In the crime novels by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, central character, detective, Sherlock Holmes described his approach to evidence-analysis as the discarding of the impossible; then, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth.

How to express this in Latin?


an ablative absolute: "impossibilibus missis" = "with the impossible (things having been) discarded";

"quodcumque manet (originally, quodcumque relinquit)" = "whatever remains"; (An interesting debate [Comments] on the passive/ active forms of "relinquo" unfolded. A case can be made for either.)

"quantalibet incredulitas" = "no matter how great the disbelief";

a neuter, impersonal gerundive: "deinde est credendum" = "then it-ought-to-be-believed"/ "then it must be believed"/ (using English impersonal pronoun "one") "then one must believe (it).

Alternatively, result clause: "ut id crederetur" = "so it is to be believed" --this does not provide the element of obligation.


"impossibilibus missis, quodcumque manet, quantalibet incredulitas, deinde est credendum" =

"With the impossible discarded, whatever remains, no matter how great the disbelief, then it must be believed."

Is this correct?

  • 4
    I think you want manet rather than relinquit: relinquo means "leave" in the sense of "abandon", not "be remaining". – Colin Fine May 8 '20 at 22:40
  • @Colin Fine: Thanks. I've changed it. – tony May 9 '20 at 8:52
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    @tony Or you could say: quod relinquitur (canonical Caesar example: relinquebatur una via), or, even simpler: relictum. – Sebastian Koppehel May 9 '20 at 9:59
  • Yes, @SebastianKoppehel, a passive form of relinquo is better than manet. – Colin Fine May 9 '20 at 10:33
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    @tony That is one meaning. It has many other nuances that imply no unwantedness (such as reliquit filiam adulescentulam = “he [died and] left behind a very young daughter”). Note the dictionary entry explicitly mentions the passive sense “to remain,” but as usual in L&S this crucial information is the needle in the haystack of untranslated examples. Colin rightly pointed out that the use in the active voice does not fit here. – Sebastian Koppehel May 9 '20 at 18:04

The impossibilibus strikes me as less than classical (not that that makes it bad per se). Likewise quantalibet incredulitas. How about quamvis incredibile? As for deinde est credendum, perhaps fieri non potest quin sit credendum.

  • Thanks: In "fieri non potest quin sit credendum", what does "quin" mean? It's usually used negatively e.g. "without"; "not that"; "but that"; here? Why use "credendum sit", which implies doubt when Sherlock was certain--"it must be believed"? – tony Feb 1 at 16:47
  • Fieri non potest quin + conj. = “It definitely is...” (“It can't be that not...”). Quin = “lest” (if that helps joy). The construction requires the subjunctive. – Batavulus Feb 5 at 20:21

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