8

In English, "what if...?" is a succinct way to ask what would happen if some counterfactual happened to be true.

Is there an idiomatic equivalent in Latin? The sequence of tenses gives plenty of options for expressing different types of conditionals. But is there a short and easily-understood way to turn such a conditional into a question?

7

The phrase quid si (hundreds of examples) was not at all unheard of. It works for both possible and impossible conditionals, and impossibility is best expressed by choosing perfect or pluperfect conjunctive. This is what Cicero would do, too.

An artificial example:

What if he were in Rome now?
Quid si ille Romae nunc esset?

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  • 3
    I can confirm this being used in post-classical too. E.g. Vg. Gen. 18, 28
    – Rafael
    Apr 27 '17 at 19:03
  • 2
    @Rafael Great example! It's even got a couple more if you go to verse 32, and a sin autem thrown in for variety. This web site has punctuation.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 27 '17 at 19:27

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