Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata Familia Romana Page 82 Annotated

What is the syntax of "Aemilia nōn putat medicum puerum aegrum sānāre posse."?

I cannot understand the agreement of "medicum puerum aegrum sānāre posse.".


1 Answer 1


It is indirect speech (oratio obliqua), reporting the words or thoughts of a person without directly quoting them. In this case, this happens through an Accusativus cum infinitivo (AcI) construction. In this construction the verb is an infinitive, and the subject stands in the accusative. In direct speech it would be:

Aemilia putat: "Medicus non potest puerum aegrum sanare."

(Cue logici complaining I moved the negation to the inner sentence, which technically changes the meaning subtly, but this is the most natural reading in my opinion -- just like in English "I don't believe he's coming" often really means "I believe he's not coming.")

Now, since the subject is in the accusative, but the accusative object, if any, is also in the accusative, we technically cannot tell which is which (as was discussed on this website previously). So in theory your sentence could also be read as puer aeger non potest medicum sanare (or even: puer non potest medicum aegrum sanare), but that makes no sense. Doctors cure boys (or not, according to Aemilia), but boys do not tend to cure doctors. Plus, there is of course the context, which tells us that Aemilia's son is sick, that a doctor is giving advice, etc.

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