The chorus in the Bee-Gees' haunting song, "Don't Forget to Remember Me" (1969), includes:

"Don't forget to remember me,
And a love that used to be"


To translate this into Latin: (i) the verb "to remember" = "meminisse" is defective and only exists in perfect-tense forms, hence the perfect infinitive, "meminisse". This verb selects an accusative direct object for a casual acquaintance, and a genitive for a more emotional relationship. Here, "...mei meminisse," = "...to remember me,".

(ii) The first part, is a prohibition. This can be expressed in four ways:

(a) the imperative, "ne obliviscere";

(b) the second-person of the perfect subjunctive, "ne oblitus sis";

(c) "noli" (imperative of "nolo" = "be unwilling to") plus the infinitive, "oblivisci";

(d) "cave" (take care lest) plus the present subjunctive, "obliviscaris".

Is any, of these four, more appropriate than the others?

I am choosing (b) because it looks better, giving:

"ne oblitus sis mei meminisse"


In the first line "obliviscor" was behaving intransitively; here, it takes a direct object, "a/ (the one) love", and, like "meminisse" (above), it selects the genitive, "et unius amoris".

The "used to be" bit is tricky. Treating this as a relative clause, under the authority of the speaker, requiring the (imperfect) subjunctive for what was an ongoing situation, in the past, "qui esset", giving:

"et unius amoris qui esset"

Are the two lines correct?


First line

According to the entry for oblivisci in L&S, the verb can be used with other verbs in two ways: with the infinitive (I.δ) or with a relative clause (I.ε). The infinitive is the best fit for this purpose.

Out of the negative imperative options you list, (b) and (c) are by far the most common ones. Negating the regular imperative with ne is very rare. Your choice of (b) is a good one.

The object of meminisse is indeed typically the genitive of a personal pronoun.

Combining all these, your suggestion for the first line is perfect:

ne oblitus sis mei meminisse

Second line

The same predicate oblivisci or meminisse governs both lines. You can read the English one two ways: the second line can be about (A) not forgetting the love or (B) not forgetting to remember the love. When forgetting a thing, both the genitive and accusative work; see the entry linked above. The same goes with meminisse.

On the first line I would interpret the infinitive meminisse as an accusative (this form is used when the verb is an object), so it would be most harmonic in reading (A) to have the object of the second line in the accusative case as well. The genitive is certainly possible, but the switch of cases sounds a bit wonky to me.

In reading (B) you have two objects of meminisse, and for the same reason I would put both in the genitive case.

I think "something that used to be" is better captured in Latin by the adjective pristinus. One can in principle use a relative clause, but mind you that the short relative clause "that used to be" is idiomatic in English and does not work as concisely in many other languages.

I think et is best replaced with neque.

Thus I would change the second line to:

nec amorem pristinum
nec amoris pristini

Both lines

Looking at what we have, it is easy to get a simple rhyme:

Ne oblitus sis meminisse mei
nec amoris pristini!

You may need to insert a few syllables to make it scan; I am not familiar with the original rhythm.

  • What do you think of using -que intead of nec: mei pristinique amoris?
    – TKR
    May 14 at 23:27
  • @TKR Can -que be used with negations like that? It strikes me as a little odd, but this should probably explored in a separate question. But even if it's possible, I prefer not to use it here; I get the sense that the second item is a kind of an afterthought ("oh, and don't forget this either"), but I might be misreading.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 14 at 23:54
  • 1
    @tony I think many grammars make it unnecessarily convoluted. When you need a verb as a subject ("Singing is important.") or as an object ("I like to sing."), you use the infinitive. With nouns the same roles are played by the nominative and accusative case, so I find it practically very reasonable to say that the infinitive serves as these two cases. For other cases and accusatives following a preposition, a gerund is used instead. Therefore I would indeed read oblivisci transitively here. But mind you that there are many ways to parse Latin grammar with wildly different terminology!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 15 at 14:48
  • 1
    @tony That is the section number, not the page number. The book has two numberings. (It took me a while to find the correct page, as the section numbers are more visible online than the page numbers.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 16 at 6:27
  • 1
    @tony It seems to me that both accusative and genitive make sense to me. The way I have seen the meanings with the two cases described, both look valid. If you want to dig deeper in to the choice of cases with meminisse or oblivisci, ask a new question. (It helps if you provide a link to an online version of the grammar. I don't have a copy of the book, and it takes a while to trace the thing. § 350 is faster to find than p. 350 but not much. Different editions can have different numberings, too. You should really learn using links!)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 16 at 17:05

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