This grid on Wiktionary gives quem for the singular feminine accusative of the relative pronoun quis.


According to books by Kennedy, Gwynne and Henry Cullen this should be quam.

enter image description here

Please can you tell me which is right?

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! This is a very good question, and confuses me too. Can you specify whether you are looking at the relative pronoun (qui, quae, quod), the interrogative pronoun (quis, quid), both, or some other combination? The page in your picture contains several pronouns, and they are slightly different.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 14, 2018 at 15:58
  • 1
    Thank you :) I'm looking at the interrogative pronoun (quis, quis). I think it should be quam in the fem acc singular, but I've never found Wiktionary to be wrong before.
    – Gail Foad
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:01
  • I think the fem sing acc is quam for both the interrogative pronoun and the relative pronoun?
    – Gail Foad
    Mar 14, 2018 at 17:28
  • 6
    So far I found this explanation. "The common form for the interrogative-indefinite and relative pronouns is quem [...] Quem was also sometimes used for fem. [...] but it was ousted by quam" (Tronskii 1960: 204; English translation mine; emphasis mine as well).
    – Alex B.
    Mar 14, 2018 at 17:47
  • 2
    @AlexB. As I deduce from your excellent answer below: "sometimes" means "once".
    – fdb
    Mar 19, 2018 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


If I may play the role of arbiter between sumelic and Alex B: For a question like this it is much better to adduce citations from classical authors rather than quote a plethory of pedagogical grammars (to say nothing of Wikipedia). If Neue apud Alex B is right, the acc. sing. fem. of the interrogative pronoun occurs as quem exactly once, namely in the cited passage from Plautus’ Miles gloriosus. I think this decides the question. The canonical Latin form is quam. Quem is a unique archaic variant.

  • Or even a "typo"?
    – Rafael
    Mar 19, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    "For a question like this it is much better to adduce citations from classical authors" - couldn't agree more; that's why I marked my answer as "in progress."
    – Alex B.
    Mar 20, 2018 at 14:28
  • 1
    How many times does quam appear in citations from classical authors?
    – Gail Foad
    Apr 14, 2018 at 15:41
  • @GailBowen. I would guess: thousands of times. But feel free to count them.
    – fdb
    Apr 16, 2018 at 15:21
  • There are certainly not thousands of examples of "quam" used as a feminine interrogative pronoun, though ... I think the mismatch between the title of the question and the question posed in the body/comments below has caused some subtleties to be passed over in this answer.
    – Asteroides
    Mar 5, 2023 at 6:35

answer in progress - I encourage you to make comments or edits, or add examples -

My hypothesis (to be tested)

Interrogative pronoun (ACC. FEM.SG): quem

Interrogative determiner/adjective (ACC. FEM.SG): quam (quem is attested only once in Plautus, see the quote from Neue at al. below)

Relative pronoun (ACC. FEM.SG): quam

"The common form for the interrogative-indefinite and relative pronouns is quem" (Tronskii 1960: 204).

Sommer 1902:

enter image description here

Neue et al. (volume 2):

enter image description here

The following part is my summary of different sections found in Pinkster 2015 (all the examples are chosen from Pinkster 2015, too)

  1. Interrogative pronouns quis, quid:
  • Videon Cliniam an non? #Quem vides? (Terence, Hau.)
  1. Interrogative determiners (often called adjectival forms) qui, quae, quod ‘what?’ ‘which?’:
  • Quam meam matrem? (Pl. Epid. 570-2) FEM.
  1. Relative pronouns qui, quae, quod:
  • In nutricatu, quam porculationem appella[ba]nt, binis mensibus porcos sinunt cum matribus. (Var. R. 2.4.13) FEM.
  • Huc enim pertinent, animal hoc providum … plenum rationis et consilii, quem vocamus hominem, praeclara quadam condicione generatum esse a supremo deo. (Cic. Leg. 1.22) MASC.
  1. Indefinite pronoun quis (also qui);
  • examples
  1. Indefinite determiner qui(s):
  • Omnium primum salutem dicito matri et patri/et cognatis et si quem alium benevolentem videris. (Pl. Capt. 389-90)

That being said, the difference between a pronoun and a determiner was not always observed. Pinkster 2015 writes that

“the distinction between masc./fem. quis and masc. qui / fem. quae (normally the determiner forms) is not clear-cut” (p. 1124) or “the sg. nom. masc. forms of the interrogative determiner and the interrogative pronouns (qui and quis) are in practice not well distinguished” (p. 974):

  • Quis enim umquam orator magnus et gravis … haesitavit … (Cic. de Orat. 1.220) – normally, we would expect to see “qui” here.
  • Ergasilum qui vocat? … Sed quis est? (Pl. Capt. 833-5) - normally, we would expect to see “quis” in both cases here.

The female accusative singular relative pronoun is "quam". Aside from occasional mistakes (for which see the section below), I don't believe there is any controversy about his.

However, from the comments, it looks like this question is actually about both the relative pronoun and interrogative pronoun:

I'm looking at the interrogative pronoun (quis, quis). I think it should be quam in the fem acc singular

Interrogative pronouns

The following Latin Discussion threads seem relevant: "Qui, quae, quod" vs. "quis, quid" (by Pacifica), feminine of interrogative pronoun (by socratidion).

The feminine accusative singular interrogative pronoun is not common. There is some basis for saying that it is quam, but I think fdb's answer goes too far in calling this "the canonical Latin form": neither quem nor quam seems well attested in substantival use in interrogative contexts. Think about it: how often do you know the gender of a person when you're asking the question "whom?" There are some contexts where it can make sense, but often the gender of an unidentified person isn't known ahead of time, and in that case we would default to masculine forms. The example "quem vides?" "Who do you see?", mentioned in Alex B.'s answer, seems like it could conceivably be an example of this (even given the context of a woman being seen). However, the example of "Quem nominem?" in Plautus cannot be interpreted that way. Quem here certainly might be an archaism, as Plautus is an Old Latin author.

I am not familiar with specific citations showing quam used with this function. It is a bit difficult to search for this because of the several other uses of quam (as relative pronoun, indefinite pronoun, and conjunction).

However, there are attested uses of the forms quae and qua as feminine interrogative pronouns: in the linked Latin Discussion thread, socratidion give the following example:

haec tum miracula Colchis
struxerat ignipotens nondum noscentibus, ille
quis labor, aligeris aut quae secet anguibus auras
caede madens. (Val. Flacc. Arg. 5.451-4)

The doors of the temple of the sun, prophetically decorated with images of future events: "The firegod had built these marvels then for the Colchians, who did not yet know what that hardship is, or who is cutting the air with winged serpents, (herself) dripping with slaughter" The 'who' in question is Medea.

So it does not seem unreasonable to assume quam could likewise be used for "whom". However, you could probably debate whether quae, quam, quā in this kind of context had the meaning "whom?" or the meaning "which (woman?)"

Use of quem erroneously as a feminine relative pronoun

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I actually don't think I have yet read any sources that say that it is correct to use quem as a feminine relative pronoun.

I found this usage called a mistake in a document "Notes from Carthage", by David R. Jordan (aus: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 111 (1996) 115–123), which discusses some inscriptions found on curse tablets from the Roman Imperial period:

As is common in magical texts from as early as the 1st century of our era, the intended victim is given maternal lineage [I removed irrelevant notes about Greek spelling errors, which Jordan says may be compared to] mistakes on other curse tablets from Carthage, e.g. [...] quem for quam in the Latin expression of this phrase in 3 below.

(p. 119)

After a feminine name in the expression of maternal lineage we expect not quen but a quam. The same mistake in gender occurs on three curse tablets from Hadrumetum, DefixTabAud 264–65 (Victoria, quem peperit sua uulua) and 266 (Vettiam, quem peperit Optata). In formularies the words quem (or quam) peperit were often abbreviated to q p (Jordan 1976), and in fact the abbreviation occurs, unresolved, at 248.6, [Ades]icla, q p Victoria (Carthage); cf. 300(B).2 [S]iluanu[m,] q p uulua (Cirta). Use of a formulary and careless resolution of its q p could explain the mistakes here and in 266.13


13 For quam > quem Jeanneret 1918:79 attempts a phonetic explanation, invoking the early history of the French language. It is striking that from the Hadrumetine curse tablets he is able to cite only one instance of quam>quem (Bonosa quem uobis . . . commendo, DefixTabAud 268.10) in a phrase that is not part of the formula for maternal lineage.

(p. 121)

I realize this is a kind of weird and obscure source for information about Latin relative pronoun usage, and it's not the main topic of the notes, but based on what Jordan says here it seems that the use of quem for a feminine accusative relative pronoun is apparently quite uncommon, not expected, and treated as a mistake, at least in the time period when these tablets are supposed to have been written.

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