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?

  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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