Simple question really: Noli quaerere quid vobis tua patria facere potest, sed quid facere tuae patriae potes.

Does this say "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."?


2 Answers 2


I'm not sure if you're asking for alternative translations or just want to know if your translation is correct, but if the former, here's a looser, but I think more idiomatic, version:

Non quid patria tibi sed quid tu patriae prosis consulendum est.

This is using prosum + dat. "be of service to" to capture the "do for" of the English, and instead of an imperative "ask" I used the gerundive consulendum est "it is to be considered, one should consider".

  • Interesting. I would expect to see the 3rd sg verb prosit in the first clause. Is it okay to omit this, considering that the verb from the second clause is in a different person? Are such choices common, when the subjects of different clauses require the same verb, but in a different person or number?
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 1:24
  • 1
    @ktm5124, yes, cf. neque Caesar neque ego habitī essēmus in A&G 317b.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 1:30

@cnread correctly points out that the verbs inside the indirect questions must be subjunctive. The two instances of "quid" introduce indirect questions.

I also made the verbs plural. I think this is more consistent with your use of "vobis", and perhaps with the original Kennedy quote as well.

Here is a revised version:

Nolite quaerere quid facere pro vobis patria possit, sed quid facere pro patria vos possitis.

As for the other part, your reading is correct. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

  • 1
    I wonder if a chiastic word order would work here. It often does in comparisons like this. For example: Nolite quaerere quid facere possit pro vobis vestra patria, sed quid pro patria vestra vos possitis facere.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 22:31
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I like that idea! I love chiasmus. I might edit the answer to use it.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 22:33
  • Just another version, trying for ellipsis: Nolite quaerere quod beneficium vobis patria sed vos patriae conferre debeatis. Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 13:27

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