I want to know how such sentences are translated into latin when there is no subject.

  • Your sentence has a subject: "chapters". Do you mean to ask about the lack of a subject for the infinitive phrase "to pass the test"?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Sep 13, 2020 at 16:31
  • Yes. About that infinitive.
    – Tobey
    Sep 14, 2020 at 1:51
  • Oh I see! I thought you were looking for how to make passive verbs or which verbs had an impersonal subject or which verbs had a dropped subject. A verb like that can be translated a bunch of ways, but most often with an ut clause like I used in my answer but only in classical Latin. In later Latin, an infinitive can translate directly to an English infinitive.
    – Nickimite
    Sep 14, 2020 at 3:56

2 Answers 2


One way to speak generally, without naming a specific subject, is to use an impersonal verb like oportet:

Oportet capitula perlegere si examen transibis.

(Literally: It is proper/necessary to read the chapters thoroughly if you will pass the exam.)

Another way is to use tu as the subject, as we often say "you" in English to denote anyone, not necessarily the person spoken to; e.g. "You have to study the chapters well to pass the test." The above Latin sentence also uses this trick, in the clause si examen transibis, where the second-person verb implicitly has tu as its subject.

There is no general rule for how to map English sentences with subjectless verbs (e.g. "to pass the test") to Latin. To translate, you re-express the whole thought in Latin, drawing freely upon customary Latin forms of expression.

So, it's perfectly fine to add a subject. Here is another common Latin form of expression for this kind of thought:

Ei qui examen transire vult, oportet capitula perlegere.

(Literally: To him who wishes to pass the exam, it is proper/necessary to read the chapters thoroughly.)

You don't even need to translate "must" with any Latin word at all. Another common way to put this kind of thought in Latin is to express it negatively:

Qui capitula non perlegit, examen non transibit.

(Literally: Who does not read the chapters throughly, will not pass the exam.)

  • Can the sentence be rewritten as "For the sake of passing the test, chapters must be studied well." and then translating it?
    – Tobey
    Sep 14, 2020 at 1:53
  • @Tobey Sure. Or you can just go straight to the Latin: Gratia examen transeundi, capitula perlegenda sunt. The literal English version is pretty stilted, but I think this is ordinary Latin (though I think the translations in the answer are punchier). I'm no expert, though.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Sep 14, 2020 at 2:25

I would say:

"Bene capita inspectanda (sunt) ut succedere possit."

Word-by-word this is:

"[Well] [the chapters] [must be studied + (be.PRESENT)] [so that] [to succeed] [one is able]."

When a word lacks a subject, it becomes passive. The form the passive takes depends on the tense and mood of the verb. Since you expressed a phrase concerning the future in the passive voice, the future passive (also known as gerundive) is used.

In the present, one would simply inflect the verb with a passive marker to show that the subject is receiving the verb, rather than doing the verb. For example "neco" means "I kill" whereas "necor means "I am killed."

Feel free to look up the conjugation tables for words if you want to see how they conjugated into active versus passive. Here's an example of what you could look for: https://www.verbix.com/webverbix/go.php?D1=9&H1=109&T1=neco

  • Which conjugation of verb do we use when the subject is missing?
    – Tobey
    Sep 12, 2020 at 9:45
  • I would make that a separate question. Short answer: 3rd person singular.
    – Nickimite
    Sep 12, 2020 at 16:13
  • "the future passive (also known as gerundive)" ← I find this phrasing misleading. There is a real future passive that's not the gerundive. For example: Capita sunt inspectanda and capita inspectabuntur don't mean the same thing, right? Sep 12, 2020 at 21:40
  • They mean the same thing, but the gerundive carries a different connotation. With a gerundive, something is about to happen because it MUST happen. A simple future passive is a statement of fact. In sum, they DO mean the same, but they have important nuances.
    – Nickimite
    Sep 13, 2020 at 0:26
  • 1
    Truthfully, I used impersonal possum because my intuition told me it worked. I know that est is extremely common in impersonal use. But you know what-- this is a good opportunity for a seperate stack exchange question!
    – Nickimite
    Sep 13, 2020 at 19:25

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