I read online (I'm sorry, I can't remember where) that if two adjectives refer to the same noun, you have to use a conjunction like "et" or "-que".

Socrates sapiens senex vir est. (incorrect)

Socrates sapiens senexque vir est. (correct)

Is this true? If so, is it only classical or in all Latin styles?

I remember reading "integrum inlaesum" in a letter by Pline.

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    ? Sapiens senex vir is acceptable on the verge if senex vir is taken as a whole. Since senex may be substantivized, sapiens senex would be said instead, the AP being directly dominated by DP (instead of implying a silent N head <vir>). Note that here, the two As would not be juxtaposed, but embedded; so this does not contradict the rule. Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


The rule you read is essentially correct, but:

  1. It applies only to pairs of words, not to longer lists. If three or more elements are combined, the asyndeton (no conjunctions) is used, or conjunctions are used with every member, or the last member has a -que. Your example from Pliny is an example of the latter: corpus inventum integrum inlaesum opertumque (Plin. ep. 6, 16) 1)

  2. There are some exceptions: If an adjective modifies a noun to express not just a property of the thing, but essentially a particular type of thing, and then that expression is modified by another adjective, there is no et. An obvious example: navis longa is usually not a ship that happens to be long, it's a warship; so we say: navis longa vetus (an old warship). But also for example columna aurea solida. It's like in English you don't wish somebody “a happy and new year.” Note that while numerals are formally adjectives, they are not combined with et, e.g. tres fortes viri, but very frequently you see e.g. multi et fortes viri. There are also some fixed expressions like Iuppiter optimus maximus.

1) This is a very famous letter by the way: Pliny the Younger writing to Tacitus, describing the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, during the volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii.

  • Excellent answer. This is really as in French, un gros et hideux bonhomme vs un gros hideux bonhomme. You can say pulchra navis longa because navis longa is taken as a whole, longa being determinative and thus, located after the N. But aside from such cases, you need to coordinate the last two terms. In English, I believe it is somehow easier to say a fat ugly man. Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 22:46
  • @VincentKrebs That's strange to my ears. I would always say 'an ugly fat man', and there's a "rule" for it, too: theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/…
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 1:00
  • @cmw Ok well, I'm not native but anyway, substantially it doesn't change anything, i.e. juxtaposition and embedding should not be mixed up. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 1:12
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    @VincentKrebs Oh, I was only commenting on just that last sentence, not anything before it.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 1:18
  • @cmw Sure :) Thanks for the link. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 2:06

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