Consider the following line from the Aeneid, Book VI:

nec credere quivi hunc tantum tibi me discessu ferre dolorem.

Context: Aeneas has traveled into the underworld, and bumps into Dido, who he infers has committed suicide because of his departure.

My best literal translation is: "I couldn't believe this, my leaving, to bring unto you such pain," because I think that me discessu (for me to leave) stands in apposition with hunc. But I'm not sure whether supine verbs can have a subject argument.

So, generally, can an ablative clause formed from a supine verb have nouns corresponding to the base verb's subject or object?

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    I would discessu interpret here as a participle, and part of an ablativus absolutus with me -> because I left. Your question is still valid though.
    – piscator
    Nov 19, 2016 at 19:30

2 Answers 2


Looking at it, I don't think me is ablative; it's more likely an accusative as the subject of an indirect statement with credere. Discessu here is not a supine, but a fourth-declension noun, discessus.

The translated line should actually be:

Nor did I believe that I in my departure would ever have caused you so much pain.

(Apologies for the tenses.)

All the grammars are clear that the ablative supine does not take an object of any kind. The hunc then probably goes with tantum dolorem in a way that can't be literally translated into English without extra words.


I checked two nineteenth-century interlinears to see if they could shed light on it. Hart/Osborn's is very nearly the same as mine, while Dewey's differs only in the translation of hunc.

  • Great to share interpretations here, thanks! me as an accusative in an indirect statement is possible from a grammatical perspective, but the positioning of the words (me discessu) as a group are in favor of an ablativus absolutus. You translate me discessu as my departure. How is this possessive aspect shown in the Latin? If me is an accusative, I would translate discessu as "by going away". But it would seem farfetched to me.
    – piscator
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:15
  • @piscator No, I translate discessu as "in my departure" with me being "I". That part has to be the case, otherwise there is no subject of ferre. me as an ablative also cannot be apposite to hunc, as they're different cases.
    – cmw
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:20
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    @piscator Ah, sorry, I misunderstood your post then. The problem becomes another, then, as discessu (with a -u) cannot be a regular perfect participle. This is going off your comment that "me discessu is an ablative clause." Were that the case, you would have seen me discesso along with a very different (sc. passive) meaning!
    – cmw
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:49
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    You are right, it can not be an ablative absoute, "by going away" is correct. Thanks!
    – piscator
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:59
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    @jlovegren: It may help to keep in mind that the supine is (from) a kind of substantive noun: it's not an adjective and it cannot agree with a noun. It is its case that conexes it with other nouns or adjectives, not agreement. (I agree with Weimer.)
    – Cerberus
    Nov 20, 2016 at 17:48

The second supine (ending with -u) can only be combined with adjectives, or with fas and nefas. Examples:

  • iucundum cognitu atque auditu
  • nefas est dictu

A second supine verb never has an object, but it can have a subject, for example pleraque faciliora sunt dictu quam factu.

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