8

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?

11

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 at 0:49
  • 2
    That is quite interesting. The Duolingo course uses this subjunctive in polite questions "Velisne panem/vinum/crustulum?". Is it wrong? – Vladimir F Nov 11 at 8:24
  • 2
    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 at 11:48
  • 1
    @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 at 18:50
  • 1
    @Quidam Sure, you could call it a potential subjunctive. I don't always find those terms particularly helpful though. – Draconis Nov 13 at 19:11

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.