When I was composing this question yesterday, I wanted to ask this:

Which words would you suggest me to use?

I wanted to do it using hortari and an ut-clause. I was looking for a question form of this statement:

You suggest that I use these words.
Me hortaris, ut his vocibus utar.

How to convert this into a question? I was unable to do so, so I worked around it, but I would still like to know.

Without the suggestion the conversion would be easy: his vobibus utor becomes quibus vocibus utor? ("which words do I use?"). But replacing the pronoun his with an interrogative sounds awfully fishy if it happens in a subordinate clause:

Me hortaris, ut quibus vocibus utar?

I could break the subordinate clause and bring quibus to a position where it sounds like an interrogative pronoun:

Quibus vocibus me hortaris, ut utar?

This does not sound perfect either, and it is prone to misinterpretation. The instrumental ablative quibus vocibus is supposed to modify utar, not hortaris.

Are there examples of questions like this in classical Latin? Perhaps an example of this exact structure does not exist, but hopefully something that would help composing this question by analogy. If such questions are nowhere to be found, I am prepared to conclude that there is no grammatical way to structure a question from my starting point. In that case I would like suggestions for asking my question in good classical Latin.

2 Answers 2


I think your last sentence is grammatically correct. The general question is whether it's possible to raise an interrogative out of an ut clause, and there are examples of this:

Quid vis ut curem? (Plautus)
Quid vis ut faciam? (Vulgate)
Quid iubes ut faciam, domina? (Patrologia Latina)

Probably more classical examples could be found, but this is a hard thing to search for. But these examples have the same structure as yours; the difference of case (quid vs. quibus vocibus) or verb (hortor vs. the verbs above) is not likely to be important, I think.

This of course doesn't necessarily mean that your sentence is the idiomatic way a Latin speaker would have expressed this -- my sense is that some simpler structure would have been preferred, like something along the lines of Quibus verbis mihi utendum est tua sententia? -- but it seems to be correct. (The possible ambiguity doesn't seem to me to be a serious issue because taking the ablative with hortaris would leave utar without an object.)

  • Thanks! This is pretty convincing. I hadn't seen an interrogative pulled out of a subordinate clause before. (The ambiguity can be strengthened by context. For example: "Telephonulo uti nolo. Quo modo me hortaris, ut utar?" Now utar can refer to either telephonulo or modo.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jan 21, 2017 at 2:52

I would try to find something that a Roman might have used, and think you would get a more satisfying translation by re-phrasing the English to suggest what words I should use.

Vox for 'word' is legitimate, but a little too fancy for my taste in this situation; and isn't hortor, meaning 'urge strongly', a pretty strong word for 'suggest'? There are examples which suggest that subiicio is a more appropriate verb:

id quod olim dictum est subiice Ter. Phaed. 2, 3, 30

. . . Maeandrius quasi ministrator aderat subiciens quid in suos civis civitatemque, si vellem, dicerem. Cic. pro Flacc. 22,53

I suggest something like verba subiice quibus utar, or (more politely/pompously, but something to roll nicely off the tongue!) subiice quae verba sint mihi utenda.

In response to objections in comments on the second of these suggestions : it is true that the verb utor is intransitive and cannot be passivized, but it is also a fact that the gerundive is already passive. In the second suggestion, utendam is a gerundive, purely adjectival, passive in meaning, 'fit to be used'. Here it is predicatively used as a a verbal adjective, formed from the verb utor, certainly, but having no verbal function it can be used without the ablative case. In fact all intransitive verbs that take an ablative are deponent, but their gerundives are used as if the verb were transitive.

Two examples from Plautus:

filiam utendam mihi da. /Numquam edepol cuiquam utendam dedi. Persa 1, 3 ( l.127)

nam ego quidem meos oculos habeo nec rogo utendos foris Mil. 2, 3 (l.347)

and one (using fruor) from Cicero:

etiam apud maiores nostros iustitiae fruendae causa videntur . . . Off. 2, 41

[Later] Nevertheless, it has been pointed out in further comment (q.v.) that the use of esse in the construction I proposed is not known. It would be better, therefore, to avoid the relative and simply write subiice verba mihi utenda.

  • 1
    Utor doesn't take accusative, so quae verba sint utenda isn't a possible construction, I believe -- it needs to be impersonal, quibus verbis sit utendum (as with other pseudo-transitive verbs like credo).
    – TKR
    Jan 21, 2017 at 21:11
  • 1
    The point is that a verb that isn't transitive can't be passivized -- since you can't say utor haec verba, you can't make that into haec verba utenda sunt. Just like you can say Credit mihi "He believes me", but not *Credor ab eo "I am believed by him".
    – TKR
    Jan 22, 2017 at 1:07
  • 1
    My point is that utenda is impossible in the first place because an intransitive verb can't be passivized (except impersonally). Woodcock addresses this exact issue, see the Note in the middle of the linked page: "one can say ad hanc rem utendam ... but not haec res utenda est. For the latter one must say hac re utendum est."
    – TKR
    Jan 22, 2017 at 18:21
  • 2
    @TKR I'm sorry to say that the link to Woodcock shows only a blank page. I have addressed your objection by editing the answer.
    – Tom Cotton
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:17
  • 2
    Hmm, I'm getting a blank page too but if I click the X next to "Clear search", the page shows up. Another quote relevant to the examples you cite is "These [gerundives of utor etc.] can be used predicatively ... but they are never predicated with esse to form the periphrastic construction". That is, things like filiam utendam are an exception to the usual rule that intransitives can't passivize, but the exception does not extent to the construction with sum, as in verba utenda sint.
    – TKR
    Jan 23, 2017 at 23:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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