If I want to say "I can" in Latin, I will usually use posse. But what if I want something stronger and more emphatic, like "I am capable of", "I am able to", or similar? I am not aware of a Latin idiom that would mean more or less the same as posse but have more gravity. Are there classical attestations of an "emphatic posse" that I could mimic?

  • I kind of understand where you're coming from, but it would be interesting if you could provide a few sentence where posse won't do. Perhaps a Roman would use a different construction altogether.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 21:02
  • Not sure if I get the sense of the question, but in Church Latin you have habilis esse ad + (noun or verb-ndum): habilis est ad bonum, habilis es ad faciendum whatever. I tried to look it up on Perseus for instances in Classical Latin, but I only found clues, nothing conclusive.
    – Rafael
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 23:28
  • @Cerberus If someone asks whether I can do something, "I can do that" sounds like a throwaway comment which doesn't even imply that I'm paying attention, whereas "I am capable of that" sounds way more emphatic and tells that I have the capability to do the thing. Of course, one can always use a plain "I can" (or a plain posse), but sometimes I would like to have some more gravity to it; it is a matter of nuance. It's indeed possible that the Romans would use something entirely different.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


One sometimes finds valere + infinitive used with the sense of 'to have the ability or power to' (OLD definition 6). I'm not sure it really has more gravity than posse; at any rate, I tend to think that the mere fact that it's being used instead of the more obvious posse makes it somewhat 'marked' in the sentence.

  • I have accepted this as the bets answer so far. I have a faint feeling that there is something better out there that what has been suggested here, but perhaps this is indeed all there is to it.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 11:39

Your only real option is to use word placement, that is to put the [posse] form in an unusual position in the sentence. It's quite a normal way of emphasising : for example, where magnum pondus tollere potest simply indicates the ability to lift a large weight, potest magnum pondus tollere is a stronger declaration of it.

Otherwise, there are such phrases as nequeo quin …, 'I can't do other than …*, to suggest you can do something, but only because you have no alternative (this may get fairly close, but it isn't really what you want), and haud dubitandum erat quin possem …., 'there was no doubting but that I was able to … ', which might serve well enough.


There is also the Latin proverb often attributed to Hannibal when he attempted to cross the Alps: viam aut inveniam aut faciam (I shall either find a way or make one) which although not using posse may be a suitable replacement for 'I can' depending on the context.

  • Welcome to the site! This is a welcome reminder, as it is often better to use a completely different expression when emphasis is needed. I was looking for more general (and classically attested) emphatic versions of posse so I won't accept this one, but it certainly deserves my upvote.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 11:34

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