yet finished.

But while this specifies that the story isn't finished, it doesn't specify that it's ongoing, either. It might never have been started in the first place. If someone is familiar with the phrase above, they'll recognize it as "the story isn't over yet", but someone who doesn't know the phrase could also translate it as "the story hasn't been told yet".

So another option is to change the verb:

Fābula non jam dēsiit.
The story has not ended yet.

With this phrasing the meaning is unmistakable, but the callback to Augustus isn't as clear. It's your choice which you prefer.

  • dēsiniit or dēsiit?
    – Mitomino
    May 30, 2019 at 22:06
  • @Mitomino Oh, right, the -n- present. Fixed.
    – Draconis
    May 30, 2019 at 22:07
  • By the way, Draconis, when you say "It looks the same as the simple past tense", what do you mean? Are you saying this because of the English translation of Acta est fabula as 'The story ended'? After all it looks the same as a typical adjectival passive like Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, where no (apparent) connection with simple past tense is to be made.
    – Mitomino
    May 30, 2019 at 22:57
  • @Mitomino Ah, that was unclear: I'm saying the Latin present perfective (actions completed in the past with present effects) and past aoristic (actions in the past with unspecified duration) look the same. You can only tell them apart by what they do to the sequence of tenses: the former acts like a present verb, the latter acts like a past verb. In this case, Augustus's meaning seems to be "the play has ended", emphasizing completion in the past, rather than "the play ended".
    – Draconis
    May 30, 2019 at 23:02
  • Ok. I agree. It is clear that Acta est fabula is better translated as 'The play has ended' rather than with a simple past tense 'The play ended' (hence my previous remark). By the way, do you also think that Acta est in this example is an adjectival passive? I guess it sounds quite odd to translate it into English as 'The play is ended' but, (English) translations aside, would Acta est fabula be really different from Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres (perhaps I should add "for a (native) speaker of Latin")?
    – Mitomino
    May 30, 2019 at 23:23

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