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I have a friend who amazingly makes whatever she wants to have happen in life, happen—regardless of how impossible the feat may seem. I want to work out a translation for her own slogan, something similar to "I do what I want." Figuring out this Latin translation has led me down a path of wanting to understand what are the parts involved in making this work, properly, grammatically in Latin.

Here is my question (one that can be answered): Take this phrase "Facio quod volo" which I came up with after much deliberation and playing with translation software. Then software tells me that this is saying that in fact translates to "I do what I want," but am I missing something? Is it backwards?

More specifically, what is the difference between "Quid me vis facere" and "Facio quod volo"? Do either of them even remotely resemble a properly written phrase?

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    Quid me vis facere means "What do you want me to do?" – C. M. Weimer Dec 15 '16 at 1:50
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I would venture to suggest an emendation of your first option:

Facio quod velim.

Or, to amend the order in a way that sounds more fluent to my ear:

Quod velim facio.

The difference is that velim is in the subjunctive. Why? Because the relative clause is not talking about "this thing that I want," but rather "whatever I want." The difference is subtle, but Latin cares about it.

Here are some nearly equivalent examples from the gold standard of Latin prose:

...datque eam libertatem ut quod velint faciant (Cicero, Pro Plancio 16.4)

...and it gives [them] the freedom to do what they want.

(I was going to crop the following passage but it was too good...)

Locus autem communis in eius malitiam, qui non modo rerum, verum etiam verborum potestatem sibi arrogare conatus et faciat, quod velit, et id, quod fecerit, quo velit nomine appellet. (Cicero, De Inventione 2.55.9)

There is, however, a common thread in his evildoing: trying to usurp power not only over things but also over words, he does what he wants and calls what he has done by whatever name he pleases.

As a contrast, here is an example with the indicative, which is talking about "this particular thing that I want to do":

Acanthio: Quid vis faciam? Charinus. Tun? id quod volo. (Plautus, Mercator 158)

Ac: What do you want me to do? Ch: What I want.

Here, they are talking about a specific action: Charinus is not telling Acanthio that he must do, from henceforwrad, "whatever he wants."

  • I actually don't think the subjunctive is needed here. In your Cicero examples the verb depends on another subjunctive, so is necessarily subjunctive ("subjunctive by attraction"). But see A&G on "conditional relative clauses" -- it seems to me that this would be equivalent to a simple present Si quid volo, id facio, and thus indicative. – TKR Dec 15 '16 at 18:58
  • I don't have anything particular backing me up at the very moment, but I will say that velim also sounds more natural to my ears. I'll look around and maybe delete this comment if I can't find anything to support that. – C. M. Weimer Dec 17 '16 at 19:37
  • I think the choice is between Faciam quod velim (equivalent of a future less vivid condition, "I would do what I wanted") and Facio quod volo (equivalent of a simple present, "I do what I want"). The fact that quod is translatable as "whatever" doesn't in itself trigger a subjunctive -- see the examples in A&G, or the famous line Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (not Quidquid id sit). – TKR Dec 17 '16 at 23:13
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    @TKR Great points...let me do some further digging when I have time (i.e. not now) and defend/amend as appropriate. – brianpck Dec 17 '16 at 23:27
  • @brianpck Did you really mean to write prosody? I wouldn't have said that your examples are exactly metrical! – Tom Cotton Dec 18 '16 at 12:18
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The latter of those translations is correct. You could also use ago, instead of facio, as well.

Ago/Facio quod volo.

If we were to break down the former translation, it would mean something like "What do you want to make me(?)," which is not what you are looking for. Facio quod volo literally translates to "I do that which I want," which is what you are looking for. Please let me know if you have any more questions on grammar and such.

  • To me agō sounds more poetic than faciō, so perhaps better for a slogan. – Draconis Dec 15 '16 at 7:50
  • @Draconis I don't think ago would be appropriate in this context, but I could be wrong. – brianpck Dec 15 '16 at 15:16
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Quid me vis facere litteraly means: "What do you want me to do?". This isn't the slogan you are looking for.

Facio quod volo litteraly means: "I do that which I want". The sentence you were looking for, but if you're looking in ancient latin, the use of Facio isn't 100% right. You could better use the verb agere then facere. The difference of the meaning between those two is, as quoted from Reddit:

agere: acting, as part of some continued behaviour;

facere: do or effect, of some singular, countable or determinative act.

The difference can be illustrated by looking at phrases such as navem agere "to steer a ship" (an atelic, continued activity) as opposed to fidem facere "evince" (a telic and singular act). An iter can either be factum or actum (iter facere or iter agere), and Cicero uses both, and the distinction accords with the difference between completing a march and simply marching. As for the different between aio and dico, maybe someone can correct me, but I think the two primary differences are: aio often (although not always or even usually) introduces direct speech, which dico doesn't aio means to affirm, assent, confirm, or agree to something (and is often opposed to nego). dico just means to speak (L&S say "speak in order to inform").

Maybe it's even better to replace the verb volo with velim.

Also, it should be better to replace quod with (sic)ut.

In a slogan (where you want to use it for), is the best translation:

Ago ut velim!

  • +1. Reddit doesn't sound like a very reliable source, but I agree with the content and conclusion here: ago is at least a very good alternative to facio. And it's important to notice that the English "to do" and the Latin facere seem to have slightly different tones. With agere I would consider using (sic)ut instead of quod: "I do as I want!" Ago ut velim! – Joonas Ilmavirta Dec 18 '16 at 21:38
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Thanks for the info Joonas, I optimised my answer. – L. Peters Dec 18 '16 at 23:26
  • I've never seen sicut used with the subjunctive in this way. Do you have examples of this? – brianpck Dec 19 '16 at 2:23
  • @brianpck I used it with its meaning as (so I do as I want). Par exemple: Sicut piscis natat (he swims like a fish). or: Ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos. (Love one another, as I have loved you). – L. Peters Dec 19 '16 at 16:36
  • @L.Peters Exactly, but my point was that I've only seen sicut used with the indicative, e.g. ago sicut volo. – brianpck Dec 19 '16 at 16:48
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A too-strict attempt to apply the codified grammatical rules from a text-book can make translation into Latin more difficult than it need be.

FROM a Latin text the intention is (except in trivial cases) already there, and the translation should become obvious on reading. On the other hand, for putting a short phrase INTO Latin the actual context matters more than earlier answers/comments are allowing. This is evident from the emotional nuances which can be put into the English:

 — I want to do this           hoc facere volo
 — I should like to do this    hoc facere velim
 — I am going to do this       hoc faciam
 — I shall do this             faciam hoc
 — Let him do what he wants    faciat quicquid vult
 — I shall do what I want      faciam quod volo
 — I shall do what I choose    faciam quod voluero

— and so on.

In independent sentences the subjunctive in Latin can include shades of meaning to support the use of the would, could, might etc. of English. Other nuances may be indicated by word order as in, for instance, velim hoc facere, where the verb is strengthened by its position: I should certainly like to do this.

In the original question, facio quod volo is correctly and simply I do what I want. Quid me vis facere is a simple question, as in C. M. Weimer's comment: what do you want me to do?, which with a subjunctive becomes more polite quid me facere velis?, what would you like me to do?

Other possibilities and constructions are endless and depend on the circumstances, especially if the proposed action be included, e.g. what would you like me to have done? or is there something that you would like him to do?

As to the use of agere and facere, the former tends to mean get/have something done, or cause an action, whereas the latter more often implies something done by the subject.

  • Interesting information! Maybe you could be more specific in your answer, because you're giving a lot of useful info, but the question was: is the sentence Facio quod volo right and if not, what's wrong with it? You are giving a lot of info, but not a concrete answer. – L. Peters Dec 19 '16 at 16:08
  • @:L. Peters : I have added three paragraphs, including comment on the original question. Hope this is more helpful. – Tom Cotton Dec 19 '16 at 16:47

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