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In LLpsI 38:106:

Italia, ..., longō cursū abs tē dīviditur: prius circum Siciliam tibi nāvigandum est quam in illā terrā urbem condere poteris.

What is the role of quam here? If it is relative, what does it mean in its clause?

(btw. what is the noun for the gerundive nāvigandum here?)

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The quam is a conjunction, working with the comparative prius. Taken together, they are equivalent to the English conjunction "before." It's perhaps easier to see the meaning if we reorder the elements: Siciliam tibi navigandum est prius quam urbem condere poteris.

Navigandum est is neuter singular because it is an impersonal gerundive (A&G 500). That is, navigandum is not a true passive modifying any head noun. The action itself is obligatory. This usage is analogous to the impersonal "passive" with intransitive verbs in the indicative: ventum est, itur, pugnatur. However, even transitive verbs can be impersonal in the gerundive: nunc est bibendum ("now it's time to drink").

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  • What is the difference between "prius" = "before" and "prius" "quam" (written, annoyingly, as two words) = "before"?
    – tony
    Mar 2, 2022 at 16:44
  • @tony "prius" by itself is an adverb. "prius" plus "quam" is a conjunction. "Jim arrived earlier [in the day]" vs. "Jim arrived earlier than Bob [arrived]". Mar 3, 2022 at 0:02

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