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On p270 of Keller's Learn to Read Latin

The present infinitive of the active periphrastic is also used as the future active infinitive of the verb. Thus, for example, rectirus, -a, -um esse may be identified as the present infinitive of the active periphrastic of rego or the future active infinitive of rego.

Are the present infinitive of the active periphrastic and the future active infinitive of the verb the same concept? Can one be used wherever the other is?

My understanding about the concept "periphrastic" is just a compound form of a word, if I am correct.

Are the present infinitive of the passive periphrastic is also used as the future passive infinitive of the verb?

Thanks.

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2 Answers 2

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Basically, yes. But that terminology is highly confusing, in my opinion.

In the terminology I'm used to, the periphrastic future goes like recturus sum, "I will rule". Its infinitival form is obviously recturus esse. It is only active, there is no passive.

The normal future is regam. Latin has no real future infinitive, so the infinitive from the periphrastic future is used, recturus esse.

This should be little surprise, because the periphrastic future is often used with the same meaning as the normal future; it can substituted for a normal future when a subjunctive is required, which the normal future does not have, or when there is some other reason why the normal future cannot be used, e.g. Oedipus natus est Iocasta, quam postea nupturus erat: "Oedipus was born to Jocasta, whom he would later wed". It is true that the participle recturus can have a specific shade of meaning, like about to rule; but in the periphrastic construction, as often as not, it has no specific meaning other than future.

The normal future can be made passive without problem, regar. But the periphrastic future cannot, because neither the future participle recturus nor the verb esse have passive forms. And this is very rarely 'needed' anyway: it would be very rare if it existed.

There is, however, some need for a passive future infinitive, because the normal future has no passive infinitive. So a special, passive kind of periphrastic future infinitive is normally used: rectum iri. Perhaps this iri may be from eo "go", which normally doesn't have any passive infinitive, but I don't know about that.

Rectum is the first supine: it does not agree with anything, it is always this form. So dicit reginam necatum iri: he says that the queen will be killed. Regina dicitur necatum iri: it is said that the queen will be killed.

Regendus is a gerundive. It is a passive verbal form, and it is somewhat like a participle in meaning, which is why I have occasionally heard it described as the future passive participle: but that is not its normal name, and its meaning is more specific than indicating mere future. It has strong modal connotations of obligation or weak possibility: "which must be ruled" or "which can be ruled", not "which will be ruled".

In some contexts, this difference in meaning is slight or zero, which is why you could possibly use regendus esse for a kind of passive future infinitive, sometimes. It would then of course be called periphrastic, because it is composed of two words 'circumscribing' and supplanting a form that doesn't actually exist (the future passive infinitive).

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  • I also learned that iri comes from eo, ire. Given the existence of passive intransitive in Latin, is there a reason to doubt that derivation?
    – cmw
    May 14, 2023 at 6:30
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    @cmw Like cmw, I'm curious about the reason of your doubts (cf. above: "Perhaps this iri may be from eo "go", which normally doesn't have any passive infinitive, but I don't know about that"). It seems quite clear that iri is an impersonal passive of the verb eo. In my opinion, what can be said to be debatable is its grammaticalization degree when used periphrastically (e.g. necatum iri) but not its existence.
    – Mitomino
    May 14, 2023 at 15:31
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    @Cerberus As for "regendus is a gerundive. It is a passive verbal form, and it is somewhat like a participle in meaning, which is why I have occasionally heard it described as the future passive participle", it's useful to remind these words from Pinkster's (2015) OLS: “The gerundive (...) was indeed described as a future passive participle by Latin grammarians but was not used as such before the third century AD" (p. 62); "interpretation of a gerundive as passive or (more frequently) active depends on contextual and sometimes on extralinguistic information" (p.295-bold mine: Mitomino).
    – Mitomino
    May 14, 2023 at 15:44
  • @Mitomino: Oh, well, it's just that I don't remember ever reading about it, nor did I look it up, so I didn't want to assume. Who knows, it could have been from some archaic form of esse. But, yeah, passive forms of eo are common enough in impersonal usage. If both of you have learned that it is indeed from eo, then I have now learned this too.
    – Cerberus
    May 14, 2023 at 15:48
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    @Mitomino fascinating paper. The concept of oblique subjects and nominative objects will take me some time to internalize. May 16, 2023 at 21:38
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The active (or first) periphrastic conjugation denotes a future or intended action. It competes with the normal future tense, which also denotes future actions, but generally does not have the connotation of present intention or immediacy (something being “about to happen”). The distinction is often subtle.

Except that the ordinary future tense lacks some things the other tenses have: It has no subjunctive, and, more importantly, no infinitive. So if you need a future infinitive, and it turns out you need that pretty often, then you use the infinitive of the active periphrastic instead.

Practical example: I'll go to Rome.

  • Me: Romam ibo.
  • But I could also say: Romam iturus sum. (But it has more the connotation of “I'm about to go to Rome, I intend to go to Rome.”)
  • Someone quoting me: (has no other option than to say) Sebastianus dixit Romam sese iturum esse.

With this in mind, I think you will agree that “Can one be used wherever the other is?” is not answerable: There is only one, the other doesn't exist.

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