(Split off from my previous question about gerundives of deponent verbs.)

For a transitive verb, it's fairly simple to convert a sentence from active to passive:

X-nom VERB-active Y-acc = Y-nom VERB-passive [ā] X-abl

For instance:

egō canō virum = vir canitur ā mē
I speak of the man = the man is spoken of by me

But not all verbs take an accusative object. Reminīscor "recall" takes a genitive, faveō "favor" dative, and fruor "enjoy" the ablative.

Normally I just wouldn't use these verbs in the passive: many of them are already deponent, after all. But as mentioned in the previous question, certain constructions (like the gerundive of obligation) don't have an active equivalent.

How are these constructions used with such verbs? Could I use gerundives to say that something "must be recalled", "must be favored", or "must be enjoyed", for instance?

1 Answer 1


Normally, when you passive a verb in Latin, the following happens:

  • Subject becomes a(b(s)) + ablative.
  • Direct object becomes subject.
  • All other constituents remain unchanged.

Note that a direct object is only that object which is directly governed by a verb (so without prepositions) and which is in the accusative.

Parco Ciceroni.

Ciceroni parcitur a me.

No problem here.

Parcendum est Ciceroni a me.

Normally, the subject turns into a dative if you turn a verb into a gerundive + form of esse. But I believe a(b(s)) is used with a gerund if there already was another a dative present, in order to avoid confusion between two datives.

Utor lege Iuliā in Ciceronem.

This cannot be passivised, because the present forms of a deponent are already in the passive form.

Utendum est mihi lege Iuliā in Ciceronem.

This is not aequivalent to the passive of the sentence above, but at least the constituents can be transformed in a somewhat similar way:

  • The ablative complement of the verb remains in the ablative.
  • The prepositional phrase remains the same.
  • The agent, which can now no longer be the subject, turns from an (implicit) nominative into a dative, as gerunds require.

Note that there are always exceptions, as can probably found in less formal letters and e.g. comedy.

Note also that Greek and English work differently: in those languages, the secondary complement can be turned into the subject when you passivise a verb, even when it was not a direct object. E.g. I was taught many things. Dutch works more like Latin.

Itur in Italiam.

"It was gone to Italy" → "People/they/etc. went to Italy." This is an impersonal passive, which is difficult to translate literally.

Eundum est in Italiam.

"They/someone/etc. must go to Italy."

  • 1
    I think there's a common construction that your answer could be expanded to explain, e.g. Cicero: "Omnia utenda ac possidenda tradiderat."
    – brianpck
    Jan 25, 2017 at 20:36
  • @brianpck: Mmm wouldn't that be an exception to my rule? I thought that was uncommon?
    – Cerberus
    Jan 25, 2017 at 20:44
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to your rule the neuter singular nominative would be the only gerundive form for non-transitive verbs. The Packhum corpus has 302 results for "#utendum#" and 388 for "#utend", which means at least 86 results for that one verb, unless I'm missing something obvious
    – brianpck
    Jan 25, 2017 at 20:54
  • Take a look at the results for "#utenda" for a few examples. "Ad haec utenda" for instance occurs...
    – brianpck
    Jan 25, 2017 at 20:55
  • 1
    @brianpck, on the Cicero type of construction, see the discussion in comments to Tom Cottons' answer to this this question, and especially the page of Woodcock I linked to there.
    – TKR
    Jan 25, 2017 at 22:07

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