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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar


534. The relative clause of Characteristic with the Subjunctive is a development peculiar to Latin. A relative clause in the Indicative merely states something as a fact which is true of the antecedent; a characteristic clause (in the Subjunctive) defines the antecedent as a person or thing of such a character that the statement made is true of him or it and of all others belonging to the same class. Thus,— nōn potest exercitum is continēre imperātor quī sē ipse nōn continet (indicative) means simply, that commander who does not (as a fact) restrain himself cannot restrain his army; whereas nōn potest exercitum is continēre imperātor quī sē ipse nōn contineat (subjunctive) would mean, that commander who is not such a man as to restrain himself , etc., that is, who is not characterized by self-restraint.

This construction has its origin in the potential use of the subjunctive (§ 445 ) Thus, in the example just given, quī sē ipse nōn contineat would mean literally , who would not restrain himself (in any supposable case), and this potential idea passes over easily into that of general quality or characteristic. The characterizing force is most easily felt when the antecedent is indefinite or general. But this usage is extended in Latin to cases which differ but slightly from statements of fact, as in some of the examples below.

The use of the Subjunctive to express Result comes from its use in Clauses of Characteristic. Thus, nōn sum ita hebes ut haec dīcam means literally, I am not dull in the manner (degree) in which I should say this, hence, I am not so dull as to say this. Since, then, the characteristic often appears in the form of a supposed result , the construction readily passes over into Pure Result, with no idea of characteristic; as,— tantus in cūriā clāmor factus est ut populus concurreret (Verr. 2.47), such an outcry was made in the senate-house that the people hurried together.

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