What are the conditions to make a reasonable hyperbate?

Reasonable, I mean, if I don't want to sound to poetical, as I know the word order is more free in poetry, the same rules for word orders don't apply the same way in prose and poetry.

So, how can I know if I can split a logically linked block, like "natus sum"?
Could I say "Natus Romae sum", or something with even more words inside the [Natus....sum]

  • I'm afraid that your question, as formulated in the title, is not easy to answer, since, as you know, nobody has native competence in Latin. So I'm afraid that the best one can do is what Joonas has made, i.e., to consult corpora and then try to deduce some relevant information, which is not an easy task at all.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:04
  • If you're interested in the specific linguistic conditions involved in splitting a participle like natus from sum, I invite you to take a look at the relevant literature on Latin word order, which has been said to be determined by so-called "information structure" (e.g., cf. latin.stackexchange.com/questions/9548/… ). Additionally, please note that prosody is also relevant when dealing with hyperbata: e.g., see lingref.com/cpp/wccfl/28/paper2455.pdf
    – Mitomino
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


I looked into how Caesar uses past participles and est. His style is considered good and he does not aim for anything particularly convoluted or poetic, so I think he is a good choice for this question.

I searched for all examples of -tus close to est in a corpus, and found the following:

  • There are many examples of a past participle and an est (although there are false positives as well), so you can draw some conclusions.
  • The participle and est are almost always next to each other. Both orders appear.
  • There are cases where two participles go with one est, but that is not a split in the sense of the question.
  • The only split examples I found were:
    • est certior factus, where certior factus is a solid block on its own that perhaps should not be split by est.
    • finis est pugnandi factus, which is a genuine split like you described.
    • ad eum est honorem evocatus
  • He never seemed to have more than one word in between, so the block was still fairly well together.

I only studied masculines, as I thought they would be quite frequent and might be similar enough to others. I doubt that feminines or neuters would behave very differently, but I did not check. I also only looked at singular participles ending in -tus so as to reduce false positives but to get a substantial number of hits in one search. A more thorough study would benefit from an annotated corpus where you could search for past participles.

The list of examples from Caesar includes both deponent verbs (semantically active participles) and transitive verbs (semantically passive participles). The literal question only concerns a specific deponent verb (nasci > natus sum), but I think the same guidelines are applicable to all kinds of situations with est and a perfect participle. There is not as much data on the specific verb, so I find it better to look broader.

The conclusion from this quick check is: Splitting is rare but can be done. Caesar does it maybe in one of twenty cases. Bear in mind that splitting can make the text much harder to parse, so communication is often most efficient if you keep the pieces together or only split by one or two words.

  • Thank you for your help, I'm sure your answer will be really helpful to a lot of users (including me!), but my question is more specifically about "natus sum" and their link, it's even stronger than a copula link here, as it's a deponent structure, a compound tense or a kind of, (depending how you consider it)
    – Quidam
    Oct 31, 2019 at 12:20
  • But I still bookmark your answer!
    – Quidam
    Oct 31, 2019 at 12:20
  • Maybe I should have asked 2 different answer, for the copula thing, your answer is perfect.
    – Quidam
    Oct 31, 2019 at 12:21
  • @Quidam I added a new paragraph to my answer. Although you did only ask about a specific verb, I think it's better to look broader (so as to have more data) and then draw more general conclusions. I think that's pretty safe here, as the examples by Caesar have both deponent and transitive instances.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 31, 2019 at 14:34
  • 1
    Thank you. Awesome work!
    – Quidam
    Nov 1, 2019 at 0:42

For what it might be worth, I'd have no trouble at all with Natus Romae sum, and it wouldn't strike me as poetic or even odd. Now if you try to pack too much in there (natus Romae consulibus M. Vincio et Q. Lucretio sum), it can get pretty unnatural.

  • 2
    For what it might be worth, as a reader of Latin, I'd have no trouble with natus Romae consulibus M. Vincio et Q. Lucretio sum, and it wouldn't strike me as poetic nor even necessarily unnatural. This said, I'm afraid that to solve questions like that of determining how much information can be packed in there (and in which possible order(s)) can often require (i) having a (near) native competence or (ii) having studied the specific linguistic, pragmatic and even prosodic (see my comment above) conditions involved.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:46

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