How should the following sentence from Allen and Greenough 5.40 be parsed?

Rediit quodsē oblītum nesciō quid dīceret. ("He returned because he said that he forgot something.") --Cicero, De Oficiis 1.40

Literally, the middle clause seems to say "I do not know myself having forgotten", which I suppose is an idiom for forgetting? To say you "do not know yourself". But then how does the quid relate it to diceret? Is that the accusative singular pronoun refering to the clause as a whole, ie, "what he said". If so, then how do we infer "something". If I read it naively, nowhere do I see that he says he forgot "something", it just seems to say that he forgot without describing what he forgot (unless it is the quid that he forgot, in case shouldn't it be quidam--I forgot a certain thing?).

1 Answer 1


Nescio quid is an idiomatic phrase more or less equivalent to aliquid. The verb (nescio) has lost its syntactical function as a verb. Any good dictionary should provide examples under nescio.

This in mind, the sentence is quite easy to interpret: He returned because (rediit quod) he said (diceret) that he had forgot something (se oblitum nescio quid) – the last part being an ordinary accusativus cum infinitivo.

For the subjunctive diceret following quod, see Allen and Greenough § 540:

The Causal particles quod and quia take the indicative, when the reason is given on the authority of the writer or speaker; the subjunctive, when the reason is given on the authority of another.

  • 2
    That paragraph from A&G does of course not explain the subjunctive of diceret. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 15:48
  • I see, so the interpretation is "he said himself (to have forgotten) (I-know-not-what)"? Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 16:38
  • Also relevant for nescio quid
    – cnread
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 20:21
  • @SebastianKoppehel You are right! Thanks for pointing it out. But then what does explain it? Perhaps there is something in the larger context (the sentences before). Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 6:37

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