What is the most idiomatic way of expressing in Latin a sentence containing an indirect statement, which itself contains an indefinite relative clause?

To start with the direct version: consider a sentence like "We will receive whoever comes to us." Here is a possible Latin version:

Quisquis ad nos venerit, eum accipiemus.

  1. Is this quisquis ... eum construction the most idiomatic way of saying this?
  2. Is the future perfect venerit the most likely choice of mood and tense, or might one prefer veniet or veniat?

In an indirect statement, e.g. "He thinks that we will receive whoever comes to us", it seems to me that this would become:

Putat nos, quisquis ad nos venerit, eum accepturos esse.

...where venerit is now perfect subjunctive rather than future perfect.

Is this correct and idiomatic Latin? Would some other construction be better, e.g. with quicumque?

  • Regarding (2), how about plain ol' venit?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 4:40
  • I once wrote a paper about relative clauses in indirect speech. I'll try and find it. I believe my conclusion was that it depends: they can be found in either mood. As to indefinite relative clauses in general, they're normally in the indicative in Latin (unlike Greek), so I suspect them to behave like normal relative clauses in this case. Ad 1: I think an explicit antecedent is possible, but you'd normally leave it out: quisquis as nos venerit accipiemus. Ad 2: Future perfect + simple future is a common combination: it'd say it is good. P.S. Perhaps this should be split into 3 questions...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 6:25
  • @BenKovitz I think venit would require a present in the main clause/apodosis as well, accipimus, and this would mean something different: "We receive whoever comes to us", a general statement rather than specifically about the future.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 21:46

2 Answers 2


First things first, the eum in your sentence is unnecessary. In fact, using it places emphasis on the person you would be receiving:

Whoever comes to us, him we will receive.

The feeling that this gives off is that there is a question about whom you will receive, and so the answer is "whoever comes to us."

Second, grammatically your sentence is a future more vivid, except that it uses the future perfect, which emphasizes the protasis. How exactly the Latin sentence would be constructed depends on why you're saying it.


Quisquis ad nos veniat accipiamus. // Whoever should come, we would accept them.

I.e. It is our policy that we receive anyone who comes.

Quisquis ad nos veniet accipiemus. // Whoever comes to us, we will accept them.

I.e. Someone is definitely coming, and whoever it is, we will accept them.

Quisquis ad nos venerit accipiemus. // Whoever comes to us, we will accept them.

I.e. I swear someone is coming, and when they do, we will accept them!

Moreland and Fleischer (p. 38) explain the use of the future perfect here:

NOTE: Occasionally, when the speaker wishes the implications of the condition to be exceptionally emphatic, the future perfect is used in the protasis instead of the simple future.

In indirect discourse with a primary verb, Woodcock in his A New Latin Syntax lays out the changes nicely. I'll rewrite the sentences to fit yours.

Quisquis ad nos veniat accipiamus. → Dicit quisquis ad nos veniat accepturos esse.

Quisquis ad nos veniet accipiemus. → Dicit quisquis ad nos veniat accepturos esse.

Notice that the distinction between the two completely disappear in indirect discourse.

For your original example, Woodcock summarizes it nicely:

The future-perfect indicative is represented by the perfect or by the pluperfect subjunctive, according to the sequence.

Therefore we get:

Quisquis ad nos venerit accipiemus. → Dicit nos quisquis ad nos advenerit accepturos esse.

N.B. I replaced your putare with dicere because the choice of verb depends on what exactly you mean by "think", for which the Romans had many different words that were nigh synonymous, but not exactly so. In this case, putare, censere, opinari, and credere are close, but change the meaning ever so slightly. Dicere though keeps it fairly neutral.

  • In the Plautus, it seems to me "beyond a doubt" is translating profecto. Is the future perfect in protasei really more emphatic than the future? According to Allen and Greenough it just expresses that the protasis action will be complete before the apodosis action occurs.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 3:13
  • @TKR You're right about profecto, but Allen and Greenough are wrong, and the Plautus example demonstrates it cannot be right. I updated it with a blurb from Moreland and Fleischer's Latin: An Intensive Course.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 4:18
  • Why does the Plautus example show A&G are wrong? I know some textbooks call the future perfect construction "emphatic", but I've never seen evidence that that's the case. Good topic for a question...
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 4:41
  • @TKR Yes, I agree, this particular point probably deserves a question of its own.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 4:48
  • It seems to me that the best way to translate Quisquis ad nos venerit accipiemus, in order to show the emphatic aspect of the future perfect in the protasis, is "Whoever does come to us, we'll accept him/her." Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 12:13

I'll just add one possible exception to @C. M. Weimer's excellent answer. In "A Note on Subordinate Clauses in Oratio Obliqua," The Classical Review, 1931, E.T. Salmon suggests that

the rule . . . that the future perfect indicative in the protasis of a conditional sentence becomes the perfect subjunctive when transferred to Oratio Obliqua in primary sequence . . . [ought] to be modified. . . . When the principal verb is in either the first or the second person Latin usually prefers to use the indicative mood in the clauses dependent on the Oratio Obliqua.

He then cites a number of examples from Cicero, e.g.

Nolite arbitrari, o mihi carissimi filii, me, cum a vobis discessero, nusquam aut nullum fore.
De Senectute XXII, 79

Spero, si absolutus erit, coniunctiorem illum nobis fore in ratione petitionis.
Pro Marcllo, II, 5

and so on. S/he goes on:

Very instructive in this respect is Ad Fam. XI, 28. . . . On seven occasions he uses the indicative mood in clauses dependent on Oratio Obliqua constructions; on all seven occasions the principal verb is in either the first or the second person. In the same letter, whenever the Oratio Obliqua is introduced by a verb in the third person, the verb in the dependent clause is in the subjunctive.

Now, this does nothing to change your example. If Salmon is correct, however—non arbitrari audeo—then if your example were

Quandocumque ad illam venero me accipiet.

then Oratio Obliqua with the first or second person would be not

Dicis illam quandocumque ad illam venerim me accepturam esse.


Dicis illam quandocumque ad illam venero me accepturam esse.

  • Very interesting. I wonder why this should be the case.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 18:07

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