Elements of Latin Lesson 56
Interrogative Pronouns and Adjectives; The Ablative Absolute

Iacta est ālea — The die is cast
Words of Julius Caesar when he crossed the river Rubicon, the boundry of his province, with an armed force. This act amounted to a declaration of war against the Roman government.

393. Interrogatives in English. Interrogative pronouns and adjectives are used in asking questions. In English the interrogative pronouns are who? which? and what? (Which and what are used also as interrogative adjectives.)

Who is your friend?
Who, interrogative pronoun

What friends do you have?
What, interrogative adjective

394. Interrogatives in Latin. The Latin interrogative pronoun is quis (who?), quid (what?). It is declined in the singular as follows:

Masc. & Fem. Neut.
Nom. quis
what? which?
Gen. cuius
Dat. cui
to/for whom?
to/for what? which?
Acc. quem
what? which?
Abl. quō
from, with, in, by whom?
from, with, in, by which? from, with, in, by what?

The plural forms are the same as the relative (§387).

Quis est amīcus tuus?
Who is your friend?

Quī sunt amīcī tuī?
Who are your friends?

395. The Latin interrogative adjective is quī (or quis), quae, quod. It is declined like the relative (§387).

Quōs librōs habēs?
What books do you have?

396. Ablative Absolute In English a noun with a participle attached is often used to make a phrase grammatically independent of the main clause: as,

The town having been captured, the lieutenant fled.

With the town captured, the lieutenant fled.

    The independent phrase is called the absolute construction. The noun is in the nominative case, and is called the nominative absolute.

397. In Latin a noun with attached participle in the absolute construction is put in the ablative, and the construction is called the ablative absolute: as,

Oppidō captō, lēgātus fūgit.

    a. The ablative absolute denotes the circumstances accompanying the action of the main verb, a fundamental ablative relation often expressed in English by the preposition with. Note the second form in §396: With the town captured, the lieutenant fled.

398. There is no present participle "being" in Latin. In consequence we often have two nouns, or a noun and an adjective, in the ablative absolute with no participle: as,

fīliā rēgīnā...
his daughter being queen...

puerīs tardīs...
the boys being slow...

399. Translation of Ablative Absolute. The absolute construction, rather rare in English, is very common in Latin, and is often best translated by a clause introduced by when, after, since, although, etc. Use the form of clause that will best express the thought. Note the following translations of oppidō captō, lēgātus fūgit.

  • When the town had been captured, the lieutenant fled
  • Since the town had been captured, the lieutenant fled
  • After the town had been captured, the lieutenant fled
  • Although the town had been captured, the lieutenant fled

400. Rule for Ablative Absolute. The ablative of a noun and a participle, a noun and an adjective, or two nouns may be used in the ablative absolute construction to denote attendant circumstances.


Print Lesson 56 Exercises

401. 1. Castrīs mōtīs, crēbra tēla nostrīs1 nocēre nōn potuērunt.

2. Eō locō occupātō, reliquae cōpiae perīculō līberātae sunt.

3. Agrīs vāstātīs et equīs raptīs, inopiā frūmentī mox labōrābimus.

4. Sociīs nostrīs interfectīs, ā quibus auxilium petēmus?

5. Eō proeliō factō, paucī prōcēdere studēbant.

6. Quōrum2 erat imperium Italiae? Imperium Italiae erat Rōmānōrum.

7. Quī Germānōs cōpiās integrās dūcere trāns Rhēnum vetuērunt? Rōmānī.

8. Quibus bona rēgīna pecūniam darī iussit? Miserīs captīvīs.

9. Lēgātō in iūdicium vocātō, populus bellum gerī nōn cupīvit.

1 Why dative? See §224 2 Predicate genitive of possession, §150.

402. 1. After the battle was fought,1 to what famous place did they wish the lieutenant to move the camp?

2. How far away was the camp which you saw?

3. Did the battle rage2 a long time? I think so.

4. Whose money did you find? Galba's.

5. After the town had been stormed, did not the people suffer3 the penalty for4 (their own) wicked deeds?

6. Who can tell the story of Dentatus? I can.

1 Not pugnō. 2 Literally, it was fought, the word battle not being expressed. See §259, note 3. 3 dō, -are. 4 prō with the ablative.

Return to Elements of Latin

Return from Ablative Absolute to Teach and Learn Latin

Subscribe to Teach and Learn Latin Quarterly: Find new lessons and share your own!
Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Teach and Learn Latin Quarterly.