I just saw an episode of Mr Bean and once again heard the choir sing in Latin. Based on what I remember hearing and what I found online, the four segments sung are:

  1. Start: Ecce homo qui est faba — Behold the man who is a bean
  2. End of first half: Finis partis primae — End of first part
  3. Start of second half: Pars secunda — Part two
  4. End: Vale homo qui est faba — Farewell, man who is a bean

In all sources I saw the last line has est. I would expect es, since vale is addressed to Mr Bean (second person singular). I recall seeing second person verbs in relative clauses, for example: Tibi, qui amicus es, donum do.

Is the est in the fourth line grammatical? Is it possible to use third person verbs in a relative clause to refer to second person this way? Is it indeed supposed to be est instead of es? I found no authoritative sources for the lyrics, and I cannot hear the difference clearly enough to judge by ear.

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    Not sure at all if it is, but supposing you are listening well and the whole sentence is in fact grammatical, i'd also consider the possibility that the relative clause is being treated as adjectival (Vale, homo qui-est-faba). I don't know if that is legal either. Another option is they are treating vale, as just a greeting, not a verb (interjection maybe?) I have the feeling that vale and ave might have fossilized as verbs at some point after antiquity
    – Rafael
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 20:40
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    It sounds like the influence of ModE grammar to me, where you're a man who's a bean is more common than you're a man who are a bean, if the latter occurs at all.
    – Anonym
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 22:32
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    @Asteroides Plautus Truc. 667 as well: Ita te quidem, qui es familiaris.
    – cmw
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 5:11
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    @cmw: That seems like a good additional example of the same type as "Tibi, qui amicus es, donum do." However, it differs from "Vale homo qui est faba" in that the latter, but not the former, has a noun (homo) that is not the second-person pronoun. (However, looking back at my comment, I'm not sure why I said "that is not a 2nd-person pronoun or a vocative", since I think "homo" here may be vocative.)
    – Asteroides
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 5:26
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    @Asteroides Yeah, I was thinking of "noun phrase" more broadly, but I guess it's a direct relative after te here. You do see the o * qui/quae + 2nd person very frequently. I don't think the homo needs the o, but it's still vocative with vale.
    – cmw
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 5:34

1 Answer 1


I think you are correct that "Vale homo qui es faba" would be grammatical.

A noun following "Vale" is frequently in the vocative form, sometimes in the nominative form, based on examples I have seen from searching the PHI corpus (the correspondence of M. Cornelius Fronto especially seems to contain many examples of nouns in this context).

Here is an example I saw where a second-person verb is used in a "qui" relative clause even after a noun phrase with nominative form:

Vale, meus magister, qui merito apud animum meum omnis omni re praevenis. (Letter 22)

After a vocative (which "homo" in your example could well be), I would intuitively feel even more certain about using the second person for a verb. The pater noster is of course an extremely famous text where a second-person verb is used in a relative clause after a vocative: "Pater noster qui es in caelis".

Another example of a second-person verb in a relative clause after a vocative is found in Cicero's De Divinatione:

O sancte Apollo, qui umbilicum certum terrarum obtines ( 2.115.2)

(found using the search for #o# ~ qui# that cmw linked to in a comment; Cicero here is quoting some unknown poet)

I can't say for sure that a third-person verb in this context would be ungrammatical, but I did not see any example of it.

The comments brought up a similar structure which is a little less clear to me: Anonym mentions English "you're a man who's a bean", where the direct antecedent of the relative pronoun qui is a noun phrase ("a man") serving as the predicative complement in a matrix clause where the second-person pronoun ("you") is the subject. I'm not sure whether a second-person verb be used in Latin in a sentence like "tu es homo qui es(t) faba". Because "homo" in this context plays the syntactic role in the matrix clause of predicative complement to es, we would not expect it to be possible to interpret it as a vocative (as indicated in brianpck's question about the form macte). Still, based on the "meus magister, qui ... praevenis" example cited above, I would guess that second person agreement would be possible and probably preferred in Latin in this context as well as in contexts like "Vale homo qui es faba".

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    Preference for first or second person in relative clauses is so strong, it occurs even when the relative clause modifies a third-person pronoun or noun that is the predicate complement of a first or second person pronoun. Cicero: Ego <sum> is consul qui contionem metuam. Cicero: Non sum autem ego is consul qui, ut plerique, nefas esse arbitrer Gracchos laudare. Commented May 13, 2022 at 18:48

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