The verb sound in English sometimes acts copulative. The definition of this sense in Merriam–Webster's dictionary is

to make or convey an impression especially when heard
// it sounds good to me
// you sound just like your mother

A similar verb in English is seem, which is translated as videri in Latin. However I don't know if audiri, by analogy, can be used for to sound. Sonare doesn't seem to have this sense either.

In French, avoir l'air "to have the appearance" is used for both to seem and to sound. Are there any expression for this sense exclusively?

1 Answer 1


Interesting question! You are right when saying that the English verb sound appears to act as a "sensory copula" in some examples (e.g. 'it sounds good'; cf. the same use with other verbs: 'She looks pretty', 'It feels soft', i.a.). Similarly (but not identically), the Latin verbs sonare and audire are sometimes used with an obligatory praedicativum (aka 'subject complement'), typically in poetry. A brief treatment of the copular use of these two verbs can be found in an appendix of Section 4.97 "Copular verbs" from Pinkster (2015: 209). The Oxford Latin Syntax (vol. 1), where this copulative usage is attributed to Greek influence, with the meaning ‘to be called’, ‘to be spoken of (as)' (cf. Gr. ἀκούω).

invictus...tua, Caesar, in urbe sonas (Mart. 7.6.8) ‘in thy city, Caesar, thou art proclaimed Unconquered.’ (Loeb transl.)

Felix alius magnusque sonet (Sen. Her. O. 692) 'Let another be spoken of as blest and great.' (cf. Loeb transl.: 'Let another be noised abroad as blest and great')

rexque paterque / audisti coram, nec verbo parcius absens (Hor. Ep. 1.7.37–8) 'and you have been called "king" and "father" to your face, nor do I stint my words behind your back.' (Loeb transl.)

ipse subtilis veterum iudex et callidus audis (Hor. S. 2.7.101) 'you are called a "fine and expert critic of antiques".' (Loeb transl.)

Cassus ne sacerdos audior? (Stat. Theb. 4.504). 'Am I, the priest, heard for nothing?' (Loeb transl.)

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