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I'd like the translate the following sentence into Latin:

Pompeii, Rome, and Herculaneum are visited by the boys.

However, since these three cities have different genders, I'm struggling to choose the right ending to put in the blank:

Pompeii et Herculaneum et Roma visitat___ sunt a pueris.

I know I could recast the sentence to avoid the problem, but is there a convention in Classical Latin for handling this situation?

  • I think "are visited" should be visitantur, whereas visitata sunt (or with any other gender) is "were visited". But I guess "replace visitat__ sunt with visitantur" would not answer your actual question. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 9 '17 at 18:08
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+50

Bennett's New Latin Grammar (this link will take you to appropriate section) offers several helpful rules of thumb for the agreement of an adjective with multiple nouns.

Although I recommend reading the above entry, which is fairly short, the basic principles are:

  1. Attributive adjectives agree with the nearest noun in both gender and number, e.g. "Filius meus et soror" vs. "Filius et soror mea"
  2. Predicative adjectives are made plural and:

    1. agree with the nouns if they are the same gender, e.g. "Filia et mater mea sunt pulchrae"
    2. are masculine if the nouns are persons, e.g. "Soror et frater inepti sunt."
    3. are neuter if the nouns are things, e.g. "urbes et moenia foeda sunt"

If the nouns are mixed, things get more arbitrary and there do not seem to be hard and fast rules, beyond what a Latin ear tells you is right.

In the case you mention, the above rules would indicate the neuter plural (visitata). Here too, though, I do not think there is a wrong or right answer, and my own inexperienced ear would feel more comfortable with the feminine plural because of the juxtaposition with Roma.

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    And as a quick aside: yes, recast the sentence! "Pueri visitant..." is much more fluent and avoids the dissonance altogether, much as an English sentence like "Tommy's and your baseball bats" is correct (I think) but not good writing. – brianpck Feb 23 '16 at 19:00
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    For what it's worth, I'd vote against recasting the sentence. The passive voice was much more common and acceptable in Classical Latin than in modern English, and your casting connotes an emphasis on the cities visited that "Pueri visitant. . . ." doesn't. – Joel Derfner Feb 23 '16 at 19:40
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    Agreed that the passive--especially in impersonal constructions--is much more common in Latin. My point was not about the passive but about the gender dissonance which results from any of the options available as the sentence stands. Perhaps a better recasting option would be to use "urbes + genitive visitatae sunt" – brianpck Feb 23 '16 at 20:19
  • @brianpck I took the liberty to add "in both gender and number" (as mentioned in the linked grammar) to your case 1, since there was other mention of agreement in number there. Feel free to re-edit, of course. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 9 '17 at 18:14
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If the adjective is plural and it refers to words of several genders, I seem to recall the masculine is used by default. But I believe a Roman author would indeed recast a sentence like this, especially because it also refers to a neuter word.

If the adjective is singular, it should agree with the last noun mentioned.

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    This answer would benefit from a source =) – Nathaniel Feb 23 '16 at 18:36
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    @Nathaniel: Fair enough, I'll go and find my Van der Heyde... – Cerberus Feb 23 '16 at 18:40
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    @Cerberus Did you find the book yet? :P – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 9 '17 at 18:09
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    @JoonasIlmavirta♦: Err I'm getting closer, I can feel it! Seriously, there are some boxes I could rummage through to find it. – Cerberus Nov 9 '17 at 22:45

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