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I am doing a lesson and the sentence and caption is as follows:

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Robustus est quia exercetur.

Which seems intended to mean "He is strong because he trains." However, I don't understand why they would put exercetur in the passive voice. I would have expected exercet, the active voice. Is there some non-standard use of the passive here?

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In English exercise doesn't change if it's used transitively or intransitively, but that's not the case for the Latin word it comes from. As Lewis and Short (and I'm sure other dictionaries) say, exerceo in the active means 'to exercise something,' whereas in the passive and used intransitively it means 'to exercise, practice, or train [oneself].'

Therefore if you had exercet, you would expect an object. See e.g. the first Cicero passage listed:

me adolescentem multos annos...[Hortensius] exercuit, Cic. Brut. 64, 230

Hortensius trained adolescent me for many years...

In your sentence, exerceo doesn't have an object or an agent, so you can assume it's being used in this intransitive sense, which is often called the 'middle voice.' Otherwise you might see se as an object of exercet, 'to exercise [oneself].'

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  • Thanks, incidentally how is multos annos "for many years"? I would have expected "in multis annis" or something like that. Nov 14 '21 at 16:35
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    @TylerDurden It's called the accusative of duration (or acc. of time). No prepositions are necessary for it, though you will sometimes see per: dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/expressions-time
    – cmw
    Nov 14 '21 at 18:02

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