I found two instances in Augustine's Confessions:

"... caelum et terram ego impleo" (book 1, cap. 2)


"et quo refundis quidquid impleto caelo et terra restat ex te?" (book 1, cap. 3)

I tried to look up Lewis and Short, which contains examples for both instances, but I can't really see a difference between them. On what occasions should we prefer one for the other?

1 Answer 1


The most common usage of impleo is with the accusative and ablative.

  • The accusative tells you what is being filled.
  • The ablative tells you with what it is being filled.
    • N.B. By analogy with plenus + gen. (= "full of X"), sometimes the genitive is used here instead.

For example:

Impleo poculum (acc.) vino (abl.) = "I fill the cup with wine."

Augustine provides a handy usage of this in Confessions I.3:

...te toto imples omnia = "You fill all things with your whole self."

Your example quote uses the ablative, but in an entirely different way. Impleto caelo et terra is an ablative absolute with the past participle of impleo, and is syntactically separate from the rest of the sentence. Here's how you should parse it:

et quo refundis                    And where do you pour back
    quidquid                           whatever 
        impleto caelo et terra             once heaven and earth have been filled
    restat ex te?                      remains of you?

Or, more fluidly:

And, once heaven and earth have been filled, where do you pour back what remains of you?

  • really better answer than I could imagine. thanks for explaining all this!
    – d_e
    Dec 21, 2019 at 15:43
  • we may say (I'm practicing what I've just learnt) : Augustinus, scriptus ibro, capitulum tertium exemplis vocabuli 'impleo' implevit .( I want to say: Augustine, when the book was written, filled chapter three with examples of the word 'impleo')
    – d_e
    Dec 21, 2019 at 16:05
  • 1
    Yes, that works, except you'd want to say "scripto libro"!
    – brianpck
    Dec 21, 2019 at 16:10
  • yes you right, I meant to write it :) but because my latin is too weak I wasn't sure about the ppp of "scibo", so when I found it was scriptus I forgot to use scripto. :)
    – d_e
    Dec 21, 2019 at 16:19
  • A minor point on the translation of your last example: according to the (correct) parsing of the complex sentence and given the syntactic relevance of word order, I understand that the Ablative Absolute should not have "scope" over the main sentence (refundis) but only over the subordinate one (restat). Accordingly, i.e., syntactically speaking, the Ablative Absolute, as an adverbial clause, should only modify the latter.
    – Mitomino
    Dec 21, 2019 at 20:14

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