Elements of Latin Lesson 53
The Infinitive Used as in English

Possunt quia posse videntur — They can because they think they can
From Vergil. Literally, They are able because they seem to be able.

365. Nature of the Infinitive. The uses of the infinitive are much the same in Latin as in English. Being a verbal noun it is used sometimes as a verb and sometimes as a noun. As a verb, it has tense and voice, may govern a case, and may be modified by an adverb. As a noun, it may have the construction of a noun. For example, in To cross the marsh quickly was difficult, the infinitive to cross is a noun, for it is the subject of was; but is it also a verb, for it takes an object (marsh) and is modified by an adverb (quickly).

366. Infinitive Clause as Object. In English, verbs of commanding, wishing, forbidding, and the like may be followed by a clause consisting of a noun or pronoun in the objective case and an infinitive: as, the slave commanded the men to flee. The same construction is used in Latin.

Servus virōs fugere iussit.
The slave commanded the men to flee.

Eōs fābulam audīre cupit.
He wishes them to hear the story.

Eum dīcere vetat.
He forbids him to speak.

367. Rule for the Infinitive Object Clause. The verbs iubeō, command; cupiō, wish; vetō, forbid, and the like are often followed by an infinitive clause as object.

368. Rule for Subject of Infinitive. The subject of the infinitive is in the accusative.

369. Complementary Infinitive. In English, and also in Latin, an infinitive without a subject may be added to many verbs as an adverbial modifier to complete their meaning. Such verbs are called verbs of incomplete predication, and the added infinitive is called a complementary infinitive. Among such verbs are the following:

incipiō I begin
properō I hasten, hurry
possum I am able
studeō I am eager

Fugere incipiunt.
They begin to flee.

Oppidum capere properat.
He hastens to take the town.

Nōn pugnāre potes.
You are not able to fight.

Eum invenīre studeō.
I am eager to find him.

370. Infinitive as Noun. In English, and also in Latin, the infinitive is often a pure noun, being used as the subject of a sentence or as a predicate noun: as,

Vidēre est crēdere.
To see is to believe.
Seeing is believing.

Vincere est grātum.
To conquer is pleasing.
Conquering is pleasing.

    a. An infinitive used as a noun is neuter singular, as is shown in the sentence above by grātum, a neuter adjective in agreement with vincere, the subject.


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Special Vocabulary

Latin Word Meaning Related Words
cupiō, -ere, -īvī, -ītus to wish, desire cupidity
incipiō, -ere, -cēpī, -ceptus to begin incipient, inception
iubeō, -ēre, iussī, iussus to command, order jussive
possum, posse, potuī to be able, can possible, posse, potent
vetō, -āre, -uī, -itus to forbid veto

371. 1. Vincere Rōmānōs erat grātum inimīcīs fīnitimīs.

2. Mūcius Porsennam interficere studēbat.

3. Rōmānī eum suscipere id negōtium cupīvērunt.

4. Populus eum in castra inimīca prōcēdere nōn vetuit.

5. Rōmānī imperium Italiae obtinēre incēpērunt.

6. Inopiā frūmentī Rōmānī diū resistere nōn poterant.

7. Porsenna Mūcium prōdūcī iussit.

8. Porsennam interficere erat officium pūblicum vērī Rōmānī.

372. 1. To possess power was pleasing to Dentatus.

2. The ambassadors were eager to give him1 money.

3. But they could not persuade him.2

4. They began to speak, but Dentatus commanded them to depart.

5. He wished them to see an example of a true Roman.

6. Therefore he did not desire them to give him money.

7. Dentatus forbade them to seek his friendship with money.3

1Indirect object. 2 What case? See § 224. 3 Ablative of means.

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