Imperative forms and deponent verbs are quite common ancient Latin literature, and imperative forms of deponent verbs also occur. But are there examples of passive imperative forms of non-deponent verbs in ancient literature? If there are no ancient examples, are there later examples, either?

It is easy to make the conjugation by analogy to deponent imperative. For example, "amare!" would mean "be loved!" and "edere!" would mean "be eaten!". I do not recall having ever encountered such conjugation. Coincidentally, in second person singular the forms coincide with the present active infinitive and under some circumstances the passive imperative might be easily misinterpreted.

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    A casual search only reveals postclassical examples.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 20:53
  • I think there is also the issue with the infinitivus pro imperativo: the infinitive can be used for commands in Latin (and also Greek, I believe). That makes the (formally identical) passive imperative potentially quite confusing. I wonder in how many languages the i.p.i. exists, by the way; it is common enough in Dutch and German as well.
    – Cerberus
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


It is rare to find a true (i.e. non-deponent) passive imperative, because the idea of ordering someone to do something is opposed to the idea of having something done to you.

Pinkster, in Oxford Latin Syntax (pg. 164), explains this more clearly:

The grammatical category of 'mood' is one of the means by which the speaker can convey his view of the extralinguistic reality and his communicative intentions with regard to one or more interlocutors. . . .

It is evident that the moods have the semantic function discussed in the preceding paragraph from the fact that there exist cases of (in)compatibility of (grammatical) mood with other entities. For example, in the case of the imperative, it is very odd to order a person to do something when he has no control over it; this explains the very low frequency of true passive imperative forms.

That said, he does cite in section 7.66 (op. cit.) several excellent examples from classical and post-classical sources. He splits them into several categories:

True passive ("rare")

Vis illud augustissimum consulum aliquando tribunal maiestati suae reddere? ascende. Vis constare reverentiam magistratibus, legibus auctoritatem, modestiam postulantibus? adire. (Pliny, Panegyricus, 60.3)

Would you restore its former majesty to the consuls' tribunal, once so much revered? Then mount it. Do you want to strengthen respect for the magistrates, spread restraint among litigants, and confirm the authority of the law? Then let men come before you. (from Loeb translation)

(note that some older editions, such as this one, use accipe and mark adire as a variant in the critical apparatus, presumably because the usage is so rare.)

Quaecumque pestis sive quaecumque es fera, / palam timere (Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus, 1260-1)

Whatever pest you be or wild thing, / be thou openly feared!

Virgil has one example:

Hic tibi certa domus, certi, ne absiste, penates. / Neu belli terrere minis. (Aeneid, 8.39-40)

Here your home is sure--draw not back--and sure are your gods! Be not scared by threats of war!

And (post-classical) the Vulgate:

venite et curamini (Luke 13:14)

Come and be cured.

"Decausative" Passive ("rare")

Lassare et disce sine armis / posse pati. (Luc. 5.313-14)

Grow weary; learn to find life endurable without fighting.

Autocausative Passive ("slightly less rare")

(I read this as similar to the Greek middle voice.)

Tute hoc intristi. Tibi omne'st exedendum. Adcingere. (Ter, Ph, 318)

You mashed up this mess. You must eat it all up. Gird yourself.


Facesse hinc Tarquinios... Devolvere retro ad stirpem... (Liv. 1.47.5)

Be off from here to Tarquinii! Sink back [lit. be returned] into the rank of your family.

Virgil again:

Ergo age, care pater, cervici imponere nostrae. (Aeneid, 2.707)

Come now then, dear father, place thyself on my neck.

and Seneca:

Sic ergo formare ut scias non posse te consequi, ut sis impenetrabilis. (Sen. Nat, 4a.pr.5)

Be you therefore formed so that you know that you cannot be taken, so that you are impenetrable.

Future Passive Imperative

Used once by Cicero, but in the third person: "apparently intended as a third person plural form, in the style of Twelve Tables."

Regio imperio duo sunto, iique a praeeundo, iudicando, consulendo praetores, iudices, consules appellamino. (Cicero, Leg. 3.8)

There shall be two magistrates with royal powers. Since they lead, judge, and confer, from these functions they shall be called praetors, judges, and consuls.

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    Many thanks! I never expected to receive such a thorough answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 16:32
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    Pinkster did all the work!
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 16:33
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    Excellent answer! I use Pinkster's Latin-Dutch electronic dictionary, but unfortunately he was no longer teaching at the University of Amsterdam when I arrived there. And the project of the Oxford Latin Syntax is very interesting. Will it replace Kühner–Stegmann? Time will tell...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 0:36
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    @Cerberus and the second volume, "The Complex Sentence and Discourse", will be available in March! global.oup.com/academic/product/…*&resultsPerPage=100&lang=en&cc=gb
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 16:23
  • @AlexB.: Great! Have you been using Pinkster I instead of K–S now, or do they complement each other?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 17:34

For what it's worth, this shows up sometimes in Church Latin. "Surge, illuminare Ierusalem" -- "Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem".

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    Welcome to the site. Good example.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 17:35

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