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I am trying to translate the saying "Comfort the afflicted; afflict the comfortable" into Latin, but I don't actually know Latin, and I've run into a wall.

I think the verbs should be Present Active Imperative, either singular (consolare, afflige) or plural (consolamini, affligite). But I'm not 100% sure, because it seems like they could be Jussive mood instead (consoleris/consolere/consolemini and affligas/affligatis, if I understood correctly).

The objects are giving me a lot more trouble. It seems "the afflicted," as a noun formed from a collective adjective based on a verb, should be the Perfect Passive Participle of affligo (afflictus), and should be plural. I'm less confident about the case (I think Accusative, right?). And I cannot find an explanation of how to determine the gender for this situation. I wouldn't think "the comfortable" would be a participle. From my understanding it would be the adjective commodus used as a Substantive, but I can't figure out if that requires any change the word beyond the number/gender/case it would take. Then, as with "the afflicted," it seems like it would be plural and Accusative, but I don't know the gender.

Or I could be totally wrong about all of that.

(I've tagged ecclesiastical-latin because, although the phrase originates from journalism, it has since been applied to Christianity in some circles, and the words are certainly found in ecclesiastical writing.)


Since unfortunately, I did not get any responses to this question, I kept trying to work it out for myself. I've come to the conclusion that the 2nd person singular present active imperative verbs and accusative singular masculine/neuter adjectives are the correct form. I've also decided, based on the definitions given on Wiktionary, that commodus seems to be more appropriate for something that gives comfort than for someone who is enjoying comfort. The definitions for securus seem closer to the intent in English.

So my translation is: Consolare afflictum; afflige securum.

My new question is: does that make sense to everyone? Did I make any grammatical mistakes?

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  • You are right when you say:"I think the verbs should be Present Active Imperative, either singular (consolare, afflige) or plural (consolamini, affligite)." Nov 30, 2023 at 4:41
  • When a Latin verb is passive in form, but has an active meaning, it is called a deponent verb.They are tricky! Nov 30, 2023 at 4:45
  • On the appropriateness of the ecclesiastical-latin tag: While the phrase itself may have a secular origin, the sentiment seems to me to be quite biblical. See e.g. Ezekiel 34:16, in which God says, "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy."
    – DLosc
    Dec 21, 2023 at 18:38

1 Answer 1

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And if you wanted to say the afflicted and comfortable plural, instead of singular, you would have Consolare afflictos ; afflige securos.

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  • Note that, because consolor is a deponent verb, consolare is not the actually the infinitive, as you claim, but the singular imperative; so Sven3B has used the correct form. However, I do think that your suggestion of a plural object for each verb would be a better choice than singular.
    – cnread
    Jan 5, 2021 at 21:42
  • Quite right @cnread, I should have checked on consolor.
    – Afer
    Jan 5, 2021 at 21:48
  • Is there any rhyme or reason why one might go with the infinitive over the imperative?
    – Sven3B
    Jan 6, 2021 at 22:51
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    @Sven3B consolor, -ari is deponent, so the -are ending actually is imperative
    – brianpck
    Jan 12, 2021 at 14:29
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    Is there no way to duplicate the chiasmus? This translation is a bit feeble.
    – fdb
    Nov 30, 2023 at 10:27

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