I am to translate the following sentence into Latin:

The king told Fabricius that he would give him a fourth part of the kingdom.

I did it as follows:

Rex Fabricium dixit se velle dare quartam partem regni.

I'm not sure about using a complementary infinitive to an infinitive in indirect speech so I am wondering if this is a good translation or if maybe some kind of subjunctive construction might be better.


  • 2
    The 'would' in the English there is part of the grammatical construction (direct: he will give, indirect: he would give). It's not being used here to describe wanting (for example in the archaic English I would speak with him for I want to speak with him).
    – dbmag9
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


Joonas gives a good translation, but I feel it does not answer the actual question here; to wit, is it allowed or good style to use “a complementary infinitive to an infinitive in indirect speech”? And the answer is: Yes, this is perfectly fine.

See for example Caesar: Bellum Gallicum 1, 34:

Quam ob rem placuit ei ut ad Ariovistum legatos mitteret, qui ab eo postularent uti aliquem locum medium utrisque conloquio deligeret: velle sese de re publica et summis utriusque rebus cum eo agere. Ei legationi Ariovistus respondit: si quid ipsi a Caesare opus esset, sese ad eum venturum fuisse; si quid ille se velit, illum ad se venire oportere. Praeterea se neque sine exercitu in eas partes Galliae venire audere quas Caesar possideret, neque exercitum sine magno commeatu atque molimento in unum locum contrahere posse.

  • 3
    +1! This leads to the question: How many infinitives did the Romans stack at most? Do we have something like dixit se velle posse audere venire? (This needs a separate question.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:29
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Having read everything I still don't know why Joonas's answer "does not answer the actual question". Unless. looking at JC, you want to say,"he would be able to give". There doesn't appear to be a future-infinitive for "possum". Therefore it's the present-as-future: "rex Fabricio dixit se ei quartum partem regni dare posse." = "The King told Fabricius that he would be able to give him....". Is this it? Are you going to ask a new question?
    – tony
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 12:44
  • 1
    @tony the OP had neither the future tense in mind, nor "being able," just "wanting to give." And by the way, I am no expert on English grammar, but isn't that a valid (if unusual) interpretation of the original sentence too? Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 15:44
  • 1
    @tony As I said in my updated answer, it depends on how you interpret the original. Both options are valid Latin but they mean different things. Context will determine what is correct. Perhaps Sebastian's reading is indeed more likely to be accurate than mine, but speculating too far is pointless without actual context. (If you are commenting about my answer, consider leaving your comment under it instead of another one.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 10:51
  • 1
    @tony The point of this question, as I understood it, was whether stacked infinitives are allowed, and I wanted to clarify that they are indeed (and are, in fact, quite common). I do think that Joonas' translation is the likelier reading of the English original, but it sidesteps this core question. Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 19:54

Some thoughts:

  1. The name Fabricius should be in the dative case. In English you tell someone, in Latin you tell to someone.

  2. Your translation includes velle, so you are saying more that the king wants to give the thing instead of him going to give it. In my reading of the original English, the word "would" refers to a future time from the time of saying, not to desire. Therefore I would get rid of velle and replace it with something of future nature.

  3. While regnum can mean "kingdom", my first impression would be more in the direction of "(royal) authority" or "kingship". I can't think of a better word, but this nuance of meaning is good to keep in mind in case you might want to dispel misunderstandings of a certain type. All options I could think of (imperium, sceptrum) suffer from the same problem. If you want to be careful, a wording in the direction of "a quarter of the land of the kingdom" might be safer.

  4. Se/suus usually refers to the subject of the governing clause (the king) and is to another party (Fabricius). I would add the dative ei to underline that the gift is going to be made to Fabricius.

  5. Using accusative with infinitive is good here. Due to point 2 I would shift to a future infinitive.

Based on these, one option would be:

Rex Fabricio dixit se ei quartam partem regni daturum esse.

Whether a future participle should be used depends on the exact interpretation of the English original. The saying happened in the past from now. Does the alleged giving happen at the time of the saying or after it? I took it to happen after, and Sebastian took it to happen at the time. I read "would" to have a future tone like this.

It is common that different languages have different degrees of explicitness. In Latin you have to make a very visible choice between a future and a present infinitive, whereas in English it seems to be more vague. If you are translating a sentence in isolation, you have to choose some things in the Latin that are not determined by the English. If it is not in isolation, then the context will inform the translation.

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