Here is an example of an ablative of agent for living things:

"Puella a puero amata" = the girl loved by the boy

But is it correct if I add a relative pronoun to form:

"Puella quae a puero amata" = the girl who loved by the boy (?)

Should I use quam? Or it is not grammatically correct?

  • Incidentally, while I see the term “ablative of agent” is well established, I find it misleading. The preposition a/ab requires the ablative, no matter if it has anything to do with agency, and that's that. Is there also an ablative of danger? (a periculis tueri) I don't think so. Sep 29, 2020 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


I think the ablative of agent in your example sentence is a red herring, and you can state your question in more general terms. In fact, I think the simplest case to look at is a noun + adjective, since the amata in your case is functioning as an adjective.

The most important thing to know about a relative pronoun is that it begins a relative clause. A relative clause needs to be a full sentence with a verb, just as in English.

So, let's say we want to talk about a "strong girl." There are a few things we could do:

  1. Attributive adjective

Puella fortis...

Here, we simply have an attributive adjective modifying puella. In the nominative, it indicates that a "strong girl" is the subject, but it needs a verb or something else to be a complete sentence, e.g. Puella fortis pugnat = "The strong girl fights."

  1. Predicative adjective

Puella fortis est.

Here, you are expressing a complete thought: "The girl is strong."

  1. Relative pronoun

Puella quae fortis est...

Here, you are starting a relative clause after puella. You cannot say puella quae fortis, because quae fortis is not a complete thought. In this case, the English equivalent captures the disfluency pretty well: we don't say, "The girl who strong." Rather, we have to say, "The girl who is strong..." Note that this sentence still isn't complete: it's like the first example, puella fortis, and the main clause still needs to be completed, e.g. Puella quae fortis est pugnat. = "The girl who is strong fights."

To return to your example case, you would need to do two things:

  1. Complete the relative clause
  2. Complete the main clause

For example, you could write:

Puella quae a puero amata est... = "The girl who was loved by the boy..."

(Note that amata est is the perfect passive: the present passive would be expressed by amatur.)

You would only write quam if the girl was the direct object of the sentence in the relative clause. For instance, you could write:

Puella quam puer amat... = "The girl whom the boy loves..."

In short: treat the relative clause like an independent sentence. Just as "puella amata" is not a complete sentence, so "quae amata" is also incomplete: it needs a verb.

Latin does sometimes omit the verb, particularly copulae like est, but this would be confusing in a relative clause. There's at least one example to be found in the Aeneid (quoted in the linked A&G grammar section):

accipe quae peragenda prius. (Aen. 6.136)

My intuition here is that the gerundive makes this construction more permissible. I could also see instances in a Ciceronian speech where a verb would be omitted, e.g. "quae facta, quae omissa bene scis..." but for your purposes I would recommend avoiding that kind of construction.

  • Maybe OT, but I wonder, if the relative clause was in the subjunctive: Puella quam puer amet, what difference will it make? will it give it a general flavor like: "a girl whom a boy loves?
    – d_e
    Sep 29, 2020 at 18:12
  • @d_e Here's some helpful reading on that: dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/clauses-characteristic
    – brianpck
    Sep 29, 2020 at 18:33
  • thanks! I'll take a look.
    – d_e
    Sep 29, 2020 at 18:37
  • @brianpck: The quote "accipe quae peragenda prius" was translated (Harvard) as "accept my counsel". It's like a cryptic clue; correct, but baffling to behold. For me it's: "accept what ought to be completed sooner/ better".
    – tony
    Sep 30, 2020 at 10:48

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