I wanted to translate this sentence from my daily prayer to Latin, and wonder whether the construction of the phrase is correct, in terms of grammar.

"Da panem, Domine, quibus esuriunt, et fame iustitiae quibus panem habent."

The original sentence is: Bestow, o Lord, the bread for those who starve, and hunger of justice for those who have bread. It is based on Matthew 5:6 "Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam quoniam ipsi saturabuntur".

Is everything right? Would you have any suggestions to improve the phrasing? Thanks!

  • Famem, surely? Commented May 28, 2020 at 21:06
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    I would expect "eis, qui" instead of quibus. Now it says "for whom starve" etc. You can also replace the relative clauses with participles: "Da panem, Domine, esurientibus, et famem justititae panem habentibus." As a theological note: now it seems that you are claiming that some people don't need the Lord to give or keep giving them literal food, and that people who have no literal food don't need to hunger for justice. You can't go wrong praying the Lord's prayer.
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 10:04
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    @SebastianKoppehel That's interesting (in English, it's the relative that can often be omitted, not the antecedent), but I notice that in those two examples, the relative is still in the nominative case, which I would expect because it is the subject of the verb in the relative clause: "[eos] qui cognoscerent misit" (not 'quos cognoscerent misit'). I would be surprised by the omission of antecedents in any other case than the nominative or accusative ([ei] qui esurit cibum do?), but even more so by the case of the antecedent being transferred onto the relative (cui esurit cibum do??).
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 15:53
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    @SebastianKoppehel I don't think you're interpreting that correctly. 307c says that the antecedent can be omitted, but note that the relative agrees with its function in the subordinate clause, i.e. it's "qui cognoscerent misit," not "quos cognoscerent misit." In the OP's example, the relative should be nominative with respect to esuriunt. There's a different phenomenon of "attraction of the relative" (described in 306a), but I'm not aware of a case where that occurs with the omission of the antecedent. (I seem to recall that's possible in Greek, though.)
    – brianpck
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 16:20
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    @JasperMay & brianpck, oops, you are of course both correct! Commented May 29, 2020 at 17:38

2 Answers 2


I don't have any strong objections to the answer given by Figulus, but given the characteristic parsimony of the Latin tongue, I'm inclined to think that using participles instead of relative clauses would perhaps be even better, e.g.:

Da panem, Domine, esurientibus, et eum habentibus famem iustitiae.

I'm curious to hear whether this approach accords with the inclinations of other posters.

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    Splendid! I shied away from participles myself, since it has been drilled into me that present participles generally are not equivalent to relative phrases. The reason for that, as I was told, is that present participles have a very strong temporal flavor to them which can lead a newbie astray. "Give them bread, O Lord, when they are hungry, and give them hunger for justice when they have it [bread]". But in this case, I think the temporal flavor works very well.
    – Figulus
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 1:10
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    I agree with @Figulus, the use of participles is great here. It also streamlines the structure not to use many subordinate clauses.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 18:55
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    Thank you so much for your answers @Figulus and @SAG! Everything was very clarifying and, as a beginner in Latin studies, I'm usually confused about structure of phrases and good grammar practices. Commented May 30, 2020 at 20:04

Da panem, Domine, eis qui esuriunt, et famem iustitiae eis qui panem habent.

That seems more natural to me than what you had, Da panem, Domine, quibus ii esuriunt, et famem iustitiae quibus ii panem habent (The are hungry to whom give bread O Lord, and they have bread to whom (give) a hunger for justice.)

I don't think it is necessarily wrong to put two imperatives into hypotaxis, but it is unusual, especially if you split the imperative verb da across two relative phrases. Splitting the verb violates one of Reginaldus Foster's principles of subordinate phrases, which is that it is always possible to put parentheses around a relative phrase which contains only words that are in the phrase and no words that are not in the phrase. You could fix this by repeating da, of course, but I think it is more elegant to invert the hypotaxis, to make da the single main verb and make esurient and habent into subordinate verbs, each in their own relative phrase.

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    I agree with your correction of "eis qui" but I don't understand why either "quibus" or "quibus ii" (as you quote the OP) would be at all possible, never mind just less natural. Maybe I'm missing something but I would translate "Da panem, Domine, quibus ii esuriunt, et famem iustitiae quibus ii panem habent" as "Give bread, o Lord, to whom they starve, and a hunger for justice to whom they have bread." I think the Latin makes as much sense as the English.
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 17:11
  • @JasperMay Yes, I too feel that something more is wrong, but I have a hard time pinpointing just what. It's not just putting an imperative into a relative phrase (weird, but it seems to me I've seen it before) or putting the verb of one phrase into another phrase (definitely wrong, but is it really that bad?). Since I can't really define it, I didn't mention it in my answer. You translation, I think, is spot on, but in the abstract, I still can't quite put into words what I think the big problem is.
    – Figulus
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 1:18
  • Please have a look at my and brianpck's comments on the question. I think the main problem is omitting the antecedent (eis) while putting its dative case onto the relative (qui > quibus). "Quibus (ii)" means "to whom (they)" while "eis qui" means "to those who," which is what the sentence needs.
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 4:38

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