How does one translate to Latin sentences like:

  1. How does one do that?

  2. One could try but he would fail.

  3. Can one do this?

I.e. sentences using one as subject, where particular subject is not really important to meaning of the sentence.

Could se be used? If so, how?

  • 1
    Immediate thought: (ali)quis.
    – Draconis
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:07
  • @Draconis Thank you, I will edit question using your comment.
    – user1846
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:22
  • No need to edit, just leaving this here as a note (for others answering or for me to do more research).
    – Draconis
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:32
  • @Draconis the question answered, I will not make edit:-)
    – user1846
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


One option is the indefinite aliquis, often shortened to quis (and always shortened after si, nisi, num, and ne). This literally means "someone" or "anyone".

Another is the reduplicated version quisquis, "whoever".

Quomodo aliquis id agit? How does anyone do it?
Quisquis conatur, deerit. Whoever tries, will fail.
Aliquis id agere potest? Can anyone do it?


I know of two options:

  1. The impersonal passive; e.g., quomodo illud agitur? 'how is that done?'; potestne hoc agi? 'can this be done?'

  2. The generic second person, which always takes the subjunctive (and which most grammars try to sweep under the rug); e.g., quomodo illud agas? 'how do you do that?'; possisne hoc agere? 'can you do this?'


You can use the indefinite pronoun: quomodo aliquis hoc agere potest / "How can anyone do this?"

See more on indefinite pronouns.

Depending on what you're asking, generally a subject-less noun can be constructed with an impersonal: licet alicui conari, sed non potest succedere (It is permitted for anyone to try, but it is not possible to succeed.)


Your Answer

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