Should I say "Velisne/Velitisne panem?" To mean "Do you want/would you like some bread?

Or would I use Visne/Vultisne?

So, would I use subjunctive to ask or the indicative mood?

1 Answer 1


The subjunctive in Latin tends to indicate potential, possible, or unreal actions. To my ears, velisne? means something like "potentially, in the future, might you want it?"

The indicative, on the other hand, indicates actual reality. Visne? sounds more like "do you, at present, in this actual reality, want it?"

So I would use the indicative here. You're asking about the state of actual reality. Latin doesn't really use the subjunctive for politeness the way English does; the main place where the subjunctive is polite is for giving suggestions instead of commands, but even then, the imperative is used even in prayers to deities (so it's not particularly rude).

  • Thank you for your answer! Do you have some references, in Latin grammars?
    – Quidam
    Nov 11, 2019 at 0:49
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    That is quite interesting. The Duolingo course uses this subjunctive in polite questions "Velisne panem/vinum/crustulum?". Is it wrong? Nov 11, 2019 at 8:24
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    In english 'would you like' is more urgent, meaning more in the terms of the immediate future, right now right here very soon. The former, 'potentially, in the future, might you want it?' could mean anywhere from tomorrow to 50 years from now, with definitely more of a stretched time connotation to it.
    – rrd
    Nov 11, 2019 at 11:48
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    @VladimirF That sounds very wrong to me, and a quick corpus search shows that visne? is an order of magnitude more common than velisne?. Though "is this just unusual or actually wrong?" could make a good question of its own!
    – Draconis
    Nov 11, 2019 at 18:50
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    @Quidam Sure, you could call it a potential subjunctive. I don't always find those terms particularly helpful though.
    – Draconis
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:11

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