In Q: Why Does Cicero use the Third-Person Singular Instead of the Plural Form?, the following extract from Cicero's de oratore 2.25.108 was studied:

"...in quibus hoc praecipit ratio et doctrina ut vis eius rei, quam definias sic exprimatur, ut neque absit quicquam neque supersit," =

"...on which occasions reason and learning direct, that the whole force of the thing which you define should be expressed in such a manner, that there be nothing omitted or superfluous;" (Attalus).

Joonas suggested that "hoc" (= "this") in "hoc praecipit ratio et doctrina ut..." links to "ut" in a "so that" thing. The trouble with this is that "so that" is a recognised translation of "ut" (final/ purpose clauses) exclusively e.g.

"Romam veni ut patrem videam."

"I have come to Rome in order that I may see my father ("...so that I may...")."

My suggestion that "hoc" is the neuter, accusative singular form in "reason and learning direct this", may be incorrect because "this" appears to refer to the "force" ("of the thing which you define") and "vis" (= "force") is a feminine noun.

The English translation barely recognises "hoc" (Joonas disagrees); in the original Latin, it seems superfluous. Why did Cicero include "hoc" and what if it had been omitted?

  • 2
    Note: This is a so-called substantive clause of purpose. Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 16:23
  • 5
    The ut cause is an indirect command, a type of noun clause. Here it functions as the direct object of praecipit; therefore, it can be anticipated/encapsulated by the neuter acc. sing. pronoun hoc: '...reason and learning instruct this, namely that...' The pronoun refers to the whole clause, not any one word in it. This is extremely common. It's also common for translations to leave out any explicit translation of the pronoun, since it really does just anticipate the upcoming clause. Cicero could have left it out; it's a matter of style to include it.
    – cnread
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


I think that here hoc is a anaphoric determiner pronoun which links to the declarative clause introduced by the so-called explicative ut. Cicero employs a similar construction (with the pronoun as the subject) also in de orat. 2,4:

sed fuit hoc in utroque eorum ut Crassus non tam existimari vellet non didicisse, quam [...]

Other examples with different pronouns to serve as anaphoric determiner:

  • Cic. Att. 11,22,2: etiam illud mea magni interest, te ut videam.
  • Liv. 34,9,12: id erat forte tempus anni, ut frumentum in areis Hispani haberent.

See J.B. Hofmann - A. Szantyr, Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik, München 1972, pp. 645-646; H. Pinkster, The Oxford Latin Syntax, II. The Complex Sentence and Discourse, Oxford 2021, pp. 85, 438-439.

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