In Familia Romana Cap. 5 there is this sentence:

Iūlius nōn sōlus, sed cum Aemiliā et cum magnā familiā in vīllā habitat.

I'm struggling to understand why this sentence is grammatically correct. Since sōlus is an adjective, it cannot be used to modify habitat, but why don't we need a verb for the sentence/clause before sed? I would expect something like

Iūlius nōn sōlus est, sed cum Aemiliā et cum magnā familiā in vīllā habitat.

or the adverb form of sōlus to be used.

The only explanation I can think of is that Latin is more flexible in this case and the verb est can be omitted in the first sentence/clause. Could someone help me understand this?

  • I don't speak Latin yet I feel obliged to point out, yours is the first example in 50 years of listening that I've read of Latin using accents. Did I miss something, or what? Jan 11, 2021 at 23:21
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    This is a reading aid for learners - a macron is used to mark length and an acute is used to mark accent.
    – Eleshar
    Jan 12, 2021 at 9:46

4 Answers 4


Although it's possible that the verb est has been omitted here, as Adam says, I find it more likely that the sentence really is equivalent to Iūlius nōn sōlus habitat, sed cum Aemiliā et cum magnā familiā in vīllā habitat. Latin regulary uses adjectives in the nominative modifying the subject (and also in the accusative modifying the direct object) where English would more naturally use adverbs modifying the verb, as explained in one of the answers to another question.

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    I think in dependency syntax, this is called an attribute and it is fairly common in languages similar to Latin (with cases and free word order). The word is typically an adjective, it modifies often the subject, occasionally the direct object and it is connected through the verb.
    – Eleshar
    Jan 12, 2021 at 9:51

Actually, this is not so much a case of missing esse, but of praedicative use of an adjectival word. Adjectives (solus), but also participles, can be used such that they agree with a nominal group (Iulius), while telling you something about the praedicate as a whole (Iulius non [habitat]), not just about the nominal group. This is also possible in other Indo-European languages:

She arrived late/crying/alone.

In English, it is not so easy to see whether a word is an adjective or an adverb, but the construction used is the same as in English. The subject she was alone, but she also arrived in a manner characterised as being alone. So alone tells you something about her, but also about her manner of arriving.

Subject and object complements are very common (trivial) cases of praedicative adjectives, in Latin, in English, and in many other languages:

Iulius est solus.

"The lone Iulius is": this is clearly wrong and not how the sentence was intended.
"Iulius is alone": this is what it means.

So the adjective solus is not used attributively, i.e. it is not used to only modify the nominal group Iulius like any standard use of an adjective. Instead, it tells us something about how Iulius is; it tells you something about the praedicate Iulius est as a whole. Like any praedicative adjective, it still also tells you something about Iulius himself, in addition to modifying the praedicate.

In English, we often indicate praedicative use by placing the adjectival word after the nominal group it modifies, as in my first example, She arrived...


Welcome to the community!

Est can be ommitted if the meaning is clear. You might want to check out this post about omitting esse, as it's another form of the same verb. In the case of this sentence, it's very clear that the verb is est from both the clause and with the full sentence.

  • Thank you! This post explains it well!
    – tianz
    Jan 10, 2021 at 3:14

In proverbs and sentences, the verb sum is often omitted both as a copula and as a verbal predicate. Font: years of latin in italian schools. Ps: when citing a verb it should be named in indicative present first person singular because that's where we study the root of the verb. and from there we study the endings and irregular verbs. It's a Englishism to say the verb esse. In the vocabulary there is for first indicative present first and second singular, then past first person singular and only at the end the infinite.

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    Welcome to the site! There are different conventions for citing a verb, some use sum and some esse, and both are used by native English speakers and others. Both are fine; see e.g. this and this. The different forms of a verb can be listed in different orders, and that is not important. With all that said, the missing verb here is probably not sum/esse but habito/habitare, as cnread points out in an answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jan 10, 2021 at 20:09
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    "In the vocabulary there is for first indicative present first and second singular, then past first person singular and only at the end the infinite." - Could you please give me an example of how you talk about verbs in the Italian tradition you mentioned? For instance, when I studied Latin, we memorized verbs like, amo-amavi-amatum-amare, and we referred to it as either the verb amo (we would describe it as persona prima singularis praesentis indicativi activi) or the verb amare or as the verb amo-amare.
    – Alex B.
    Jan 11, 2021 at 20:09

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