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Consider the following excerpt from Psalm 94 in the Vulgate.

Hódie, si vocem eius audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra, sicut in exacerbatióne secúndum diem tentatiónis in desérto: ubi tentavérunt me patres vestri, probavérunt et vidérunt ópera mea.

I know that an English translation of the same Psalm reads, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." At first glance, it looks to me like the present subjunctive should have been used and the translator should have written audiatis in place of audieritis.

I think audieritis is the future perfect (why isn't it audiveritis?), in which case a literal translation would be, "If today you will have heard his voice, refuse to harden your hearts." But this seems odd. Is there a certain Latin grammatical rule I'm missing? Why would the future perfect be used here? And why wouldn't it be written audiveritis?

  • The intervocalic v of perfect stems can often be lost (sometimes with contraction of the vowels to a single long vowel, sometimes without contraction). Here is a question asking about related contractions: When did unsyncopated forms become archaic? – sumelic Mar 26 at 23:06
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You might be surprised to learn that forms with -āv- and -īv- (amāvī, audīvī) are extremely rare in Classical Latin, considered archaic and pretentious by major grammarians! It certainly came as a surprise to me about a month ago, after eight years studying classics…

The upshot is, you should absolutely expect audīeritis instead of audīveritis. Contraction is more common than you've been taught!

As you've rightly surmised, this is a future perfect form. Literally, something like "you all will have heard". However, this "will have heard" phrasing is awkward in English. English uses the normal present instead, so in any context except a Latin class I would just say "if you hear".

As for why it's future perfect: Latin uses future tense for anything that hasn't happened yet. English doesn't always: consider something like "if you go to the store, make sure to get some eggs". If I'm saying this, you're clearly not going to the store yet. But English leaves off future marking after "if". In particular, Latin would use the future perfect, since it's describing something that hasn't happened yet, but has to happen before something else. The audience can't refuse to harden their hearts until they've heard him speaking.

As for why it's indicative: this is something the speaker actually thinks will happen. The listeners are going to go hear him. Subjunctive is used when it's not likely that the condition will actually come true (or, if you know it actually hasn't happened).

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    I think that the i might be shortened in this context (I'd need to check to be sure). Leumann mentions a form "dormĭĕrunt", which seems analogous, although he also mentions "īerant" as a form of eo. – sumelic Mar 26 at 23:32
  • @sumelic Oh, interesting, I didn't know it was ever shortened! There's a lot I don't know about contractions it seems… – Draconis Mar 26 at 23:38
  • Also, I'm not sure, but based on Varro's answer here and the Reddit discussion here, it might be a bit anachronistic to talk about vowel length in the Vulgate. – sumelic Mar 27 at 8:04

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