I'm writing a novel and at some point, the hero needs to make a sacrifice: "One must die for one to live." He has to chose between two people: only one will survive, the other one will die. (I'm being specific because Google translation thought I was talking about love.) Could you please help me translate this phrase please?

One must die for one to live.

Thank you!

3 Answers 3


One possibility:

necesse est alterum mori ut alter vivat.
It's necessary that one (of the two) die in order that the other live.

A variation:

ut alter vivat necesse est ut alter moriatur.
In order that one (of the two) may live, it's necessary that the other die.

  • 5
    Your first option sounds very natural, compared to the second one, which involves a marked simultaneous combination of two ut-clauses that are grammatically different.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Mar 25 at 18:33

Here's another, more concise option:

Alteri moriendum ut alter vivat.

This uses a different way of expressing "must" than cnread's translations, but means basically the same thing. You could also change the word order to Alteri moriendum ut vivat alter if you like the sound of that better -- Latin has lots of ways of expressing any given idea!

  • I agree that a relevant virtue of your option is that it is more concise than necesse est alterum mori ut alter vivat. However, a virtue of the latter is that it is not ambiguous compared to your option: grammatically speaking, alteri can be a dative of agent (intended reading) but could also be a beneficiary dative. Cf. the less classical construction Pugnandum habebam non imperatori tantum sed patri (Sen. Con. 10.2.4), which was probably used by Seneca to avoid the ambiguity of the more classical construction (Mihi) pugnandum erat non imperatori tantum sed patri.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Mar 25 at 17:49
  • 2
    I do like the chiasm in your second option.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 25 at 20:26
  • @Mitomino Syntactically ambiguous, perhaps, but what would alicui morior actually mean?
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 25 at 21:08
  • The ambiguity could arise in cases where mori + dative is used agentively, like pugnare + dative above: 'to die/to fight for someone', e.g. for the emperor.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Mar 25 at 21:43
  • @Mitomino But are there such cases of mori + dat.? I'd expect mori pro + abl. instead. I doubt it would occur to any Classical Latin speaker to read alteri as anything other than a dative of agent.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 26 at 16:24

In Italian we use the concise latin expression mors tua, vita mea to describe self-defence (both literal or figurative).

In your case you may want to adjust the pronouns - mors alicuius, vita alius or similarly.

  • 6
    Or mors alterius, vita alterius, which has a nice parallelism to it. Commented Mar 26 at 12:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.