I am puzzled about the syntactical role of ecce and en. I feel comfortable using them with nouns (ecce camelopardalis meus, "here is my giraffe" or "look, my giraffe"), and I would like to know if they are compatible with verbs. For example, if I want to say "Behold, the lion eats!", which one should I pick:

  • Verb in personal form: Ecce leo edit!
  • Participle: Ecce leo edens!
  • Or something else?

This came up when I tried to answer this question and translate "here comes". I realized that I don't know how to combine verbs with ecce or en.

  • 1
    Since I've read the Vulgate so much, a phrase came immediately to mind for both cases: "ecce homo" and "ecce sponsus venit"
    – brianpck
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 14:31
  • 1
    Ecce leo edens would draw attention to the fact that there is an eating lion nearby. Ecce leo est (which I think is more common than edit) would draw attention to the fact that a lion is eating something. It all depends on what is being emphasized, and in fact works as behold would in English.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:02
  • @C.M.Weimer That's a good summary. I considered using est, but decided against it to avoid confusion with the other est.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:21
  • There's no good alternative there, since edit could also come from the other edo meaning "to bring forth"!
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:44
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    @C.M.Weimer True! It should be ĕdit or ēst (as opposed to ēdit and ĕst), but I don't usually like using brevia and macra (or breves and macrons?). Oh, well...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Both ecce and en can be used with verbs/whole clauses in addition to nouns, to draw attention to some fact rather than an object. So, both ecce [or en] leo edit and ecce [en] leo edens (or ecce [en] leonem edentem) would work.

For ecce used in this way:

ecce, Apollo...imperat ut ego illic oculos exuram (Plautus, Men. 840)

discubitum noctu ut imus, ecce ad me advenit mulier (Plautus, Mer. 100)

commodum cubueram et ecce Fotis mea...proximat (Apuleius, Met. 2.16)

For en used in this way:

revocate, Quirites.... en, revocant! (Ovid, Am. 3.2.75)

fabulam...ad auris vestras adferre decrevi, et en occipio (Apuleius, Met. 9.14)

haec dum stupentes quaerimus, totum en mare immugit (Seneca, Phaed. 1025)

For en and ecce used together (!):

en ecce...prosiluit...Iocasta (Seneca, Oed. 1004)

(All attestations are from OLD.)

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