What option is preferable in the translation of a phrase, say, "bad thoughts give rise/lead to bad results" in your opinion?

  • Option 1: cogitationes malae – praemia mala
  • Option 2: cogitationes malae praemia mala sunt
  • Option 3 (possibly): yours

Thanks in advance for helping me out with translation strategies for a new language to me.


Replacing esse with a dash does not feel like idiomatic Latin to me. One important reason is that the dash did not exist in the era of classical Latin, at least not like today. Using a dash instead of a "to be" is common in Russian (and maybe other Slavic languages), and I have seen a number of people who were educated in Russian using dash similarly in English and other languages. Therefore option 1 looks like Russian influence to me, and I don't think it sits as well with Latin. A much more idiomatic choice in Latin is to leave out the esse completely.

Option 2 feels more idiomatic. However, it doesn't mean "bad thoughts give rise/lead to bad results". It means "bad thoughts are bad results". In fact, option 1 might be preferable as the dash could be read as "therefore" instead of a form of esse.

I prefer option 3; something else would be better. I agree with Hugh that "ex X[abl] Y[nom]" is a good way to translate "from X Y". No verb is needed. If you want to add a verb, it should not be esse. The English original has "give rise" or "lead to", not "are". A better fit would be fieri:

E cogitationibus malis praemia mala fiunt
From bad thoughts arise bad results

One can also rewrite the whole sentence to get more options:

Mala cogitans mala facit
One who things bad does bad things

Here you can replace mala ("bad things") with male ("badly") in one or both instances.

Per cogitationes malas male accidit
Through bad thoughts bad things happen

The difference between these two options is whether you want to give more agency to someone doing bad or the bad events themselves.

  • You are right, that seems to be really a Russian thing to use dashes instead of "to be". As for the Option 2 I messed up with the meaning needed, true. Thanks on this, too! And I really like your second option with verbs, this sounds even more emphatic, which is actually required there. Really nice! Howerver, there is still one thing I'm curious about and suspicious of: does this ex + ablative construction sound like too-English-practice? What I mean is that is it natural to use such a construction in Latin?
    – Ecr ios
    Apr 10 '19 at 14:13
  • @Ecrios I'm glad to be able to help! The construction with ex is idiomatic and I can't see it as English influence. For example, ex oriente lux ("light [comes] from the east") seems to be too old to be affected much by English but I'm not sure of its origin. And actually, the "from X Y" construction doesn't even strike me as very idiomatic English without a verb.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 10 '19 at 14:20
  • 1
    Thanks a lot! Now my curiousity seems to be satisfied! :)
    – Ecr ios
    Apr 10 '19 at 14:33

Would you be prepared to rephrase it as "Out of bad thoughts, bad results" ? E or Ex + Ablative means 'out of,' or 'resulting from.' Is that close enough to your original idea?

cogitationes malae – praemia mala becomes
E cogitationibus malis praemia mala

  • no need for 'est'

Simpler still, or perhaps only shorter, use a Past Participle to give precedence of time to the cogitationes. Lierally "Bad things having been thought, (there are) evil rewards;" or "With bad thinking, outcomes are evil."

Malis cogitatis, praemia mala.

This uses the Ablative Absolute construction.

  • Wow, amazing! Absolutely different approach to the matter, different way of thinking! Now it sounds like a Japanese hoku to me, really brilliant! Thanks! A sight "ex altera parte"!
    – Ecr ios
    Apr 10 '19 at 13:32

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