Can I use a gerundive like I would use an adjective as in the following example? It sounds fine to me, but I am somewhat suspicious; my intuition has failed before.

Infans lavandus clamabat.
The child that was supposed to take bath cried.

Urbs nobis capienda militiam novam paraverat.
The city which we were supposed to capture had acquired a new army.

This kind of use would make perfect sense to me. Participles can be used this way — often, at least — and I do not see the gerundive as any less of an adjective than a participle. However, my grammar does not mention this kind of use.

My grammar (Tuomo Pekkanen's Ars grammatica) has a title "Gerundive as attribute", but in all examples of the section the gerundive is used together with a noun modified by it — semantically an object. These are his examples:

spes urbis capiendae (also gerund urbem capiendi is possible)
in libertatem defendendam
legibus scribendis (also gerund leges scribendo is possible)
libro legendo


Certainly. Allen and Greenough sec. 500:

The gerundive is sometimes used, like the present and perfect participles, in simple agreement with a noun:—

fortem et cōnservandum virum (Mil. 104), a brave man, and worthy to be preserved.

gravis iniūria facta est et nōn ferenda (Flacc. 84), a grave and intolerable wrong has been done.

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    Cf. the common combination ius iurandum, often even written attached. – Cerberus Oct 23 '18 at 1:19

Quite probably, your invented examples Infans lavandus clamabat and Urbs nobis capienda militiam novam paraverat would sound quite odd to a native speaker of Latin.

Note that the attributive use of verbal adjectives in -nd- was very restricted in Latin. As pointed out by Pinkster (2015: 998), "the attributive use of gerundives is almost entirely restricted to those that are derived from verbs denoting a personal evaluation (especially, the 'verba afectuum'). So one finds contemnendus, laudandus, mirandus, but not aedificandus". Note that your invented examples do not fall under this category, unlike the ones from A&G reported by TKR. (Joonas, in case you have access to the following book: Aalto, P. (1949). Untersuchungen über das lateinische Gerundium und Gerundivum. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, a list of attributively used gerundives can be found on pages 102-103). According to Vester (1991: 306-307), the adjectival nature of gerundives is basically reduced to the attributive use, which is quite limited (it is only a bit productive in classical poetry). Putting this restricted attributive use aside, Vester (1991: 307) concludes "the gerundive then hardly shows prototypically adjectival behaviour, probably because its semantic content denotes action or process."

Furthermore, it is also worth pointing out that, in striking contrast to participles (cf. patria expulsus fugit / puer flens abiit), the subject predicative use of gerundives was also (generally: see my relevant remark below) excluded. E.g., see Vester (1991: 302): "it is at least clear that the gerundive does not occur as a Praedicativum in the nominative case, i.e., in agreement with the Subject"). Cf. the well-formation of the so-called "Subject complement" use of gerundive (e.g., Epistula est scribenda).

According to Vester (1991: 302), "the only function in which there seems to be a real parallelism (sc. between participles and gerundives: Mitomino) is the dominant construction". However, even this parallelism, when examined in detail, is nicely shown by Vester to be illusory: for example, according to her, gerundives do not enter into (true) ablative absolute constructions. She makes the very important observation that an identity/coreferentiality between the first argument of the gerundive and the first argument of the main predication is required in gerundives but not in perfect participles. For relevant discussion, see this post.

Let me make a couple of relevant remarks. I think that Vester's generalization that "the gerundive does not occur as a Praedicativum in the nominative case" is essentially (and, indeed, intriguingly!) correct except for those cases that involve a passivization of the so-called 'object complement"/predicative use: e.g., Sicilia quae mihi defendenda tradita est (Cic. Ver. 5.188).

Finally, please note that your second invented example is doubly ill-formed: not only because of the first reason mentioned above but also because a "dative of agent" (nobis) is not possible in this non-verbal context (again in striking contrast with ablatives of agent with perfect participles: urbs a nobis capta militiam novam paraverat). For related discussion on datives of agent in non-verbal contexts, please see this post.


Pinkster, H. (2015). The Oxford Latin Syntax. Vol. I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vester, E. (1991). "Reflections on the gerund and gerundive". In Robert Coleman (ed.). New Studies in Latin Linguistics. 295-310. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

PS: I'm sorry if you find the grammatical terminology used above a bit confusing (e.g., cf. "attribute", "subject complement", "object complement", "praedicativum", etc). Pace Pinkster, Vester, and other functionalist linguists, I do also find it misleading. Fortunately, in my country (Catalonia) we do not use it.

  • What exactly is meant by a "non-verbal context" in "...but also because a "dative-of-agent" (nobis) is not possible in this non-verbal context..."? Your correction of Joonas's example: "urbs a nobis capta …" using perfect participle passive, "capta" = "having been captured". Joonas is attempting to say "...which we were supposed to capture..."--it is still to be done--hence, "capienda". What is happening here? I often find your material to be something of a trial of understanding; nevertheless, I enjoy the mental gymnastics. – tony Jun 12 '20 at 12:16
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    @tony So-called "datives-of-agent" cannot be found in examples where no verb is involved. Note that in Latin grammars "datives of agent" always appear with verbs (typically, the verb esse. That's why the so-called "dative of agent" can basically be regarded as an extension of a "dative of possession". But this is a story for a different question...). Furthermore, note that capienda in Joonas's example cannot be understood as an attribute (see Pinkster's point above on the restricted class of gerundives used as attributes) nor as a praedicativum (see Vester's point above). – Mitomino Jun 13 '20 at 0:19
  • Thank you. I understand Pinkster's "personal-evaluation" test. Sadly, it is still not clear why a change-of-tense was invoked in correcting from "capienda" to "capta", in Joonas's example. Vester (gerundives do not enter into "true" ablative absolutes [AAs]); you once said that one person's AA is not another's. A "true" AA is "in the eye of the beholder"? – tony Jun 16 '20 at 9:15
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    @tony Joonas's example Urbs capienda militiam novam paraverat sounds odd. Please note that this oddness accords well with (or at least is expected given) Pinkster's (2015) well-known empirical observations above, which I agree with you can be regarded as a (correct) "statement" rather than a (true/deep) "explanation" of facts. So your question is indeed very appropriate: why is urbs capta militiam novam paraverat fully well-formed, whereas urbs capienda militiam novam paraverat is not? Please feel free to raise/post your very interesting question as an independent one. – Mitomino Jun 16 '20 at 18:34

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