Is there any semantic or aspectual difference between aret and aridus est (cf. rubet/ruber est; calet/calidus est, candet/candidus est, i.a.)?

Ager aret. (Col. 2.8.5)

Ager aridus erat. (Sal. Iug. 90)

The aspectual differences between aret, arescit, and exarescit are for example more or less clear: state, atelic/non-resultative process, and telic/resultative event, respectively. The following text from Plautus nicely exemplifies them:

Da mihi vestimenti aliquid aridi / dum arescunt mea […] / Tegillum eccillud, mihi unum id aret; id si vis, dabo […] / Tu istaec mihi dato: exarescent faxo.

(Plaut. Rud., 573-578)

In Spanish there are two main stative copular verbs: ser (esse-derived) and estar (stare-derived). In the former example below the state of 'dry' would be conceptualized as a permanent characteristic of the subject. In contrast, in the latter the transitory state of 'dry' holds as a result of a previous event. I was wondering if a similar aspectual difference could be involved in the contrast (?) between aridus est and aret. The origin of the Latin -e- morpheme in the stative verb aret is resultative, isn't it?

La tierra es árida. (Spanish)

La tierra está árida.

After reading the very interesting answer and comments (cf. infra), I think that some further remarks are in order:

I think that Kingshorsey’s interesting paraphrase of aret as ‘continues without water’ is compatible with my intuition above that this verb expresses a resultant state, compared to aridus est, which could only (?) involve an attribution of a purely stative property expressed by the adjective.

Kingshorsey’s final point (i.e., “I would tend to read the relatively common phrase ager aret as durative rather than stative") is not expressed correctly since “durativity” is not usually understood as a property that is incompatible with “stativity” (according to typical aspectual classifications of predicates like the famous Vendlerian one both states and activities are durative). This said, Kingshorsey’s intuition is indeed very interesting: I interpret his point as saying that aret is more eventive than aridus est, which is correct, I think. In some contemporary semantic approaches to lexical aspect (so-called ‘aktionsart’), two types of states have been distinguished: the so-called Davidsonian states (let’s say, the more “eventive” ones) and the Kimian states (the less eventive or purely stative ones). According to this terminology, ager aret would be a Davidsonian state, whereas aridus est would be a Kimian state.

Furthermore, Kingshorsey points out that the verb aret can communicate “even progressive aspect (‘is drying out’)”. And it is here when Sumelic’s important allusion to so-called aspectual coercion is relevant: in my opinion, aret can only express progressive aspect if and only if it is used as arescit (NB: aspectual coercion is a typical phenomenon: for example, a stative predicate like to know can acquire an achievement (hence eventive) reading in a context like Finally he knew the answer). Notice then the logic of the aspectual classification: aret is to be to put in the middle between the purely stative predicate aridus est and the dynamic/eventive one arescit. It is then not surprising that aret can be used in some contexts (i.e., “aspectually coerced”) as arescit. Similarly, although arescit typically expresses an atelic/non-resultative event, I would not be surprised that this unprefixed -sco verb can be used (again aspectually coerced!) as a telic event (e.g., as exarescit) in some delimited contexts. Notice, again, the logic of the classification: unlike arescit, aret is expected not to be used telically since it is placed “too far” from the telic scale.

Finally, I briefly address a complex point made by TKR: “aruit would naturally mean ‘it became dry’ whether you see it as deriving from aresco or areo”. Here the following brief remark is in order: in Early and Classical Latin prose aruit means ‘it was dry’, whereas in Classical poetry it can sometimes mean ‘it became dry’. In Classical Latin prose 'it became dry' was normally expressed by a prefixed verb: e.g., exaruit. For more details, see the extensive monograph by G. Haverling (2000): On Sco-Verbs, Prefixes and Semantic Functions: A study in the development of prefixed and unprefixed verbs from Early to Late Latin http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A345417&dswid=https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/x-locale/redirect-overlay/redirect-overlay-nav-mx-https-20150828.CB311575010.css

By the way, as for Kingshorsey's point/example from the Vulgate, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the complex aspectual system of Early and Classical Latin became blurred in Late Latin. For example, a clearly eventive verb like erubescere ('turn red') in Early and Classical Latin can turn into a stative verb ('be ashamed') in Late Latin. Furthermore, unlike in Classical Latin prose, in Late Latin the unprefixed aruit had a typical dynamic change-of-state sense, as noted by Kingshorsey. Another well-known fact is that in Late Latin, stative verbs like aret were typically replaced by the copular construction (aridus est; e.g., cf. also the Spanish copular pattern above).

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    Nice overlaps (between colour and vitality) in another set: viridus, viret, virescit
    – Hugh
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


The expressions may sometimes be equivalent, but there are two features particular to areo. First,the verb can communicate a durative or even progressive aspect, "continues without water" or "is drying out."

Vergil, Eclogae, 10.67: cum moriens alta liber aret in ulmo, (while the dying bark grows dry on the lofty elm)

Second, the verb has a negative connotation, almost always carrying the additional connotation of thirst. That is, with the exception of the passage you cited from Rudens, the lack of water is viewed as problematic.

Ovid, Ars Amat. 2.606: Garrulus in media Tantalus aret aqua! (Blabby Tantalus remains parched surrounded by water!)

BTW, I would tend to read the relatively common phrase ager aret as durative rather than stative: "the field continues without water." This seems to me to match best the resultative force of the past tense, as seen in the Vulgate, pars super quam non plui aruit (the part upon which I did not send rain has dried out).

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    Thanks, this is interesting! In terms of the perfect having a resultative meaning, mightn’t that just be a result of aspectual coercion? Are other stative verbs not able to be used that way in the perfect?
    – Asteroides
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 19:03
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    @sumelic I'm not sure that's a real difference; -sco is restricted to the present system in almost all verbs, and aruit would naturally mean "it became dry" whether you see it as deriving from aresco or areo.
    – TKR
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 20:42
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    @sumelic That same happens with all verbs in -sco; they share the perfect forms with the base verb. One could of course ask (see TKR's comment) whether the derivatives have perfect forms at all, but many dictionaries do list them.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 21:13
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    @TKR: Got it. How about “fuit aridus”? Would that be able to be used to mean “it became dry”?
    – Asteroides
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 21:27
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    @sumelic Good question... I would think it might in a specific context, but I'm not sure.
    – TKR
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 22:49

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