How do you grammatically denote a range of chapters, like what I'm trying to do in this sentence?

Ecce in hac pagina vox Iohannis Ørbergii capitula prima usque decima Linguae Latinae Per Se Illustratae legentis:


Should it be capitula primum usque decimum instead? Or capitulum?

And does usque suit denoting a full range rather the just the destination?

(If you're wondering about the nested genitives, see this question.)

2 Answers 2


This apparently simple question produced before this a single answer and much interesting comment.

I would put it simply as [Ecce in hac pagina Iohannis Ørbergii] primum usque ad decimum capitulorum. The genitive plural suggests there there are further chapters.


I would offer two options:

…capitula a primo (usque) ad decimum…
…chapters from the first one (all the way) to the tenth…


…a primo capitulo (usque) ad decimum…
…from the first chapter one (all the way) to the tenth…

I would not repeat the word capitulum twice unless I wanted more emphasis. Perhaps the second one is more idiomatic, but the first one is clear, too. (It has an implicit capitulum which is easy enough for the reader to supply in the correct form.) The first one has the benefit that the word capitula has a clear case and the grammatical role is more transparent; it's a matter of choosing between a noun phrase and an adverbial phrase.

When using usque to express the length of a range, Lewis and Short indicate that you should use a preposition. To be honest, I had hard time parsing the bold part of your sentence. If nothing else, prepositions make the the range clearer.

Notice that you can leave usque out if you will, just as you can drop "all the way" in English. It is a matter of tone and emphasis.

Making prima and decima plural sounds fishy; there are several chapters but only one first and one tenth. You could say capitula primum et decimum for "the first and tenth chapters", which does not explicitly indicate a range. It is also correct to say capitulum primum et decimum. See this question for further details.

The agreement of a noun with several adjectives makes it reasonable, to me at least, to use capitula a primo ad decimum without repeating capitulum in the relevant case after the prepositions. It is clear what the numerals refer to, so I would consider it clumsy and unnecessary to repeat the noun.

There is a somewhat similar range expression in Ab Urbe condita 31.1:

…tres et sexaginta annos—tot enim sunt a primo Punico ad secundum bellum finitum…

I will look for more range examples, but I hope this makes my a primo ad decimum more plausible.

  • I'm still thinking this through. Indeed usque is an adverb, and I was using it as a preposition. So, I'm giving up on usque; I simply want to denote a range. Questions: (1) Does your first version have implied nouns like this: …capitula a primo capitulo ad decimum capitulum? (2) In the last version (not denoting a range), don't the ordinal-number adjectives need to agree with the noun they modify, capitula, rather than the number of chapters that each denotes (i.e. one)?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 3:44
  • @BenKovitz Usque cannot be used as a preposition as far as I know, but can be used with one. (1) There are implied nouns the same way in the Latin (a primo capitulo ad decimum capitulum) and English ("from the first chapter to the tenth chapter") versions. I would argue there is no implied noun, some might disagree, but the two languages are similar here. (2) If there are many things but only one of each kind, it is possible (necessary, I think) to have the noun in plural but each adjective in singular. Ordinals are essentially adjectives. This point is worth a separate question, though.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 3:56
  • (1) In English, one can say "the first through tenth chapters". I suppose it's debatable, but I understand first and tenth to directly modify chapters with no additional implied nouns. I was thinking that Latin could do this, too, but your answer has (so far) swayed me to think that it can't, because the prepositions put the adjectives into a different case than the noun being modified. Am I mistaken? (2) Alia quaestio facta est.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 4:40
  • 2
    I would probably amend to "a primo capítulo usque ad decimum." But I can't elaborate now :)
    – brianpck
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 20:42
  • 2
    @JoonasIlmavirta Echoing brianpck, Latin often elides one word if it's used again in the same way, though I typically have seen it leave off the first, not second, word. So my very minor variation would be "a primo usque ad decimum capitulum."
    – cmw
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 3:15

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