16

Lewis & Short gives the following definition:

surely, certainly, to be sure, by all means, indeed, in fact
certainly, indeed, forsooth
for, for in fact
for, because, inasmuch as
for indeed, since in fact, inasmuch as
as one in fact who, which, that, since or inasmuch as I, thou, he, it

which, to be frank, I find completely unhelpful when trying to write in Latin.

The best I can come up with is that "quippe blah blah blah" is generally used to mean something like "since, of course, blah blah blah."

Eum reliqui, quippe in Tartarum intrare non poterat.
I left him behind, since of course he couldn't enter Tartarus.

Mansi, quippe qui eum in Tartarum comitari non possem.
I stayed, since of course I couldn't accompany him into Tartarus.

That seems like it would work with all the examples given in Lewis & Short, even the ironic speech of Juno's from the Æneid.

Is this the right way to think about what quippe means and how it's used? If not, what would be a better way? Does it have any additional meanings/uses?

9

I have typically encountered quippe with relative pronouns. It strengthens the relative pronoun in a way that is often best translated with something other than a relative structure. The word quippe emphasizes that the relative clause contains an explanation. Artificial examples:

  • Amicus meus non cantat, quippe qui ne loqui quidem potest. "My friend does not sing, for he can't even speak."
  • Ille mihi auxiliari non poterat, quippe qui ipse quoque inops erat. "He could not help me, because in fact he was broke, too."

This is not the only possible use of quippe, but this is the one I feel most comfortable with (and have seen most often).

Note added later: Is used the indicative above, but conjunctive may be preferable in relative clauses with quippe. Both moods are possible. See this separate question about this issue.

  • Thank you! What would be the difference between your first sentence and Amicus meus non cantat, quod ne loqui quidem potest? I guess I'm having trouble understanding what "strengthening the relative pronoun" means. – Joel Derfner Mar 23 '16 at 19:17
  • Or is it the addition of "in fact" that makes it? "My friend doesn't sing, for in fact he can't even speak." – Joel Derfner Mar 23 '16 at 19:21
  • @JoelDerfner, I see quite little difference between quod and quippe qui in this case. However, with qui the subordinate clause is in fact a relative one. In English you can't express the same idea with a relative clause, so the translation works better with some other appropriate structure. Adding "in fact" seems like a reasonable choice, and (to me) that seems to clarify the difference between quod and quippe qui. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 23 '16 at 22:12
  • 1
    Okay, so I think that, after some more reading experience, I'm coming to the conclusion that in fact the difference between "...cantat, quippe qui ne loqui..." and "...cantat, quod ne loqui..." is that when the subject of the second clause can be expressed with a relative pronoun, Latin simply wouldn't use quod—that it's a question not of grammar but of style. Or, put another way, if a "quod/quia" clause can be replaced with a "quippe qui/quem/whatever" clause, it should be; if not, it should stay quod. – Joel Derfner Apr 10 '16 at 10:18
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    @JoonasIlmavirta, I was just looking over this answer, and I think it could be expanded to address other uses of quippe. quippe + relative is only one meaning in the L&S entry (5. a + b). A search of a Latin corpus, by my rough count, shows only about half being used with relative pronouns. – brianpck Jul 22 '16 at 21:16

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