(Inspired by the comments on this answer.)

The gerundive of obligation is a wonderful little idiom in Latin, as in Cato's famous mantra

Carthāgō dēlenda est "Carthage must be destroyed"

In this case, dēleō is a normal transitive verb meaning "destroy". So if Cato ever achieved his goal, we could write normal passive sentences:

Carthāgō dēlētur "Carthage is being destroyed"
Carthāgō dēlēta est "Carthage was destroyed"

But what happens when the verb involved is not so simple?

For instance, patior is deponent, but can still take an accusative object:

Caesar patitur aliquid "Caesar endured something"

If I wanted to make a gerundive of obligation from patior, would it mean "X must endure" or "X must be endured"?

Bonus: do these verbs act differently with regard to regular gerundives versus specifically gerundives of obligation?

  • 2
    Good question! Shouldn't it be deletur instead of delitur?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:48
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Oops, fixed. I really need a Latin spell-checker.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


Before we understand the gerundive of a deponent verb, we need to first understand the particples of deponent verbs.

Participles of Deponent Verbs

Deponent verbs are often described as verbs with "passive forms but active meanings." While this generally holds true, it ignores a crucial extra step: deponents have participles in both voices! (See Allen & Greenborough, ch. 190)

For example, patior:

  • Present Active: patiens, "suffering"
  • Future Active: passurus, "about to suffer"
  • Perfect Passive: passus, "having suffered"
  • Future Passive: patiendus, "to be suffered"

Note that there are some perfect passive participles that have a passive meaning. Allen & Greenborough give the examples of mercatus ("bought") and adeptus ("gained," though it also can be active: "having gained").

Gerundive of Deponent Verbs

The gerundive of deponent verbs is passive in form and in meaning. The gerundive of obligation is thus used the same as its active counterparts. Allen & Greenborough (op. cit.) says:

d. The gerundive, being passive in meaning, is found only in transitive verbs, or intransitive verbs used impersonally:—

  • hōc cōnfitendum est, this must be acknowledged.

  • moriendum est omnibus, all must die.

The ambiguity arises, though, when we consider that the last impersonal construction can be used for all gerundives, deponent or not, to signify an obligation with an "active" meaning.

This is the same problem as with non-deponent verbs. Cicero offers a great example that uses the gerundive in both ways:

Sentio, iudices, moderandum mihi esse iam orationi meae fugiendamque vestram satietatem. (Cicero, In Verrem 2.3.103)

Judges, I sense that **I should limit my speech [in length] and that your satiety [with my speaking] should be avoided.

Note how the gerundive of moderor is used impersonally of mihi to indicate an "active" obligation: "I must moderate" where as the gerundive of fugio agrees with a noun for a "passive" obligation: "X must be avoided". This is merely a difference in translation, though, and the underlying construction is the same.

Your sentence

Thus, if I want to say "X must be endured," I can freely use "X" as the subject of the sentence: "Hoc patiendum est." Enter Cicero:

Ideo fortiter omne patiendum est quia non, ut putamus, incidunt cuncta sed ueniunt. (Seneca iunior, Dialogi

If I want to say "X must endure Y," I have to rearrange so that Y is the subject and X is in the dative: "Hoc patiendum est mihi." Enter Seneca:

Dicentur tibi ista, si operae pretium habebit perseverantia, si nihil indignum bono viro faciendum patiendumve erit; alioqui sordido se et contumelioso labore non conteret nec in negotiis erit negotii causa. (Seneca iunior, Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium 22.8)

There is no case where "Hoc patiendum est" can be construed as "This should suffer."

  • Let me make a couple of remarks on your answer: (i) against the traditional claim that the gerundive patiendus can be analyzed as a "future passive participle", Pinkster (2015: 59) says: "two types of adjectival verb forms must be distinguished: participles, which take part in the morphosemantic category of tense, and gerundives, which do not (until in Late Latin, when they come to be used as substitutes for the lacking future passive participle)"". So, according to Harm Pinkster, the gerundive functions as a (true) "future passive participle" in Late Latin but not in Classical Latin.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 18:33
  • (ii) as for A&G's traditional claim above that the gerundive is "passive in meaning", one can wonder to what extent it holds when dealing with examples like moriendum est omnibus. It is not clear (at least to me) to what extent a(n already) "lexically passive" verb like mori can (additionally/syntactically) be said to be understood as "passive" in moriendum est omnibus. For some discussion on this point, please see latin.stackexchange.com/questions/9379/…
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 19:06
  • @Mitomino: For "moriendum est omnibus" = "all must die"; literally: "for all it-ought-to-be-(must be)-death". Alternatively, "moriendum erit...." = "....-it-will-be-...". Axiomatic; the ultimate obligation; expressed passively, in the literal translation.
    – tony
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 8:42
  • If this is true, that is, that the deponents can be used in the gerundive then why did Allen not include a conjugation for it in paragraph 190 found here dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/deponent-verbs
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 9:19

@brianpck is right, but it's worth adding that in the example quoted, "Sentio, iudices, moderandum mihi esse iam orationi meae fugiendamque vestram satietatem", Cicero had no choice about making "moderandum" impersonal: it has to be impersonal because, in this sense, "moderari" does not take an accusative direct object but instead takes the dative of indirect object. When "moderari" takes the accusative it has a different meaning. So although grammatically Cicero could have written "oratio mea moderanda est", that would have meant 'I must manage my speech' rather than 'I must set a limit on my speech'. (The grammar book concerned is Allen and Greenough, not Greenborough.)

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