How would I translate this Latin proverb:

"Qui se instar ovis gerit hunc lupi vorant."

Here's what I have:

"Those who devour themselves like a sheep carries this man of a wolf."

  • 2
    You're just throwing words at it without considering case or number. There's only one word in the nominative plural that can serve as the subject of vorant, and while ovis formally looks like a nominative, that's in fact not all it can be.
    – Cairnarvon
    Jun 19, 2021 at 8:18
  • 3
    @Cairnarvon Give MichaelJYoo some credit. He's seeing qui...vorant, which isn't entirely unreasonable, as qui could be plural.
    – cmw
    Jun 19, 2021 at 13:41
  • 2
    @Cairnarvon Not a fair assessment, Michael correctly understood the instar + genetive construction, and qui could theoretically be nominative plural too. Jun 19, 2021 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


The chief problem with the current offering is that the word order does matter, that if you have a relative clause, the main verb shouldn't go between the relative pronoun and the verb in the relative clause.

So you have relative clause first: {{qui se instar ovis gerit}} hunc lupi vorant. In English word order, we would typically put the main clause first or otherwise keep it as the subject of both, but the word order here.

Wolves eat him who carries himself like a sheep.

If you wanted to keep the word order, you could make it the passive subject of the main clause and turn the nominative lupi into an agent:

He who carries himself like a sheep is eaten by wolves.

Just a note on se gerere, like English "to carry oneself" has the sense of "to conduct oneself in a certain way/to act in a certain way", so the meaning, while clear in the above translations, can be distilled even further into a more popular format:

If you act like a sheep, you get eaten by wolves.

  • I feel somewhat different sense of the sentence. something like: "It is him - who act(s) like a sheep, that wolves eat". it is very close indeed, but here the subject is the person and not the wolves. This reading may be supported by the the indicative gerit ( see also here ; and my answer to that question )
    – d_e
    Jun 19, 2021 at 14:36

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