In Augustine confessions we read:

"quid tibi sum ipse, ut amari te iubeas a me et, nisi faciam, irascaris mihi et mineris ingentes miserias?" (book I, cap. V)

I can't understand the usage of the passive amari instead of the active amare. Indeed all translations I saw, use the active infinitive. The only "solution" I came up with (which I think is wrong) is:

Just as the sentence:

Magister: "bonus sum"

can be rendered as:

Magister dicit se bonum esse

perhaps here:

Dominus (to me): "amari sum" (if that's valid grammar at all: "I am to be loved"). or simply: "me ama"

would be rendered (when I'm speaking back):

Domine, iubes te(se) amari a me

1 Answer 1


My suggestion with complex sentences is always to try to identify the core and to rewrite it into a simpler independent sentence. Here the core, as far as your question is concerned, has to do with ordering and loving. Let us compare two descriptions of orders:

Te iubes amare.
You order yourself to love.

Te iubes amari.
You order yourself to be loved.

Both are valid, but the meaning is of course inverted. When the passive is used, the semantic subject can be indicated by an agent with a(b). This brings in the a me:

Te iubes amari a me.
You order yourself to be loved by me.

This is very similar to "you order me to love you", but for some reason it has been composed with passive. Using active would lead to a potential ambiguity of two accusatives: Me iubes te amare. I can't tell whether this was the reason to choose a passive, but it probably contributed to the choice.

This would be expanded by what follows after nisi but let me ignore that here to focus on amari. Now all of this goes into a subordinate clause. The ut clause turns the predicate iubes to conjunctive:

Quid tibi sum ut te iubeas amari a me?
What am I to you so that you would order yourself to be loved by me?

I hope this helps you grasp the structure.

You can say bonus sum or amo. In indirect use these becomes dixit me bonum esse and dixit me amare. But you cannot say amare sum or amari sum. To say "I am to be loved" you need to say something like amandus sum or amari debeo or credo me amatum iri or volo amari. (These are not identical in meaning, but give ideas for expressing similar thoughts in Latin.)

Your last suggestion is grammatical:

Domine, iubes te amari a me.
Lord, you order yourself to be loved by me.

This would be a little clumsy to convert to direct speech, as you would need a passive imperative of the first person singular. The speaker changes so me has to become a third person pronoun. So perhaps:

Dominus dixit: Utinam amer ab illo.
≈ The lord said: I hope to be loved by him.

The reflexive pronoun se is often used in indirect speech to refer to the subject of the dominant clause. But it can only refer to the third person, so *iubes se amari a me does not work. If you want to emphasize "you" to "yourself", change te to te ipsum but not to se.

  • Thanks you for a detailed explanation. Just to make sure I understand the active version [you order me to love you] is: "me iubes te amare" or, as you wrote: "me iubes me amare" ?
    – d_e
    Dec 27, 2019 at 15:53
  • @d_e Oops! A typo indeed snuck into that one. I was supposed to have two different pronouns and I just edited it.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 27, 2019 at 16:05
  • Just as a side note, is volo actually found with future infinitives like amatum iri? I don't think I've ever encountered that.
    – TKR
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:37
  • @TKR Good point! Future is implied with volo + infinitive but I've never seen a future infinitive used. I updated that example.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:43
  • @TKR I had to ask a follow-up question.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:50

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