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In Confessions (1.18.29), Augustine writes:

quasi vero quemlibet inimicum hominem perniciosius sentiat quam ipsum odium quo in eum inritatur, aut vastet quisquam persequendo alium gravius quam cor suum vastat inimicando.

I understand this as:

As if, indeed, someone should think an enemy more pernicious than the very hatred by which he's irritated with him...

But if that's correct, I would have expected the masculine accusative perniciosiorem, instead of the neuter perniciosius.

What am I missing?

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1 Answer 1

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Formally, perniciosius can be either a comparative adverb or a comparative adjective in the nom./acc. sg. neuter. Syntactically the neuter seems to fit better here:

as if he might think any enemy to be a more pernicious thing than the very hatred...

The adverbial reading seems to work less well -- it would mean "as if he might feel any enemy more perniciously than...", but it's not clear to me what that means and sentio doesn't generally seem to take human objects in this way.

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  • +1, but is it common to use n. sing. in that way, as opposed to the plural? If so, is that late Latin?
    – Rafael
    Oct 26, 2021 at 10:17
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    @Rafael "Varium et mutabile semper femina" was fine with Vergil. It's not very common but it is certainly classical. The meaning is different in the two numbers: a singular neuter is a single object, a plural one is closer to a continuous mass.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 26, 2021 at 10:29

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