How to translate to Latin sentences describing event occurring during another action. E.g.:

Walking under trees I noticed it.

My attempt:

Dum sub arboribus ambulabam id conspicavi.

  1. Is conspicare fitting here?
  2. Can phrase under trees be just translated to sub arboribus?
  3. Are tenses (in ambulabam and conspicavi) fitting and executed correctly?
  4. How to write it better and what strategies can be used for different sentences following this general scheme?
  • 3
    I'd say that's fine (except that the perfect of conspicio is conspexi), but there's no reason not to mirror the English; i.e., sub arboribus ambulans, id conspexi.
    – Anonym
    Jul 26, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2

  1. I'm not familiar with a verb conspicare. There is a deponent conspicari which I just saw for the first time when looking for your verb. I suspect that the verb you are after is conspicere. The perfect of that one would be conspexi. (Also aspicio is a possibility.)

  2. Yes, sub arboribus sounds like an excellent translation to me.

  3. Yes, the tenses are as they should. (I was about to write that the tenses are perfect, but that might have been confusing…) The description of the circumstances is given by the imperfect tense and the sudden event by the perfect tense.

  4. The two constructions that I have seen and used most commonly are these:

    Sub arboribus ambulabam, cum id conspexi.
    Sub arboribus ambulans id conspexi.

    I have nothing against using dum in the first clause, but I seem to have a slight preference to use a cum in the second clause instead. A cum clause introducing a sudden turn of events is known as cum inversum.

    The second option is very close to the English one, and it is indeed possible in Latin as well. The first option has a slightly different tone: "I was walking under the trees when I noticed it." But the difference is very slight.

    Your suggestion would be perfectly understood, if you just correct the verb for noticing.


Even when the main action is in a historic tense, it is usual to follow dum with a present indicative, though the imperfect also occurs. That would give

Dum sub arboribus ambulo id conspexi.

Personally, I would prefer a present participle to a dum clause:

Sub arboribus ambulans id conspexi has the sense of 'It was while walking under the trees that I caught sight of it', and you may agree it is neater.

  • 2
    Hmmm? Ambulam?
    – Anonym
    Jul 26, 2017 at 22:17
  • Oops! That was neither ambulo nor ambulabam. Edited.
    – Tom Cotton
    Jul 27, 2017 at 5:37

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