Is the change in the word order used for emphasis, and how would we translate "iura novit curia" to English while maintaining the word order? We don't have cases and there is the danger of confusing the Subject and the Verb.

  • Iura is the object in the accusative case (plural of ius)
  • Curia is the subject in the nominative case
  • Novit is the third-person singular perfect active indicative of nosco and is not passive.

If we can't maintain the word order, would it better to use the passive voice?

"The Law was known by the Court"

"The Court knew the Law"

1 Answer 1


The word order that is considered somewhat standard would be:

Curia iura novit

So, yes, I would say that the word order probably reflects a certain emphasis. This is explained by Thomas K. Arnold:

The degree of prominence and emphasis to be given to a word is that which mainly determines its position in the sentence. And: The two emphatic positions in a Latin sentence are the beginning and the end. By the former our attention is raised and suspended, while the full meaning of the sentence is rarely completed till the last word is reached.

To this he adds:

The more unusual a position is for any word, the more emphatic it is for that word.

Trying to maintain the same word order as the original would sound unnatural in English, but changing it to the passive might serve to communicate the intended emphasis (Note that novit is perfect in form, but it has a present force.):

The law is known by the court.

However, the translator should use his disgression in this respect. In my opinion, the more straightforward translation would be preferable because of its simplicity, and I believe it carries more impact:

The court knows the law.

  • Why would the standard order be Subject-Object-Verb and not Subject-Verb-Object? What does it mean for a verb to have a present force even if it is in perfect? Why is this so? Wouldn't Iura novit curia be used by the Appelate Court to defend the Trial Court's decision? Commented May 31, 2021 at 10:15
  • @GeorgeNtoulos: I provided links in my answer to address your questions. I'm not sure what you're getting at this: "Wouldn't Iura novit curia be used by the Appelate Court to defend the Trial Court's decision?" Commented May 31, 2021 at 10:41
  • 1
    @GeorgeNtoulos “What does it mean for a verb to have a present force even if it is in perfect?” — when you knew something, you probably know it. It's not an easy trick to unknow, unhear or unsee (try it!). That's common with verbs of knowing and perceiving, and probably has to do with how Proto-Italic perfect tense has developed from PIE perfective aspect. Why Latin is SOV, no one knows. Easy to guess, for the same reason English is SVO and many Austronesian languages are VOS, but the humongous riddle is, no one knows that reason. :) Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 13:54

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