Typically the gerundive is employed when one using a gerund with an object seems possible. For example, I have understood that aqua bibenda est and rei faciendae causa are preferable to aquam bibendum est and rem faciendi causa. It seems that one can always transform a gerund with an object into a gerundive (as an attribute to the object), but my grammar tells that this is not strictly necessary in all situations.

Tuomo Pekkanen's Ars grammatica states that the gerund can take an object only if the gerund is in genitive (without causa or gratia) or in ablative (without prepositions) and in all cases the gerundive can also be employed. For example, one can say spes urbem capiendi or spes urbis capiendae and librum legendo or libro legendo. Instead, one cannot say aquam bibendum est and rem faciendi causa. This rule sounds weird to me, and I wonder how confident we really are that classical Latin uses gerundives with objects in these and only these situations.

How strong is the rule? That is, do we have strong evidence that the Romans always obeyed this rule? Do ancient authors always follow this rule? Do other modern grammarians agree about these limitations to a gerund having an object?

  • Good question. But I believe a gerund is not used in the nominative or in the accusative without a preposition (the infinitive is used instead), so *aquam bibendum est shouldn't be possible regardless. – Cerberus Jul 7 '16 at 11:53
  • @Cerberus, good point. In bibendum est the bibendum is always a gerundive, never gerund, even when there is no object like water. It's not hard to confuse me with these... – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 7 '16 at 12:19
  • Exactly. A gerund never has the modal ("ought to be drunk") sense that a non-dominant gerundive has. – Cerberus Jul 7 '16 at 16:43
  • My understanding is that part of the reason the genitive/direct object is allowed is to avoid things like discipulorum docendorum, which the Romans found supremely inharmonious. This doesn't, however, actually answer your question. – Joel Derfner Jul 13 '16 at 7:44

Allen and Greenough (504) say that a gerund in the genitive can take an accusative object, "especially a neuter pronoun or a neuter adjective used substantivally". Examples:

nulla causa iusta cuiquam esse potest contra patriam arma capiendi (Cic. Phil. 2 53)

artem vera ac falsa diiudicandi (Cic. Or. 2.157)

They say that such constructions are rare or nonexistent with the other cases of the gerund in classical prose (though Plautus has two examples with a gerund in the dative).

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  • Good examples. I think Joonas meant to say that a gerund can only take a direct object if the gerund itself is not in the accusative. (I wouldn't call ablative and genitive complements 'objects'.) – Cerberus Jul 7 '16 at 16:41
  • @Cerberus is right, I meant that the gerund itself needs to be in genitive or ablative (with the parenthetical restrictions). I updated the question to clarify. I think your examples fall in the category where Pekkanen allows objects. Nevertheless, the examples are good. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 7 '16 at 17:06
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Oh, I misunderstood. I'll edit the answer accordingly. – TKR Jul 7 '16 at 18:06
  • Good. I believe different grammarians phrase the rule differently, and I'm glad to see different formulations. Can you give those examples from Plautus (or some coordinates so one can find them)? – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 7 '16 at 20:47
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta Here you go: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… – Anonym May 20 '17 at 4:46

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