Constructio ablativi absoluti, quae vocatur, frequenter affirmatur constare ex nomine in casu ablativo et participio, quod cum nomine congruere debeat. Tria autem genera participiorum habet lingua Latina, ut sciunt di hominesque: Primum participium perfecti passivi, deinde participium praesentis activi, postremo participium futuri activi. (Nisi forte sermo est de «participio futuri passivi», quod tamen fas non esse duco.) Primos duos ex quibus nemo negat in ablativo absoluto adhibere licere, sed de tertio genere participiorum, i.e., de participiis futuri activi, hodie volo percontari.

Grammatici non mihi videntur diserte et plane illud genus excludere in constructione ablativi absoluti tractanda; at contra nulla exempla dant. Neque in alio loco ullum inveni exemplum. Itaque rogo: Licetne adhibere participia futuri in ablativo absoluto?

English version:

A so-called ablative absolute is generally said to consist of a noun in the ablative and a participle in agreement with the noun. Latin, however, as everybody knows, has three kinds of participles: The perfect passive participle, the present active participle, and the future active participle. (Unless somebody were to bring up the “future passive participle,” which line of reasoning I do not wish to humour.) The first two everybody agrees may be used in the ablative absolute, but here I want to ask about the third kind, that is, the future active participle.

The grammarians, it seems to me, do not explicitly exclude this kind in their treatments of the ablative absolute, but neither do they give any examples. Nor have I found any examples anywhere else. So my question is: Is it allowed to use future participles in the ablative absolute construction?

1 Answer 1


Interesting post! See the following remark included in a related question: "as pointed out by Lavency (1985: 196) in his excellent descriptive grammar of Latin (VSVS. Grammaire latine. Description du latin classique en vue de la lecture des auteurs. Paris: Duculot), future active participles are also found as predicates of Ablative Absolutes, as in the following example from Livy:

Carthaginienses prima luce oppugnaturis hostibus castra saxis augent vallum. (Liv. 28, 15, 13)".

From a philological point of view, an important observation to be made here is that this use of the future participle is rare before Livy. Here is another example:

Parumper silentium et quies fuit nec Etruscis, nisi cogerentur, pugnam inituris et dictatore arcem Romanam respectante, ut ex ea ab auguribus, simul aves rite admisissent, ex composito tolleretur signum. (Livy 4, 18, 6)

Note (i) the interesting coordination between Etruscis pugnam inituris and dictatore arcem respectante and (ii) the inner complexity of Ablative Absolutes in Livy (e.g. cf. the inserted subordinate clause nisi cogerentur in the middle of the AA).

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    The first example could perhaps be explained as a dativus (in)commodi; but the second one I cannot explain away. Good answer.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 4:36
  • @Cerberus. Thanks! As for your point, if you take a look at the context (or at the different translations available), you'll see that the dativus (in)commodi reading does not seem to be appropriate here.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 4:15
  • Out of curiosity, why would you say a dativus incommodi is impossible in the first example? I have read the context, and noticed the Loeb translation treats it as an ablative absolute, but...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 14:52
  • @Cerberus Out of context, it is true that the dative interpretation is possible. In fact, syntactically speaking, it could be a dative complement of augent and even of the participle congestis (cf. Carthaginienses prima luce oppugnaturis hostibus castra saxis undique congestis augent vallum). My translations, like yours, all follow the ablative absolute reading, for good reasons.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 20:09

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