Deponent verbs are those who are written (normally) in passive form but are active in meaning. loquor, loquī, locūtus sum is a common example in Latin. I wonder if the opposite exists, i.e. a verb which is active in form but passive in meaning. To be honest, I cannot even think of one in Spanish or English, which might indicate that this does not exist in Latin either. Any ideas?


3 Answers 3


I would argue that iacēre is of this kind. Morphologically it is fully active, but semantically it can be seen as a passive form of iacĕre. Lewis and Short describe it as "to be thrown" and hence "to lie". However, iacēre is not syntactically fully passive: It is intransitive so it takes no objects, but to my knowledge it cannot take an agent.

There may well be more verbs like this, but the pair iacere/iacere is the most common one I know. Many verbs of the second conjugation describe a state rather than an action, which is well compatible with the -ē- working as a passive indicator here.

  • Interesting. Now I might finally be able to remember which is iacēre and which is iacĕre!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 1:14

These are the textbook examples:

  • Fio (and its compounds) functions as the passive of facio (and its compounds). It even can take an agent. But it has some passive forms (fieri, factus sum).
  • Veneo functions as the passive of vendo.
  • Those are good ones! Do you know if veneo can take an agent? Or are there other signs that it functions syntactically, not just semantically, as a passive of vendo?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 15:54
  • I don't know, I have never seen it but have little experience with texts with this verb. Ablative without preposition, at any rate, is that of price, not agent, here.
    – Nolmendil
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 16:39

Another common example that comes to mind is vapulo, -are, which means "to be beaten."

In at least one case cited in L&S from Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria, vapulo can even be paired with an ablative of agent:

. . . testis in reum, rogatus an ab reo fustibus uapulasset, 'innocens', inquit. . . .

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