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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar


544. The conjunction cum (quom) is a case-form of the relative pronoun quī. It inherits from quī its subordinating force, and in general shares its constructions. But it was early specialized to a temporal meaning (cf. tum, dum), and its range of usage was therefore less wide than that of quī; it could not, for example, introduce clauses of purpose or of result.

With the Indicative, besides the simple expression of definite time (corresponding to simple relative clauses with the Indicative), it has a few special uses,—conditional, explicative, cum inversum —all easily derived from the temporal use.

With the Subjunctive, cum had a development parallel to that of the quī- clause of Characteristic,—a development not less extensive and equally peculiar to Latin. From defining the time the cum- clause passed over to the description of the time by means of its attendant circumstances of cause or concession (cf. since, while).

In particular, cum with the Subjunctive was used in narrative (hence the past tenses, Imperfect and Pluperfect) as a descriptive clause of time. As, however, the present participle in Latin is restricted in its use and the perfect active participle is almost wholly lacking, the historical or narrative cum- clause came into extensive use to supply the deficiency. In classical writers the narrative cum- clause (with the Subjunctive) has pushed back the defining clause (with the Imperfect or Pluperfect Indicative) into comparative infrequency, and is itself freely used where the descriptive or characterizing force is scarcely perceptible (cf. the quī- clause of Characteristic, § 534 ).

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