The usual form of a Latin indicative sentence predicated on a condition is "Si V-ind, V-ind." The "Si V-ind" is the protasis and the "V-ind" is the apodosis. There is also a variant in "Si V-subj." My question is whether you can omit the "si" and shorten it to "V-subj, V-ind." I haven't found any references discussing the acceptability or unacceptability of this grammar, but not being a lexeme, it is hard to search for.

This is inspired by the English subjunctive mood, which can be used in conditions (not to be confused with the conditional mood). It is likely that this English usage was influenced by Latin. Anyway, in extremely formal or archaic English, there are sentences that replace the indicative with the subjunctive and mostly use either "should" and its forms or subject-verb inversion:

  • We would not have done that, had we known
  • We need to return to the airport, come August
  • We're going outside, be it rain or shine

A Latin example to operate on could be "Pecūnia, sī ūtī scīs, ancilla, sī nescīs, domina" meaning "if you know how to use money, money is your slave; if you don't, money is your master". The "est" is omitted as is common. There is a variant on the internet saying "Pecūnia, sī ūtī sciās, ancilla, sī nesciās, domina." But there are only 2 Google hits for "Pecunia, uti scias, serva. Si nescias, domina." What I'm trying to say is the equivalent of "Money is your servant, know you how to use it, else your master, known't you how."

Would "Pecūnia ūtī sciās ancilla nesciās domina" be acceptable written Classical Latin? Otherwise would it be acceptable as spoken Vulgar or later Latin? I seek quotations for this construction.

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's possible. This is covered in Gildersleeve's Latin grammar, §598:

598. Omission of the Conditional Sign.—Occasionally the members of a Conditional sentence are put side by side without a Conditional sign.

Here are some of the examples that are provided:

  • Ūnum cōgnōrīs, omnīs nōrīs, Terence, Phormio 265, '[If] you know one, you know all.'*
  • Dedissēs huic animō pār corpus, fēcisset quod optābat, Pliny the Younger, Epistulae 1.12.8, 'If you had given (Had you given) him a body that was a match for his spirit, he would have accomplished what he desired.'

Still, given the already-somewhat-elliptical nature of your example (with the omission of est) and also the word order and (lack of) internal punctuation, I for one would find it a challenge to decipher it if the two si's were omitted.

* But note that the text that PHI gives differs: it includes the conjunction quom (= cum) instead of the prefix cog- and isn't conditional:

Unum quom noris omnis noris.

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