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Consider the two English expressions:

  1. He made a strong machine. (He built a machine, and the machine is a strong one.)
  2. He made the machine strong. (There was a pre-existing machine but it was not strong enough, so he improved it.)

How should I express the second kind of thing in Latin when I want to avoid interpretations of the first kind? My intuition is to go with facere for both, with a slightly different word order:

  1. Machinam fortem fecit.
  2. Machinam fecit fortem.

However, as the word order is quite free in Latin, the distinction is not clear enough. I would probably interpret the Latin phrases 1 and 2 both to mean the same as the English phrase 1.

It is quite possible that the best choice of words depends on context, but I am looking for an overall strategy for expressing the second English phrase. Perhaps there is a verb for turning something into something, which could be used with adjectives and does not have the connotation of producing a new item?

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You could say Machinam firmavit. Here is the corresponding L&S page.

Another option would be Machinam fortificavit. Literally, the verb means fortem fecit, "fortified", though L&S point out fortĭfĭco is postclassical. They give Caelius Aurelianus as a reference, who lived in the fifth century AD.

It seems there was a specific word for just about every case in which the intended meaning was "to make something get a certain quality". Other examples are:

  • gravo, as, avi, atum, āre (to make heavy, or to make painful)
  • stabilio, is, ivi, itum, īre (to make stable)
  • aequo, as, avi, atum, āre ( to equal, match someone/something, or to make something uncertain as in pugnam aequare)

A general strategy, though often but not always within Ecclesiastical and Medieval Latin, and not necessarily leading to actual words, is to compound the adjective and facio, giving birth to words such as fortifico, vilifico, nullifico, mortifico - the pattern is pretty clear, and still used in Italian to make new verbs, such as vanificare.

  • Thanks! These are indeed good words for many contexts (+1), but I don't think they make a good general strategy. Deriving new verbs from can get cumbersome. What would you do with hermeticus and vilis instead of fortis, for example? (It's well possible that there simply is no general strategy, of course.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 23 '18 at 12:06
  • @Joonas: With viliis I would say contemno, abicio or deprimo are good options. I think a general strategy is unlikely, especially if one wants to stick with classical or postclassical terms. Medieval Latin may have been better at that, e.g. advilire was used by Dante, and from that came the Italian avvilire. – Vincenzo Oliva Nov 23 '18 at 12:27
  • @Joonas: Let me know if my edit is at least mildly satisfying. – Vincenzo Oliva Nov 23 '18 at 12:55
  • It is indeed satisfying. I agree that in many cases the specific verbs are best, but the -ificare derivative looks like a good general strategy that can be used with just about any adjective. Such derivations are not exactly good classical style, but sometimes one has to let go of that in order to communicate modern things clearly. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 23 '18 at 13:27
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    Yes, I guess it can be inevitable. Glad I could help! – Vincenzo Oliva Nov 23 '18 at 13:38

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