As I understand it:

  • the reflexive pronoun is used when the object of a sentence relates to the subject e.g. puer cor suum sequitur - the boy follows his (own) heart.

  • to convey a meaning of obligation, latin uses gerundive + esse construction. Since this is passive, the subject in latin is what would be the object in english, and the thing that is being obliged takes the dative e.g. pons puero transendus est - the bridge is to be crossed by the boy i.e. the boy must cross the bridge.

  • I am now getting a bit confused if I combine these two principles. How would I say something like "the boy must follow his (own) heart"? Is "cor suum puero sequendum est" correct, since cor suum is the subject, can I use suum (what is it reflexive of)? If not, how else can I write this? Could I change puero to puero ipsi?

Any help/advice is greatly appreciated!

  • 4
    Interesting question! There is a construction in Latin suum cuique (to everyone his own). it shows that the suus is not necessarily bound to the grammatical subject. In the corpus, there is even one example with the gerund: suum cuique incommodum ferendum est potius quam de alterius commodis detrahendum. But actually, unsure the cuique is the dative for the gerund; So the point in this comment is not that suum cuique is an option, but rather that suum may be perhaps used more freely.
    – d_e
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 9:59
  • 2
    Feels uncomfortable to me (but then Latin isn’t my 1st language). I’d be happier with oportet + infinitive. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


Suus rex omni reginae placet to quote Plautus, "Every queen likes her own king." The first year Latin textbooks won't teach this to students, because then they'd all wind up overusing se and suus instead of the more idiomatic is, hic, ille, iste, and so on. But it's important to remember that the subject that se refers to need not necessarily be the grammatical subject, although it usually is.

All of which is to say that cor suum puero sequendum est sounds right to me, so long as puero really is the logical (as opposed to grammatical) subject of the sentence.

  • 3
    I think you're spot on in saying this isn't the most idiomatic way. I think the Romans would have actually just left suum off here. It's necessary in Plautus (which king?), but here it's obvious that the heart belongs to the puer.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 18:23
  • @cmw Doing that would sort of sidestep the OP's question, but then, maybe sidestepping it (in this case) is the way to go. Why not make this into a question? You've already got my upvote.
    – Figulus
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 3:10
  • 1
    I'm not sure it's enough as an answer on its own, but feel free to incorporate that into your own answer. Or it can stand as a comment until I get around to writing something up. Either way is good.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 4:19

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