My question stems from a task of comprehension from the exercises for Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata Familia Romana.

What is the grammatical class of "nāuigantī" in the following excerpt and what role does it play?

Italicised words were blank spaces to be filled.

Exercitia Latina Chapter 16, Exercise 6, item 8:

Nautae ad occidentem nāuigantī merīdiēs ā sinistrā est, ā dextrā septentriōnēs, oriēns ā tergō.


1 Answer 1


It's the present active participle of nāvigō 'to sail', in the masculine dative singular; the nominative singular is nāvigāns. It's used as an adjective agreeing with nautae, which is a masculine dative singular in the first declension. It's a dative of reference.


To a sailor sailing to the west, the south is to the left, to the right the north, the east at his back.

I suspect the confusion lies either in nautae not being obviously masculine, or in reading nautae as a nominative plural, in which case nāvigantī would also look like a nominative plural of some adjective *nāvigāntus, which doesn't exist.

  • 3
    I suspect the confusion may have to do with identifying the function of the dative: the so-called "Dative of the Person Judging". If so, it could be useful to add that this dative is a subtype of the "Dative of Reference". Perhaps you could invite the OP to take a look at the Section 378 of A&G by including the link (dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/dative-reference ).
    – Mitomino
    Commented May 24 at 2:10
  • 1
    That the present participle would have to be navigantes to refer to a nominative (or accusative) plural, participles declining in the 3rd declension, as opposed to nauta -ae from the first declension.
    – fantome
    Commented May 24 at 3:59

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