I'm trying to help my sister. She heard this phrase that she like to have tattooed but she wanted it to be in Latin.

Now I haven't been practicing for a few years so I could use with some help. The phrase is: "If you can breath, you can stand. If you can stand, you can fight". I roughly tried to translate it and came up with: "Si fueras spiravisti, eras stabas. Si fuisti stetisi, agebas bellum".

I would very much appreciate your help on the matter.


1 Answer 1


Unfortunately your suggestion does not quite work. One of the issues is that there are all kinds of past tenses in there, but I think this works better in the present tense. But I'm glad that you asked! It is indeed best to check that something makes sense before tattooing it.

First, let us choose the words. I suggest:

  • breath = spirare
  • stand = stare
  • fight = pugnare

You can check any online Latin dictionary for nuances and other options.

I can see a couple of ways to phrase "if you can X, you can Y" in Latin:

  1. Si potes X[inf], potes Y[inf].
    This is a literal translation.
  2. Potens X[inf] potes Y[inf].
    Switching the conditional clause to a participle construction makes it feel more fluent to me, but I'm not a fan of using the participle potens.
  3. X[part] potes X[inf].
    This is a free translation, meaning "when/if/because you X, you can Y". This makes it all flow more naturally to my ear.
  4. X[part] poteris Y[inf].
    This is like the third, but I switched potes (you can) to poteris (you will be able to). The future tense makes sense to me in an instruction like this.

I like the fourth option best. If you like something else, let me know. My suggestion is:

Spirans poteris stare. Stans poteris pugnare.

The second option is better if you want it to look more like an ancient inscription. The first one follows more modern writing standards. This is related to the choice of fonts.

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