I was wondering about the grammatical reason(s) whereby a(n expected) genitive gerund/gerundive is sometimes replaced by an infinitive. Here are some representative examples of this phenomenon:

postero die consilium ceperunt ex oppido profugere. (Caes. BG. 7, 26)

Frustra autem niti neque aliud se fatigando nisi odium quaerere extremae dementiae est; nisi forte quem inhonesta et perniciosa libido tenet potentiae paucorum decus atque libertatem suam gratificari. (Sal. Iug. 3)

Ceterum iuventus pleraque, sed maxume nobilium, Catilinae inceptis favebat; quibus in otio vel magnifice vel molliter vivere copia erat. (Sal. Cat. 17, 3).

Nunc corpora curare tempus est. (Liv. 21, 54, 2)

Sed si tantus amor casus cognoscere nostros et breuiter Troiae supremum audire laborem, quamquam animus meminisse horret luctuque refugit, incipiam. (Verg. Aen. 2.10)

Is it possible to find a unified explanation for the replacement of a(n expected) genitive gerund/gerundive by an infinitive, shown in the previous examples?

Is/are there any internal structural reason(s) in Latin grammar for this replacement? For example, is there any connection with those constructions where the infinitive has a sort of purpose/"target" meaning? E.g., cf. Reddere hoc, non perdere erus me misit (Pl. Pseud. 642) and Avidi committere pugnam (Ov. Met. 5, 75)? Or is the infinitive justified as a result of an abstract reanalysis from consilium ceperunt to constituerunt, from libido tenet to libet, from tempus est to tempestivum est, etc.? NB: unlike nouns (e.g. consilium), verbs (e.g. constituerunt) and adjectives (tempestivum) can typically take infinitives as arguments in a more direct way.

Is there any external cause involved (e.g. an influence from Greek)?


As discussed below with Kingshorsey, it seems that the grecism-based explanation is quite plausible for Virgil’s example. See Mayer (1999: 175):

"On the syntax of amor and the infinitive Servius said: cognoscendorum casuum et Graeca figura est (...) Servius seems correct in identifying this instance as a grecism, for ἔρως was constructed with the infinitive; to him there was nothing 'natural' about it, it was best accounted for as a figure and borrowed from Greek." (bold mine: Mitomino)

However, the alternative analogy-based explanation commented on and criticized by Mayer (1999: 175), the one attributed to Roland G. Austin, a distinguished commentator of Virgil, can be said to have the advantage of relating it with the reanalysis process also mentioned in my question, which can be useful when accounting for apparently different cases like the one involved in Caesar’s example, the one in the title: for example, it seems that Pinkster (2021: 212) attributes the presence of the infinitive profugere to the reanalysis from the analytic collocation (Noun + light Verb) consilium ceperunt to the synthetic verb constituerunt. It is also worth noting that Friedrich Kritz & Friedrich Berger (1848: 426-427), two German classical philologists, also mentioned the usage of this infinitive by relating analytic expressions (e.g. lubido tenet) to synthetic ones (e.g. lubet). I've seen that other scholars have had the same intuition when describing the usage of this infinitive.

It appears to be difficult to obtain a unified explanation of the replacement for all the cases mentioned above in my question (unsurprisingly, "splitters" often win the debate against "lumpers", at least descriptively speaking. Divide et impera!). However, it seems to me that the presence of the infinitive in all the examples above (the ones from Plautus and Ovid included) is motivated by the general fact that this non-finite form seems to communicate a sort of "target" meaning (I know it's a vague expression but I don't know how to express my intuition better...). Please feel free to share your thoughts/intuitions with me.

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    In English, at least, this phenomenon would be unremarkable. Taking the first example (Caes. de Bello Gall. 7.26) = (either) "they adopted the stratagem of fleeing from the town on the next day" (genitive of gerund) or "they adopted the (this) stratagem--to flee from the town on the next day (infinitive). This, latter, being Caeser's chosen option. Both work therefore it may well have been a case of which sounded better.
    – tony
    Aug 17, 2021 at 12:04
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    @tony Thanks for your comment, So I understand you think that a unified explanation is not possible. For example, it's not obvious that the apposition analysis applies to Virgil's famous example (the last one above) and others. My intuition is that a sort of "target" meaning is involved in all of the examples above but perhaps I'm wrong. Hence my question. By the way, is it possible in non-standard (?) English to say "It's time of going home" (on a par with the usual one "It's time to go home")? Thanks in advance.
    – Mitomino
    Aug 17, 2021 at 13:03
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    @tony No, your point was not simplistic at all. In fact, some scholars have sometimes argued for the apposition analysis for similar cases. However, note the parallelism that seems to exist between, e.g., Avidi committere pugnam and Virgil's example above. Perhaps what is common with these and other examples of this use of the infinitive is what I refer above as to "the target meaning", but I don't know...
    – Mitomino
    Aug 17, 2021 at 15:34
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    @Kingshorsey Probably, the grecism-based explanation is more plausible for Virgil’s example but the other explanation has the advantage of relating it with the reanalysis process also mentioned in my question, which can be useful when accounting for apparently different cases like the one involved in Caesar’s example: for example, it seems that Pinkster (2021: 212) attributes the presence of the infinitive profugere to the reanalysis from consilium capere to constituere.
    – Mitomino
    Aug 18, 2021 at 15:51
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    @tony I don't know what the "benefit" (?) of using a gerundive should be but it's what one would expect. See books.google.es/…
    – Mitomino
    Aug 19, 2021 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


There are long discussions of the gerund/gerundive in Pinkster 3.17 and 5.42. The general takeaway is that the gerund/gerundives usually are preferred not to be used either as a subject (nominative) or as modifiable objects, but infinitives can both be subjects, objects and can be modified.

So, in your first example (given in full):

Omnia experti Galli, quod res nulla successerat, postero die consilium ceperunt ex oppido profugere hortante et iubente Vercingetorige.

consilium...profugere is modified by the phrase hortante et iubente Vercingetorige therefore it is natural to use an infinitive rather than a gerund. If nothing was being modified then a gerund might be possible. For example:

castrorum oppugnatio facultatem attulit liberius profugiendi ("The storming of the camp offered a more flexible opportunity for fleeing")

But if we modify the verbal noun, then it should be changed to an infinitive. For example:

castrorum oppugnatio facultatem attulit cito profugere ("The storming of the camp offered an opportunity to flee quickly")

In the second example I don't see how it is natural to use a gerund. It seems like a standard accusative with infinitive construction.

In the third example vivere is the subject of erat, therefore a gerund(ive) would be deprecated. To quote Pinkster 3.16: "unlike the (present) infinitive, [gerunds] cannot function as subject or object". There is further discussion of this in 5.42. The fourth and fifth examples are similar cases.

  • As for the 1st example from Caesar, are you suggesting that the infinitive profugere is the direct object of the present participles hortante et iubente rather than the complement of consilium (ceperunt)? Cf. any academic translation you may have of this example and you'll realize that this is not the correct analysis. See also Pinkster (2021: 212) on this ex. As for my 2nd example, see pages XVI and 123 (note 12) of this book: tile.loc.gov/storage-services/public/gdcmassbookdig/… Finally, note that my 3rd and 4th examples are similar.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 16, 2023 at 15:53
  • As for the first example (the one in the title of the question), see also pages 109-110 of this book: books.google.es/…
    – Mitomino
    Nov 16, 2023 at 16:34
  • @Mitomino Whether profugere is the object of hortante directly or whether you equate consilium to profugere, then either way it is an object. For example, if it were a gerund, then it would I guess have to be in the accusative, so that would make it an object, which is definitively not preferred according to PInkster. as he writes "gerunds CANNOT function as subject or object". That seems pretty clear to me and in that sentence profugere is functioning as an object. Nov 16, 2023 at 16:38
  • @Mitomino I expanded my answer to discuss the use of profugiendi Nov 16, 2023 at 17:13
  • @Mitomino Another thing to keep in mind is that gerunds are fairly rare in Latin in general. For example, I could find only three examples of profugiendi in the entire classical corpus, but I found eighteen examples of profugere. Nov 16, 2023 at 17:57

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