I was trying to translate something to Latin, and I ended up writing something that made me feel uncertain. For the purposes of this question, I stripped all unnecessary content to focus on what puzzles me.

I want to express something something in the direction of "you will sing until you are forgotten". I want to use the future tense for "you will sing" and I want to phrase "you are forgotten" as oblivio te sumit, but the tense of the second part is not as important. I wrote this:

Cantabis donec te sumpserit oblivio.

The question concerns the tense of sumere. Should it be in the future perfect form sumpserit, in the perfect form sumpsit, or perhaps in the future form sumet? If many are possible, what is the difference? Is my original sentence grammatical and meaningful?

Since cantare is in the future tense, it feels more natural to use a future tense for sumere as well. But for some reason I like a perfect tense too, as it gives the tone of "you will sing until you have been forgotten". Changing the exact point in time of the oblivion is fine; I want to explore my (three?) options here for the tense of sumere.

2 Answers 2


I will try to add to my answer with a more grammatical explanation if I have time, but for now I can introduce some sample phrases. These examples come from the Lewis & Short entry for donec:

  • Future perfect

    haud desinam, donec perfecero hoc (Ter. Ph. 2, 3, 73)


    neque defetiscar usque adeo experirier
    donec tibi id quod pollicitus sum effecero. (ib. 4, 1, 24)

  • Future

    hic regnabitur ... donec regina sacerdos geminam partu dabit Ilia prolem (Verg. A. 1, 273)

The Vergil example seems most close to yours, since it does not involve a negation or a discrete action. Since Terence is ante-classical, I would recommend the future as a safer option, though I have no standing to say whether the future perfect is less correct.

There is a wealth of information about this topic in pg. 680 of Fischer's Latin Grammar.

  • 1
    Are you still planning to update this answer? No hurry or pressure.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 27, 2017 at 14:22

Your specific question allows it, so would you be interested in avoiding the construction with a conjugated verb ? If you are, you might consider a few options, some of which are admittedly arcane and maybe not exactly grammatical (because I'm mostly spitballing here):

  • using a perfect tense in the passive voice plus ellipsis of es/eris (of course, this allows freedom between futurum exactum and perfectum, not futurum exactum and futurum simplex)

cantabis donec ab oblivione sumptus [es/eris]

  • the gerundivum

cantabis te ab oblivione sumendum

  • the supinum

cantabis [te] sumptum ab oblivione

  • avoiding a verb form and hence consecutio temporum altogether

cantabis usque (ad/in) oblivionem

  • I want to keep oblivio as the subject, so these suggestions don't help towards my eventual goal, but the general reminder of workarounds is a welcome one. (+1!) I'm not convinced about the gerundive and the supine (might be fine, but they sound weird to me), but the first and last ones look good to me.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 16, 2017 at 21:39
  • Yes, I'm becoming less and less sure of their value myself - and their grammaticality, for that matter
    – blagae
    Jun 16, 2017 at 21:41
  • 2
    I think examples (2) and (3) change the meaning pretty drastically. I would translate: (2) "you will sing about yourself needing to be..." (3) this wouldn't be a supine but rather a past participle: "you will sing about how you were taken...
    – brianpck
    Jun 17, 2017 at 3:50

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