edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

Impersonal Verbs

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207. Many verbs, from their meaning, appear only in the 3rd person singular, the infinitive, and the gerund. These are called Impersonal Verbs, as they have no personal subject.1 The passive of many intransitive verbs is used in the same way.

1st Conj.2nd Conj.3rd Conj.4th Conj.1st Conj. Pass.
it is plainit is allowedit chancesit resultsit is fought
cōnstititlicuit , -itum estacciditēvēnitpūgnātum est
cōnstiteratlicuerataccideratēvēneratpūgnātum erat
cōnstiteritlicueritaccideritēvēneritpūgnātum erit
cōnstiteritlicueritaccideritēvēneritpūgnātum sit
cōnstitissetlicuissetaccidissetēvēnissetpūgnātum esset
cōnstitisselicuisseaccidisseēvēnissepūgnātum esse
-stātūrum esse-itūrum esse

-tūrum essepūgnātum īrī

208. Impersonal Verbs may be classified as follows.

a. Verbs expressing the operations of nature and the time of day.

vesperāscit it grows late
(inceptive, § 263.1)

ningit it snows
lūcīscit hōc it is getting lightfulgurat it lightens
grandinat it hailstonat it thunders
pluit it rainsrōrat the dew falls

Note— In these no subject is distinctly thought of. Sometimes, however, the verb is used personally with the name of a divinity as the subject

Iuppiter tonat. Jupiter thunders.

In poetry other subjects are occasionally used

Fundae saxa pluunt. The slings rain stones.

b. Verbs of feeling, where the person who is the proper subject becomes the object, being himself affected by the feeling expressed in the verb (§ 354.b).

miseret it grievespaenitet (poenitetit repents
piget it disgustspudet it shames
taedet it wearies
miseret mē I pity (it distresses me)pudet mē I am ashamed

Note— Such verbs often have also a Passive form

misereor I pity (am moved to pity)

and occasionally other parts.

paenitūrus (as from †paeniō)
paenitendus, pudendus
pertaesum est
pigitum est

c. Verbs which have a phrase or clause as their subject (cf. §454, § 569.2).

accidit, contingit, ēvenit, obtingit, obvenit, fit it happens
libet it pleasesdēlectat, iuvat it delights
licet it is permittedoportet it is fitting, ought
certum est it is resolvednecesse est it is needful
cōnstat it is clearpraestat it is better
placet it seems good (pleases)interest, rēfert it concerns
vidētur it seems, seems goodvacat there is leisure
decet it is becomingrestat, superest it remains

Note— Many of these verbs may be used personally.

Vacō. I have leisure.

Libet and licet also have the passive forms libitum (licitum) est etc. The participles libēns and licēns are used as adjectives.

d. The passive of intransitive verbs is very often used impersonally (see synopsis in § 207 above).

ventum est they came (there was coming)
pūgnātur there is fighting (it is fought)
ītur some one goes (it is gone)
parcitur mihi I am spared (it is spared to me, see § 372)

Note— The impersonal use of the passive proceeds from its original reflexive (or middle) meaning, the action being regarded as accomplishing itself (compare the French cela se fait).



1. With impersonal verbs the word it is used in English, having usually no representative in Latin, though id, hōc, and illud are often used nearly in the same way.


Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/impersonal-verbs