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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

Deliberative Subjunctive

444. The Subjunctive is used in questions implying (1) doubt, indignation, or (2) an impossibility of the thing's being done. The negative is nōn.

quid agam, iūdicēs? quō mē vertam (Verr. 5.2), what am I to do, judges? whither shall I turn?

etiamne eam salūtem (Pl. Rud. 1275), shall I greet her?

quid hōc homine faciās? quod supplicium dīgnum libīdinī êius inveniās (Verr. 2.40), what are you to do with this man? what fit penalty can you devise for his wantonness?

an ego nōn venīrem (Phil. 2.3), what , should I not have come?

quid dīcerem (Att. 6.3.9), what was I to say?

quis enim cēlāverit īgnem(Ov. H. 15.7), who could conceal the flame?

Note— The hortatory origin of some of these questions is obvious. Thus, quid faciāmus?= faciāmus [aliquid], quid? let us do—what? (Compare the expanded form quid vīs faciāmus? what do you wish us to do?) Once established, it was readily transferred to the past: quid faciam? what AM I to do? quid facerem? what WAS I to do? Questions implying impossibility, however, cannot be distinguished from Apodosis (cf. § 517).

a. In many cases the question has become a mere exclamation, rejecting a suggested possibility:

mihi umquam bonōrum praesidium dēfutūrum putārem (Mil. 94), could I think that the defence of good men would ever fail me!

Note— The indicative is sometimes used in deliberative questions: as,— quid agō, what am I to do?

 

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