Suppose we were to translate the English sentence into Attic Greek or Latin.

Do not fight your brother, lest you, who are smaller than him, be hurt.

You can see how the relative clause, "who are smaller than him", is nested inside a purpose clause. That purpose clause begins with the conjunction lest, and we know that the passive verb "be hurt" should be in the subjunctive.

But what mood should the verb of the relative clause be? I am tempted to say it should take the indicative mood, as it's indicating a simple fact. Is this correct? Furthermore, would the answer be the same in both Greek and Latin?

Here are my Greek and Latin translations. One style point I'm a little unsure about is whether the verb of the relative clause should be placed at the beginning or end of its clause.

Noli pugnare tuο fratri ne tu qui es parvior quam is noceris.

μὴ μάχου τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου ἵνα μὴ σὺ ὅς εἶ μικρότερος ἢ αὐτὸς βλάπτῃ.

  • Let me remind everyone that accepting Greek questions is our present policy, and it is also reflected in our help pages and tour.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:52
  • 2
    As a general (though not strict) rule, the verb in a relative clause goes at the end: qui parvior es. Latin tends to use fewer words when it can, so in this case I'd leave out quam is, or at the very least use the ablative instead of quam: qui eo parvior es. Jan 1, 2017 at 14:39
  • @JoelDerfner Thanks, Joel. That's great advice.
    – ktm5124
    Jan 1, 2017 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


Indicative seems to be correct for both languages. It's true that Latin has a so-called "subjunctive by attraction", whereby a verb in a subordinate clause that depends on a subjunctive will itself be subjunctive; but that probably wouldn't apply here. Gildersleeve and Lodge (sec. 629) give examples of the construction, but in all of them there is something semantically "subjunctive-y" about the action, e.g. it's generic or nonfactual, and they go on to say that the indicative is used "of individual facts", which should describe your example. Greek has no subjunctive by attraction, so indicative is the only choice.

A couple of unrelated points about your translations:

In the Latin, the verb noceo takes a dative object. This means it can't be normally passivized (except as an impersonal passive), since there's no direct accusative object. Personal passives of noceo are not completely unheard of, but L&S call them "very rare". If you want to use noceo, you'd have to work around this by using an active construction, e.g. ne tibi noceat.

In the Greek, τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου "your brother" is here reflexive, so the normal possessive would be τῷ σεαυτοῦ ἀδελφῷ. Smyth (sec. 1199d) says the reflexive use of σου is rare. Second, this sidesteps your original question, but the idiomatic way of expressing the "who are smaller than him" clause would be with a participle: μικρότερος ὢν αὐτοῦ.

  • Thanks for your answer, and for your comments about my translations.
    – ktm5124
    Dec 21, 2016 at 3:34
  • +1 for "μικρότερος ὢν." I have never seen "σὺ ὅς εἶ" and would even venture to call it incorrect.
    – brianpck
    Dec 21, 2016 at 16:02
  • @brianpck The phrase "σὺ ὅς εἶ" looked funny to me as well. How would you improve it? One idea is omitting σὺ and letting it be the implied antecedent. Another idea would be changing the word order of the clause, without removing any words, e.g. moving εἶ to the end of the relative clause.
    – ktm5124
    Dec 21, 2016 at 20:22
  • 2
    @ktm5124 I would do precisely what TKR suggested, i.e. replace with a participle.
    – brianpck
    Dec 21, 2016 at 20:51

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