The interrogative pronouns quis and quī have me rather confused. I understand that quis is generally substantive, while quī is generally adjective. But Allen and Greenough (§148) indicate that quis is "very common as an adjective, especially with words denoting a person," and then they provide two examples:

quis diēs fuit? what day was it?
quis homō? what man?

From what I can tell, only one of those two examples has anything to do with their "especially with words denoting a person" category, which leads me to believe that additional guidance might be available.

Broadly speaking, what are the categories in which quis is frequently used as an adjective interrogative pronoun? In such categories, is a distinction in meaning made between quis and quī?

  • 2
    I'd say adjectival quis/quid is uncommon, and I think it can often be explained away as a different construction: quis [est] homo? = "who is that person?"; quis dies fuit? = "what was that day?". It would be interesting to look at some real examples. As to a distinction in meaning, I don't think there is be any. Two real examples: latin.packhum.org/search?q=%23quis%20dies Note also that quis can be short for quibus. More examples, mostly from comedy: latin.packhum.org/search?q=%23quis+homo&first=21 Note that many of those passages are different constructions.
    – Cerberus
    Mar 4, 2016 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


Jeanne Marie Neumann, in Lingua Latina: A College Companion, suggests

You will sometimes find quis (i.e. the form of the interrogative pronoun) used instead of quī (the form of the interrogative adjective) before a noun in questions of identity: Quis servus? Medus. [emphasis mine]

In a previous answer, @fvogel offered these examples, all of which meet the conditions Neumann imposes:

From Horace Satires:

Quis homo hic est? (I.6)

From Plautus Miles Gloriosus:

Quis homo id vidit? (176)

Quis homo in terra te alter est audacior? (313)

Quis homo sit magis meus quam tu es? (615)

I find another set of examples in Cicero, In Catilinam II:

O fortunatam rem publicam, si quidem hanc sentinam urbis eiecerit! Uno mehercule Catilina exhausto levata mihi et recreata res publica videtur. Quid enim mali aut sceleris fingi aut cogitari potest, quod non ille conceperit? quis tota Italia veneficus, quis gladiator, quis latro, quis sicarius, quis parricida, quis testamentorum subiector, quis circumscriptor, quis ganeo, quis nepos, quis adulter, quae mulier infamis, quis corruptor iuventutis, quis corruptus, quis perditus inveniri potest, qui se cum Catilina non familiarissime vixisse fateatur? quae caedes per hosce annos sine illo facta est, quod nefarium stuprum non per illum?

In A Preparatory Course in Latin Prose Authors, Albert Harkness writes of this paragraph,

Quis, though more commonly used substantively, may be used adjectivally, when, as in this case, the inquiry relates, not to the character of the person or thing, but to the person or thing itself. Thus quis veneficus is not what kind of poisoner, but what poisoner, i.e., which one.

It's interesting, though, that Cicero uses quis here only for masculine nouns, but for mulier infamis he uses quæ. I wonder whether quis as a noun is used in place of adjectival qui but not adjectival quæ.

  • That quote from Harkness seems to take qui awfully close to qualis. Does he make a difference between these two?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 9, 2016 at 8:28
  • He doesn't seem to. On the other hand, I haven't read the whole thing. If I do (and if he does) I'll update. May 9, 2016 at 10:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.