3

In English, imperative verbs have "invisible subjects": syntactically, they act like there's an invisible pronoun in the subject position. This is why we see look closely at yourself instead of *look closely at you, even though there's no other "you" in the sentence to trigger the reflexive.

Is the same true in Latin?

(Most instances of imperatives I can think of are in the second person, and Latin doesn't mark the second-person reflexive—but third-person imperatives do exist, and it seems plausible that some grammarian might have specified whether they should be followed by or eum.)

  • The imperative implies "you", however rudely, "you" are the receiver of the command: "(You) do it!". In English, imperatives are often used rudely, inviting aggression, was this the case in Latin? The (English) use of "yourself", it is more polite than "You!". Use this here when addressing colleagues, strangers; whom, are invariably better at Latin than I, people like yourself as opposed to people like you! Demonstrative pronouns may be required if a target is identified: "(You) kill him!", sort of thing. – tony Aug 23 '19 at 11:31
  • 1
    @tony The imperative in Latin wasn't particularly rude or aggressive; it was often used in prayers, for example. – Draconis Aug 23 '19 at 15:50
  • Would you consider the ipsum in te ipsum a reflexive? Semantically, it seems to play the same role as the "-self" in "yourself". As the imperative is more common with the second person, studying ipsum/ipsos might give more than studying se. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 23 '19 at 20:03
  • @Joonas llmavirta: A form of "ipse" is used to emphasise a reflexive pronoun, functioning as an intensifier e.g. "dixit se ipsum venturum esse" = "He said that he himself would come". – tony Aug 23 '19 at 22:16
  • 1
    I don't have any evidence, but it seems obvious to me that e.g. "Let him praise himself" would have to be laudato se rather than laudato eum (which would mean "Let him praise him=someone else"). Is there a language that has distinct reflexive pronouns but doesn't use them with imperatives? – TKR Aug 24 '19 at 23:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.