The regular ablative of nox is nocte. At least in the temporal sense noctu is a synonym of nocte. Are nocte and noctu fully interchangeable as temporal expressions? In particular, can I attach adjectives or pronouns to noctu the way I can with nocte? For example, I can say quadam nocte or nocte atra et procellosa, but I don't know whether I can use noctu in such a way.

1 Answer 1


Adverbs are not normally modified by adjectives. And 'noctu,' occurs mostly in Livy, usually on its own, but sometimes modified by the adverb: secretly 'clam.' And occasionally with numquam, fere, saepe, diu. (never, almost, often, for some time.)

But the ablative 'nocte,' in an adverbial phrase can have an adjective. The phrase 'sub nocte' in the descent to the underworld 'Lonely, at nightfal, they went unseen through the shadow,' has a transferred epithet, and adverbial phrase.

Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbram.

Adjectives qualifying 'nocte' : proxima nocte, 'next night,' and Adverbs qualifying the complete averbial phrase are found: fere nocte, clam nocte 'almost by night,' 'secretly by night.'

  • 1
    This answer is incorrect as it stands: there is no gaping chasm between adverbs and nouns, and many adverbs come from ablative forms. In this case, L&S explicitly states (see I.β) that noctu is ablative and gives many examples of it being modified by adjectives like hac and concubia or even participles, like noctu futura.
    – brianpck
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 20:49
  • @brianpck, do you want to add that as an answer? That noctu is considered a real ablative and in particular that it can be modified by ablatives like futura, hac or tertia would make a good answer. I can do that myself if you prefer, but I want to give you the opportunity. There is no hurry. (I didn't notice your comment until now.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 20:03

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