I have a musical project I've been working on called Instruments of Ruin (it's instrumental, so the name is a play on that). I want to make shirts for it that have the phrase, "I listened to Instruments of Ruin and all I got was this t-shirt".

I was thinking of something along the lines of this (possibly substituting sed for et):

Ad Instrumenti Ruinarum audiebam et solum haec tunicam dabar

Does this make sense, or is there a better way to say it?

  • 2
    1. You probably want to put all this in a past tense; 2. audeo means "to dare." You want audio. Others will chime in with more specific suggestions.
    – cmw
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 16:29
  • Ahh, thanks! Audeo was a typo, but tenses are still confusing to me. I'll make an update with what I think it is.
    – Adam
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 16:34
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    Welcome, @love_latin. Unfortunately, I had to convert your "answer" to a comment since it doesn't actually attempt to answer the question. I know you don't have enough "rep" to comment yet, so I did that for you. Answers though have to be on-topic, as it's Q&A style here, not forum discussion. I hope you stick around though and ask/answer some questions yourself!
    – cmw
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 4:54
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    @Adam: How do we order the T-shirt?
    – tony
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 10:26
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    @tony I haven't gotten that far with it (I'd like to get the album out first), but when they are available I'll probably add something to my SE profile about the band with a link.
    – Adam
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


I would prefer auscultare over audire, because it stands for attentive listening. Audire is the more general word and would probably not be wrong, though. Auscultare stands with the accusative or dative. As Unbrutal Russian points out in a comment, the dative is used when the sense is one of listening and believing, taking heed, doing as told. That does not fit here, so we want the accusative. And as TKR points out, the verb should not be in the imperfect tense. We are presumably talking about a listening event that antecedes (or goes along with) the reception of a t-shirt.

Instrumentum is neuter, so you can bet your infimum thalerum the plural is going to end in -a somehow. In this case, quite simply: instrumenta. That would be the accusative; the dative would be instrumentis. (At this point I was also going to complain about the plural ruinarum, but it turns out that that is quite common classically. So I learned something new today.)

There is nothing wrong with solum per se, although it would be a bit more usual to say ni(hi)l nisi here. Or, since in English you do not just say “only this t-shirt,” but “all I got etc,” one might prefer a more explicit phrase like nihil praeterquam.

Haec tunicam should be hanc tunicam.

Finally, dabar is wrong. I find the imperfect hard to justify here, but there is a more fundamental problem. You see, the recipient with dare is in the dative case, the thing given in the accusative. When you turn an active verb passive, the accusative object becomes the subject. The dative object just remains the dative object:

Tunicam mihi dedit (aliqui) = tunica mihi data est (ab aliquo)

So dabar means “I am given” all right, but in the sense that you are the thing that's changing hands. That makes little sense here. But never worry, Latin has your back with the nice word accipere.

So in sum I would suggest:

Instrumenta Ruinarum auscultavi et nihil accepi praeterquam hanc tunicam.

  • 3
    I'd think auscultavi (pf.) would be used here -- it's not a narrative background "I was listening (and then something else happened)", but a discrete action that's part of the main narrative. For the second half I like your nihil nisi (more pithy than praeterquam) and would suggest moving the verb to the end: nihil nisi hanc tunicam accepi. (I wonder if nec aliquid would be more idiomatic than et nihil, but that's probably overly pedantic.)
    – TKR
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 19:44
  • @TKR You are right regarding the tense. Nec aliquid nisi … was my first idea, but I (books-) googled and did not find the results convincing, so I took the less adventurous route. Commented May 15, 2021 at 21:52
  • auscultāre with the dative means "to listen to someone and do what you're told"; you want the accusative with a physical act of listening. Otherwise this seems like a solid translation suggestion. Commented May 15, 2021 at 23:25
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    Haec tunicam should be hanc,” reads as though the entire phrase haec tunicam would be replaced with just the word hanc, but I see in your final suggestion that it’s actually to replace the haec in haec tunicam with hanc and thus yield hanc tunicam. I suggest “Haec tunicam should be hanc tunicam,” as the shortest clarified version, though “The haec in haec tunicam should be hanc,” is perhaps closer to your phrasing.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 4:02
  • @Unbrutal_Russian you are quite correct, I was unaware of the finer points. A case where Lewis & Short are worlds better than Georges, by the way. Commented May 16, 2021 at 10:07

I think the background situation that you listened to "Instruments of Ruin" is nicely captured by an ablative absolute. In addition, I quite like using nihil nisi for "nothing but", and it helps keep things more compact as well.

Thus I offer a variant of Sebastian's good answer where he did most of the heavy lifting:

Instrumentis Ruinarum auscultatis nihil accepi nisi hanc tunicam.
Having listened to Instruments of Ruin I got nothing but this shirt.


I have almost no idea about Latin grammar and very poor Latin vocabulary. To cater these two, there already are 2 beautiful answers but I do have one suggestion to make it a little more catchy. If you interchange the places of 'tunicam' and 'dabar' and print the whole statement in 2 lines like I've shown below, then the rhyme would give a nice and catchy ring to it -

Ad Instrumenti Ruinarum audiebam
et solum haec dabar tunicam

My suggestion is using one Latin language rule which is - Word order isn't really important in Latin and the meaning changes only when the ending of word changes.

BTW, this t-shirt is going to be look really cool..

  • The two other answers have suggested substantial changes to the phrasing of the question to make it work better both semantically and grammatically. Those changes seem to break your rhymes. Would either of those give a better starting point? I must also add that while word order isn't as important in Latin as in English, it's not irrelevant or completely free either. (I assume these are the reasons why your answer has accumulated a couple of downvotes and flags.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 13:47
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Thanks for the useful pointer on word order! Appreciate it
    – CCCC
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 7:14

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