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I understand that a perfect passive finite verb is formed by combining the perfect passive participle with the correct form of 'esse'. My question is this:

Does it ever happen that the second component of a perfect passive finite verb (the form of 'esse') either precedes or is separated by a few words from the other component (the perfect passive participle)?

I am wondering because I have had trouble, in practice, distinguishing a perfect passive verb from a mere predication using a perfect passive participle (in cases where the third person 'est' is used, as it would be in the verb form). Thanks so much in advance!

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Yes, it does happen. The esse and the perfect participle need not be anywhere near each other. For example, Cicero (in Verrem 2.1.16) writes:

In Siciliam sum inquirendi causa profectus.

The verb proficisci is deponent, but it doesn't invalidate the point. The same freedom is found with other verbs as well (Pro Caecina 84.1):

sum ex eo loco deiectus

Latin word order is flexible also in the sense that words that belong together can be quite far from each other. The examples are from Cicero to show that this is not bad or marginal style.

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