In English, we can have a sentence that doesn't include a verb but is taken as a directive. Consider the following phrase from the HBO television show, Carnivale:

Every prophet in his house.

In the context of the show, this was taken (by me at least) as a future imperative: every prophet should be (or needs to be) in his house.

If I wanted to do a direct translation and ignore the imperative, I could do something like:

Omnis vates in domum suum est

However, assuming it's an accurate translation it would just mean "each prophet is in his house", and lacks the future imperative feel. At the risk of making a calque of the English phrase, is there a way to retain the imperative without conjugating the verb that way or would it need something like esto added to capture that?

The lack of an imperative gives a broader meaning to the phrase, as it can be both a statement and an imperative.

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    I have a faint recollection that Erkki Palmén's PhD thesis De adverbiis pronominalibus localibus latinis: studia semantica et syntactica from 1998 discusses verbless orders like huc! but I don't own a copy.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 13:58

3 Answers 3


Well, you could simply say:

Omnis vates in domo sua sit.

(Note: in with the ablative, and domus is feminine.)

Okay, that is just a wish, but you know: depending on who wishes, wishes can be commands ...

  • Thanks! I hadn't considered a subjunctive. I also forgot that domus is 2nd declension feminine. Every student should study. :P
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 19:09
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    @Adam Declension-wise, domus is a wild mix of 2nd and 4th declension forms ;-) Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 19:18
  • I agree with your suggestion. Given the marked modality of the sentence, I was wondering if the most natural word order would be the one you've given. By the way, do you know if there are any good materials/books/... to learn the information structure facts of Latin? I know there are some technical works (e.g. classics.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj10936/f/devine_cv.pdf ) on this very important issue, which is, by the way, often neglected by those who speak Latin, even by the ones who are considered to speak it "fluently". I'd be happy to consult these materials if available.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:33
  • @Mitonimo I wanted to change as little as possible in the sentence; otherwise my intuition would be to put the sit at the beginning of the sentence, memor of examples like "Sit venia verbo," "Sit laus Deo patri," "Sit terra tibi levis" and others. Linguistic treatments of the subject are way above my pay grade... Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 19:31
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    @Mitonimo my go-to resource has lately been, mirabile dictu, the Wikipedia article on Latin word order, which is amazingly detailed and seems to be well-researched and based, at least in part, on relatively recent research. Unfortunately it has little to say on the initial sit here. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 7:27

I don't know if it could be applied to the sentence you're looking to translate, but to answer the more general question in the title ('Is it possible to have an imperative feel without using the imperative form of a verb?'), the gerundive of obligation comes to mind. For example, the famous draco dormiens nunquam titilandus 'a sleeping dragon is never to be tickled' or 'never tickle a sleeping dragon' (from the Harry Potter novels).

Perhaps something like:

Omni vati domum eundum est

would work for what you want (aiming for 'every prophet must go home').

  • The gerundive is passive so eundum doesn't mean must go home
    – eques
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:31
  • @eques I wondered that, but Googling 'eundum est' seems to give instances where it is used in the active sense. For example this Google Books link (A Copious Latin Grammar, Volume 1, p. 321) books.google.co.uk/…
    – dbmag9
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:43
  • interesting. I'm not sure what that author means by "has the name of a gerund" but it seems similar to using intransitive verbs as passive impersonal (ventum est - there was a coming)
    – eques
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 19:13
  • @eques this is an impersonal construction, which has active meaning. Note that eundum is neuter and agrees with nothing in the sentence. Draco titilandus is different because there the gerundive agrees with the noun, and thus you could not do it with an intransitive verb like ire. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 19:26
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    @eques Maybe so, although I can think of two famous Latin expressions: de gustibus non est disputandum and nunc est bibendum -- in both cases the verb is used intransitively. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:20

A very compelling example is Extra omnes.

This phrase is issued by the Master of the Papal Liturgical Celebrations before a session of the Papal conclave which will elect a new Pope. When spoken, all those who are not Cardinals, or those otherwise mandated to be present at the Conclave, must leave the Sistine Chapel.

Source: Wikipedia. This link brings you to [F]; scroll a few lines up.

  • A very direct counterpart to the English 'everybody out!'.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:02
  • Interesting! I wonder how long that phrase has been used that way, and if it became commonly taken that way by use in the Church or if it already had that meaning.
    – Adam
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:57

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