Haury's translation of the dedication of "Le Petit Prince" begins like this:

Pueros oro ut mihi ignoscant quod librum hunc ad adultum hominem inscripserim.

I don't get why we have a subjunctive in the causal clause since in Allen and Greenough's Latin Grammar, one can read:

The Causal particles quod and quia take the indicative, when the reason is given on the authority of the writer or speaker; the subjunctive, when the reason is given on the authority of another.

I would have expected:

Pueros oro ut mihi ignoscant quod librum hunc ad adultum hominem inscripsi.

  • 3
    I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that ignoscant is already subjunctive: it would be very weird to have an indicative verb in a clause that is subordinate to one with a subjunctive verb, though I can't quite justify that intuition with a grammar reference. See Plautus, though: "...ut istuc insipienter factum sapienter feras, mihique ignoscas quod animi impos vini vitio fecerim."
    – brianpck
    Sep 7, 2022 at 22:19
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    Two examples from Cicero seem to bear this out: (1) indicatives: "quod non fecisti, ignosco"; (2) subjunctives: " id velim mihi ignoscas quod invita socru tua fecerim."
    – brianpck
    Sep 7, 2022 at 22:23
  • @brianpck: In Cicero's, "id velim mihi ignoscas quod invita socru tua fecerim" = "I would like you to forgive me this (id), because I did (this) to your unwilling mother-in-law.", why is "socru tua" in the ablative; not the dative, "socrui tuae", "I did this to..."?
    – tony
    Sep 8, 2022 at 10:55
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    @tony I read it as an ablative absolute. Assuming it has concessive force: "...that I did this though your mother-in-law was unwilling."
    – brianpck
    Sep 8, 2022 at 12:15
  • @Laravel: You might be interested in this answer from Vegwatcher: latin.stackexchange.com/a/18539/1982.
    – tony
    Sep 17, 2022 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


This quod is best seen as a relative pronoun with implicit antecedent, or perhaps as a conjunction "that", not "because": "I beg children to forgive me for the fact that I have dedicated this book to an adult man".

I believe finite clauses dependent on indirect speech are often, but not necessarily, in the subjunctive: I think I once wrote a little paper about this, concluding, "it varies", I think by period, but even within the work of the same author. The conjunction ut can be said to introduce indirect speech here, and the quod clause depends upon it. So I am not too surprised to see the subjunctive.

Brian has given an example in the comments above that seems similar, with the subjunctive, by Plautus:

obsecro te...ut...mihi...ignoscas quod animi impos vini vitio fecerim. — Plautus, Truculentus 4.3.54.

There is also this example from Cicero, with the indicative:

velim mihi ignoscas, quod ad te scribo tam multa toties" — Cicero, Ad Atticum, VII.12.3.

  • I read that Plautus' Latin was a bit archaic and should not be taken as a model, but maybe I'm remembering wrong. Thanks for the references
    – user11281
    Sep 8, 2022 at 8:30
  • @Cerberus: Is your paper available on the net?
    – tony
    Sep 9, 2022 at 14:59
  • @tony: Ah, no, I just wrote it at university in some Tacitus course, I think.
    – Cerberus
    Sep 9, 2022 at 15:11

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