The Latin phrase,

quodcumque dixerit vobis facite,

taken from John 2:5 of the Vulgate, translates to,

Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye,

according to the Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate (http://vulgate.org/nt/gospel/john_2.htm), or,

do whatever he tells you,

according to Yandex (https://translate.yandex.com/?lang=la-en&text=quodcumque%20dixerit%20vobis%20facite).

However, sometimes a shortened version of this phrase is used, where the word "vobis" is removed, i.e.,

quodcumque dixerit facite.

See, for example, the coat of arms of Seán Patrick O'Malley: https://www.heraldry-wiki.com/heraldrywiki/index.php?title=Se%C3%A1n_Patrick_O%27Malley.

According to https://www.heraldry-wiki.com/heraldrywiki/index.php?title=Quodcumque_dixerit_facite, the shortened phrase "quodcumque dixerit facite", translates to

whatever you say, do.

(this translation also agrees with Yandex https://translate.yandex.com/?lang=la-en&text=quodcumque%20dixerit%20facite and Google https://translate.google.com/#view=home&op=translate&sl=auto&tl=en&text=quodcumque%20dixerit%C2%A0facite) However, this translation does not quite make sense to me as "dixerit" in Latin is third person singular, so I am not sure where the "you" comes from in "whatever you say, do."

Therefore, what is the correct English translation of "quodcumque dixerit facite"?


Your intuition is correct! The verb is still third person singular, and should be translated that way.

To make it painfully literal, the verb is future perfect, so:

Whatever (s)he will have said, all of you, do it.

Or, for actually good English:

Everyone, do whatever (s)he says.

Vobis just specifies that the speaker is saying these things "to all of you"; without it, though, it's still quite clear that "he" is speaking, not "you".

  • Sorry, I've got a fixation about Latin ambiguities. How do you know it's not perfect subjunctive, indirect after quodcumque? – Hugh Feb 21 '20 at 21:04
  • @Hugh Could also be that, "whatever he might have said", but the subjunctive feels a bit weird to me here – Draconis Feb 21 '20 at 21:49
  • @Hugh: It is my understanding that the perfect subjunctive is only used in specific circumstances e.g. (i) conditional sentences (improbable conditions); if the conditional act is completed before the consequence begins the perfect subjunctive is used, instead of present subjunctive; (ii) "cum" = since/ because (cum librum legerim = since I have read the book); consecutive clauses; perf. subj. can be used after a historic tense; but, only (a) when the result is momentary, not continuous and (b) the result actually did follow (tantus erat ardor militum ut nemo motum terrae senserit – tony Feb 22 '20 at 11:42
  • @Hugh: Continuing: …= the soldiers were so engrossed that no one felt the earthquake); (iii) prohibition e.g. ne + second-person of the perfect subjunctive (ne feceris illud, Marce! = Don't do that, Marcus!). I used to wonder what the perf. subj. was for, so I compiled a list of its uses; but, this may not be exhaustive. – tony Feb 22 '20 at 11:48
  • @Draconis: If a subjunctive was used here would it not have to be imperfect--"diceret" = "he might have said"; definitely not perfect subj? – tony Feb 22 '20 at 11:52

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