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In many textbooks of Latin grammar it is often noted that Gerundives can be used predicatively in agreement with the direct object of transitive verbs such as do, trado, mitto, peto, curo, relinquo, suscipio, etc. Some examples from Woodcock’s (1959: 164) “A New Latin Syntax” follow:

Diviti homini id aurum servandum dedit (Pl. Bacch. 338) ‘He gave that gold to a rich man to keep’.

Ibi agrum de nostro patre colendum habebat (Ter. Phorm. 305) ‘He had there a piece of land from my father to farm’.

Caesar pontem in Arare faciendum curat (Caes. BG 1, 13,1). ‘Caesar arranged for the building of a bridge over the Arar’.

Epaminondam pecunia corrumpendum suscepit (Nep. 15,4,1) ‘He undertook the bribing of Epaminondas with money’.

NB: in the passive voice the object becomes the subject, whereby the predicative Gerundive agrees with it in nominative case: cf. (Sicilia) mihi defendenda tradita est (Cic. Verr. 5, 188).

In his (1990:145) book Latin syntax and semantics, Pinkster also deals with this use but only gives the two following examples of Gerundive used as 'Object Praedicativum':

Populus Romanus consuli potius Crasso quam privato Africano bellum gerendum dedit (Cic. Phil. 11.18) ‘The Roman people preferred the consul C. to the private person A. as their leader in the war’ (NB: Pinkster's translation).

Domos nostras et patriam ipsam vel diripiendam vel inflammandam reliquimus (Cic. Fam. 16.12.1) ‘We have left our homes and our very fatherland to be destroyed or set on fire’.

As noted above, many textbooks of Latin syntax devote a section to this predicative use of Gerundives. However, when commenting on the data of such a section, the authors typically pay special attention to the list of particular transitive verbs this Gerundive construction is dependent on but no one appears to point out that at least TWO syntactic types of Object Praedicativa should be differentiated in the Gerundive constructions above: the one where the Gerundive is an optional adjunct/modifier (e.g., Diviti homini id aurum (servandum) dedit) and the one where the Gerundive behaves like in a so-called “dominant” participle construction (aka ab urbe condita construction): e.g., Epaminondam *(pecunia corrumpendum) suscepit.

Putting aside the ones appearing in the periphrastic modal passive construction (e.g., Caesari omnia erant agenda), how many types of predicative Gerundives can be distinguished? As noted above, in my opinion, two basic syntactic types of predicative Gerundives (adjunct vs. "dominant" ones) must be distinguished but perhaps other finer distinctions should be made. Any thoughts?

Admittedly, it is not always easy to see if the predicative Gerundive is optional (it is an adjunct) or rather behaves like a dominant/obligatory participle. For example, in my opinion, Pinkster’s first example above is to be interpreted as a dominant participle construction, whereby I prefer Lavency’s (1985: 193) French translation, i.e., via a deverbal nominalization: ‘Le peuple romain confia à Crassus la conduite de la guerre’ (bold mine). Extr. from his famous VSVS textbook. Perhaps some of you will tell me that here I'm too much influenced by the translation and that the alleged parallelism between (some) predicative Gerundives and so-called "dominant" participles does not hold in Latin. Well, I think that this criticism can be easily refuted by the existence of well-known examples like ante conditam condendamve urbem, which clearly shows that there is a grammatical parallelism between so-called "dominant" participles and Gerundives. So, mutatis mutandis, the same could be applied to some Gerundives used as 'Object/Subject Praedicativa'.

  • Just a clarification: following standard notation in linguistics, Diviti homini id aurum (servandum) dedit is still interpreted as grammatical without the material within parentheses. In contrast, Epaminondam *(pecunia corrumpendum) suscepit is interpreted as ungrammatical without the material within parentheses (NB: the star symbol * means ungrammaticality). – Mitomino Mar 30 at 4:46

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