I read in "A Grammar of the Latin Language" by Karl Gottlob Zumpt that suffero has no perfect or supine because sustuli is for tollo. However I found perfect forms in online grammars. So, for example, sustinuit would mean "he suffered" according to the online grammars, but does not exist according to Zumpt. Who is right?


The form sustuli appears under the entries for both tollo and suffero in Lewis and Short. However, sustinuit is a form of sustineo, and not of suffero (contrary to what the link you provided says). Since Lewis and Short is more authoritative, I believe the site that you linked to should be considered incorrect.

My take on this is that Cicero's usage was exceptional, but it became acceptable because he set the precedent. In the first place, Zumpt seems to consider it exceptional:

Suffero has no perfect or supine, for sustuli, sublatum, belong to tolo. Cicero, however (N. D., iii., 33) has poenas sustulit, but sustinui is commonly used in this sense. (A Grammar of the Latin Language, pg. 182)

In addition to Zumpt's comment, Henri J. W. Wijsman referred to Cicero's usage, saying:

249 (ictum) sustuli not from tollere but from suffere! Compare Stat. Theb. 8.657 f. primos veluti modo comminus ictus/ sustulerint. Cic. N.D. 3.82 at Phalaris, at Apollodorus poenas sustulit is slightly different in that they did not so much show endurance, as have to suffer the consequences of their misbehaviour. (Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, Book VI: A Commentary)

Therefore, if Wijsman is correct, this usage of sustulit should be taken as a perfect form of suffero.

  • 4
    In other words, don't believe random internet websites.
    – cmw
    Sep 18 at 18:06
  • 1
    @cmw The big question is: Is this site a random internet website too? I sure hope not.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 18 at 18:34
  • 2
    @cmw I believe this is at least the third time that we have seen online-latin-dictionary.com confusing people with blatant errors. (Although in this case, I can see how one could take a comment like "sustinui is commonly used in this sense" the wrong way.) Sep 18 at 20:23
  • 4
    @SebastianKoppehel This is the only place I've ever seen it mentioned. Why on earth would anyone use it over reputable sources is far beyond me. Even the site visually looks suspect.
    – cmw
    Sep 18 at 20:25
  • 1
    @cmw A well-chosen domain name makes all the difference, I suppose. Sep 19 at 7:44

Sufferō is an interesting case.

Ferō "bear" on its own is quite a common verb. For whatever reason, its perfect forms fell out of use, and it stole perfect forms from tollō "lift"; this is a not uncommon process, and is how we got present "go" with past "went" (stolen from "wend") in English.

The perfect forms of tollō then became ambiguous—was lātus "borne" or "lifted"? So tollō took the perfect forms from the compound sustollō "lift up", which were unambiguously about lifting, and those two verbs somewhat merged into one: tollō in the present, sustulī in the perfect.

But this created a new ambiguity, when ferō got compounded. We would expect the perfect of sufferō to be sustulī—but that form is now also used by tollō! Since tollō was by far the more common verb, people generally used sustulī only with the tollō meaning, and used other verbs if they wanted to unambiguously indicate sufferō—if this trend continued, it's possible we would have seen even more suppletion, with sufferō stealing perfect forms from yet another verb like sustineō.

However, things didn't end up developing this way. As Expedito Bipes explains, Cicero (and apparently also Statius) chose to use sustulī as the perfect of sufferō, and Cicero's influence was far-reaching. Lewis and Short thus associate sustulī with both of those verbs.

  • 1
    According to Sihler § 485, there is no perfect or aorist form of *bher-. So in that sense, fero didn't lose a perfect stem, it never had one to begin with!
    – cmw
    Sep 20 at 16:37
  • @cmw Fascinating—how old does that lack of perfect/aorist seem to be? All the way back to PIE?
    – Draconis
    Sep 20 at 16:45
  • 1
    I was just looking into the same question as @cmw :) Apparently only Indo-Iranian has a reduplicated perfect from *bher-, and that's thought to be an innovation rather than a PIE inheritance (though I don't know why). LIV also lists possible aorists in Vedic and Old Irish, which may again be innovations.
    – TKR
    Sep 20 at 16:51
  • @TKR Very fascinating. I'm tempted to ask a new question about it, though between these two comments it's been answered pretty well already.
    – Draconis
    Sep 20 at 17:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.