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North & Hillard Ex. 190; Q1: "While they were cutting down the wood the enemy came upon them." The answer: "dum silvam succidunt eos hostis adoritur." The instruction given by N & H, p.146: dum (= while) regularly takes present indicative, even of past time.

Firstly: "were cutting down" must be imperfect yet the answer gives the perfect "succidunt"--why? This sometimes occurs when the following verb is pluperf; but, then, these are completed actions, in the past. Secondly: dum (= while) governs "succidunt"; so, from N-&-H's instruction the writer could choose to put this in the present tense; but, not "adoritur"--which is in the present? Thirdly: "adoritur" means "he attacks"; perfectly valid in the circumstances given, in the Q, but the student is asked for "came upon them"--assuming that this is acceptable artistic license?

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  1. Succidunt is present, not perfect, which would be succiderunt. Present and perfect stem are identical for this verb, but in this case the difference is visible in the present ending -unt. so the present indicative is used after dum as per the instruction.

  2. Adoritur should probably be read as praesens historicum. You could use a past tense instead.

  3. I would say attacked and came upon are both fine, with a similar meaning. From Lewis & Short:

adorior: ... to rise up for the purpose of going to some one or something, or of undertaking something great, difficult, or hazardous (clandestinely, artfully, when a hostile approach is spoken of; while aggredi indicates a direct, open attack from a distance ...)

  • present tense, of course it is! Get "blind spots" over things; most notably, indirect speech cf epistemic modality. Thank you. – tony Jun 11 '18 at 11:20
  • @tony: Happens to all of us from time to time! – Cerberus Jun 11 '18 at 12:09

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