Reading this recent question about whether the main verb introducing a purpose clause with ut can be in the passive voice, I thought about writing an answer that basically said: The main verb can be everything you want. It can be in the subjunctive mood, it can be an imperative, a participle, an infinitive, a supine in -um. OK, it cannot be a supine in -u, I guess. Those are terribly limited anyway.

But then I became unsure: Can it be a gerund? Can I say, for example:

Ars rogandi ut pater nobis det pecuniam.
The art of asking that our father give us money.

More generally, can a gerund introduce any subordinate clause?

Calliditas in cognoscendo qui sit dux Gallorum.
Shrewdness in realizing who is the leader of the Gauls.

I looked around and did not find much information. For example, Allen & Greenough's grammar is not very forthcoming on this matter. I also looked for examples on Google Books, and I did find a few constructions like this, but they were all Neo-Latin.

Is this allowed in Classical Latin?

  • 1
    Interesting question! Cf. Joonas's related one: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/1144/… In light of cnread’s answer, I was wondering why there is a contrast between your second exemple (see cnread’s examples below) and the fact that there seem to be no attested examples of the construction "IN + gerund + accusative object" in Classical Latin (cf. my answer to Joonas’s post). Perhaps examples like these involve a case of a neutralization of the gerund/gerundive distinction. The topic of when gerunds can take objects is very complex.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


It has been my experience that gerunds can pretty freely introduce subordinate clauses.

For example, in Livy, Ab urbe condita 3.39.2, the ablative of the gerund introduces an indirect command (as in your first example):

L. Valerium Potitum proditum memoriae est post relationem Ap. Claudi, priusquam ordine sententiae rogarentur, postulando ut de re publica liceret dicere, prohibentibus minaciter decemviris proditurum se ad plebem denuntiantem, tumultum excivisse.

It's a matter of record that, after Appius Claudius had made his motion but before the senators were asked for comments in order, L. Valerius Potitus raised an uproar by demanding that it be permitted to speak about the political situation, proclaiming that he would go before the plebs when the decemvirs blocked him with threats.

In Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes 5.68, in + the ablative of the gerund introduces an indirect question (as in your second example):

ex quo triplex ille animi fetus existet, unus in cognitione rerum positus et in explicatione naturae, alter in discriptione expetendarum fugiendarumque rerum ne vivendi, tertius in iudicando, quid cuique rei sit consequens quid repugnans, in quo inest omnis cum subtilitas disserendi, tum veritas iudicandi.

From this will arise a threefold production of the mind, one of which lies in a knowledge of things and in an explanation of nature; the second in the definition of the things that should be sought and avoided, and in a principle of living well; and the third in judging what consistency, what inconsistency each thing has, which contains not only all skillfulness of forming an argument but also accuracy of judgment.

In Pliny the Younger, Epistulae 9.27.2, the genitive of the gerund introduces an indirect question:

tantus audiendi quae fecerint pudor, quibus nullus faciendi quae audire erubescunt.

So great is the shame that people have of hearing what they did, though they had no shame of doing the things that they now blush to hear about.

And in Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum fratrem 1.1.30, in + the ablative of the gerund introduces an object clause.

etenim si in promerendo ut tibi tanti honores haberentur quanti haud scio an nemini fuisti omnium diligentissimus, multo maiorem in his honoribus tuendis adhibere diligentiam debes.

In fact, if you were most diligent of all in earning that such great honors be paid to you as perhaps have never been paid to anyone, you should apply all the greater diligence in protecting those honors.

Incidentally, with regard to your comment about supines in u, even that's possible. For example, in Cicero, Pro lege Manilia 65, a supine introduces an indirect question:

difficile est dictu, Quirites, quanto in odio simus apud exteras nationes propter eorum quos ad eas per hos annos cum imperio misimus libidines et iniurias.

It's difficult to say, Quirites, in what great hatred we are held among foreign peoples because of the wantonness and injuries of those whom we have sent to them with imperium during recent years.

Really, then, for the question that you refer to, you would have been quite correct to answer, 'The main verb can be everything you want.'

  • 2
    In relation to your exemples from Cicero, involving “in + gerund + sentential object”, I was wondering why they are possible but the construction “in +gerund + accusative object” is not attested in Early & Classical Latin (according to Vester (1991). benjamins.com/catalog/slcs.21.21ves). Should one then posit that what we have here is a gerundival construction where the “nominal” subordinate clause can be replaced by an ablative pronoun? Or is it a case of a neutralization of the gerund/gerundive distinction?
    – Mitomino
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 13:23
  • 1
    @Mitomino. That's a very good question. Now that you've asked it, I find that I do tend to think of them as equivalent to in eō iudicandō and in eō promerendō (i.e., gerundival), but I'm not sure.
    – cnread
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 19:12
  • 1
    Thank you for this excellent answer. These are exactly the sort of example I was looking for. Also, it's fascinating to see the supine used that way, although in hindsight, in that case if I had looked, I would easily have found examples at least for AcI constructions (e.g. Google search for "nefas est dictu"). The gerund examples I find much harder to Google for. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 10:18
  • 1
    @Mitomino You may have pinpointed the reason for my uncertainty. The intuitive answer to my question ("is this allowed?") would be: "Sure, why not?" It was the restrictions on the use of gerunds that gave me pause. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 10:21
  • 1

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.