edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

Relative Pronouns

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303. A relative pronoun agrees with some word expressed or implied either in its own clause, or (often) in the antecedent (demonstrative) clause. In the fullest construction the antecedent is expressed in both clauses, with more commonly a corresponding demonstrative to which the relative refers.

Iter in ea loca facere coepit quibus in locīs esse Germānōs audiēbat. (B. G. 4.7)
He began to march into those PLACES in which PLACES he heard the Germans were.

But one of these nouns is commonly omitted.

The antecedent is in Latin very frequently (rarely in English) found in the relative clause, but more commonly in the antecedent clause.

Thus relatives serve two uses at the same time:

  1. As nouns (or adjectives) in their own clause.

    eī quī Alesiae obsīdēbantur (B. G. 7.77)
    those who were besieged at Alesia

  2. As connectives.

    T. Balventius, quī superiōre annō prīmum pīlum dūxerat (id. 5.35)
    Titus Balventius, who the year before had been a centurion of the first rank

When the antecedent is in a different sentence, the relative is often equivalent to a demonstrative with a conjunction.

quae cum ita sint (= et cum ea ita sint)
[and] since this is so

The subordinating force did not belong to the relative originally, but was developed from an interrogative or indefinite meaning specialized by use. But the subordinating and the later connective force were acquired by quī at such an early period that the steps of the process cannot now be traced.

304. A relative pronoun indicates a relation between its own clause and some substantive. This substantive is called the antecedent of the relative.

Thus, in the sentence—

Eum nihil dēlectābat quod fās esset. (Mil. 43)
Nothing pleased him which was right.

the relative quod connects its antecedent nihil with the predicate fās esset, indicating a relation between the two.

305. A relative agrees with its antecedent in gender and number; but, its case depends on its construction in the clause in which it stands.

Ea diēs quam cōnstituerat vēnit. (B. G. 1.8)
That day which he had appointed came.

Pontem quī erat ad Genāvam iubet rescindī. (id. 1.7)
He orders the bridge which was near Geneva to be cut down.

Aduatucī, dē quibus suprā dīximus, domum revertērunt. (id. 2.29)
The Aduatuci, of whom we have spoken above, returned home.

Note— This rule applies to all relative words so far as they are variable in form: as, quālis, quantus, quīcumque, etc.

a. If a relative has two or more antecedents, it follows the rules for the agreement of predicate adjectives (§§ 286 287).

Fīlium et fīliam, quōs valdē dīlēxit, unō tempore āmīsit.
He lost at the same time a son and a daughter whom he dearly loved.

grandēs nātū mātrēs et parvulī līberī, quōrum utrōrumque aetās misericor, diam nostram requīrit (Verr. 5.129)
aged matrons and little children, whose time of life in each case demands our compassion

ōtium atque dīvitiae, quae prīma mortālēs putant (Sall. Cat. 36)
idleness and wealth, which men count the first (objects of desire)

eae frūgēs et frūctūs quōs terra gignit (N. D. 2.37)
those fruits and crops which the earth produces

For the person of the verb agreeing with the relative, see § 316.a.

306. A relative generally agrees in gender and number with an appositive or predicate noun in its own clause, rather than with an antecedent of different gender or number (cf. § 296.a).

mare etiam quem Neptūnum esse dīcēbās (N. D. 3.52)
the sea, too, which you said was Neptune
[Not quod]

Thēbae ipsae, quod Boeōtiae caput est (Liv. 42.44)
even Thebes, which is the chief city of Bœotia.
[Not quae]

Note— This rule is occasionally violated.

flūmen quod appellātur Tamesis (B. G. 5.11)
a river which is called the Thames

a. A relative occasionally agrees with its antecedent in case (by attraction).

sī aliquid agā eōrum quōrum cōnsuēstī (Fam. 5.14)
if you should do something of what you are used to do
[For eōrum quae]

Note— Occasionally the antecedent is attracted into the case of the relative.

Urbem quam statuō vestra est. (Aen. 1.573)
The city which I am founding is yours.

Naucratem, quem convenīre voluī, in nāvī nōn erat. (Pl. Am. 1009)
Naucrates, whom I wished to meet, was not on board the ship.

b. A relative may agree in gender and number with an implied antecedent.

quārtum genus . . . quī in vetere aere aliēnō vacillant (Cat. 2.21)
a fourth class, who are staggering under old debts

ūnus ex eō numerō quī parātī erant (Iug. 35)
one of the number [of those] who were ready

coniūrāvēre paucī, dē quā [i.e. coniūrātiōne] dīcam (Sall. Cat. 18)
a few have conspired, of which [conspiracy] I will speak

Note— So regularly when the antecedent is implied in a possessive pronoun.

nostra ācta, quōs tyrannōs vocās (Vat. 29)
the deeds of us, whom you call tyrants
[Here quōs agrees with the nostrum (genitive plural) implied in nostra.]

 

Antecedent of the Relative

307. The antecedent noun sometimes appears in both clauses, but usually only in the one that precedes. Sometimes it is wholly omitted.

a. The antecedent noun may be repeated in the relative clause.

Locī nātūra erat haec quem locum nostrī dēlēgerant. (B. G. 2.18)
The nature of the ground which our men had chosen was this.

b. The antecedent noun may appear only in the relative clause, agreeing with the relative in case.

Quās rēs in cōnsulātū nostrō gessimus attigit hīc versibus. (Arch. 28)
He has touched in verse the things which I did in my consulship.

Quae prīma innocentis mihi dēfēnsiō est oblāta suscēpī. (Sull. 92)
I undertook the first defence of an innocent man that was offered me.

Note— In this case the relative clause usually comes first (cf. § 308.d below) and a demonstrative usually stands in the antecedent clause.

Quae pars cīvitātis calamitātem populō Rōmānō intulerat, ea prīnceps poenās persolvit. (B. G. 1.12)
That part of the state which had brought disaster on the Roman people was the first to pay the penalty.

Quae grātia currum fuit vīvīs, eadem sequitur. (Aen. 6.653)
The same pleasure that they took in chariots in their lifetime follows them (after death).

quī fit ut nēmō, quam sibi sortem ratiō dederit, illā contentus vīvat? (cf. Hor. S. 1.1.1)
How does it happen that no one lives contented with the lot which choice has assigned him?

c. The antecedent may be omitted, especially if it is indefinite.

quī decimae legiōnis aquilam ferēbat (B. G. 4.25)
[the man] who bore the eagle of the tenth legion

Quī cōgnōscerent mīsit. (id. 1.21)
He sent [men] to reconnoitre.

d. The phrase id quod or quae rēs may be used (instead of quod alone) to refer to a group of words or an idea.

[obtrectātum est] Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompêiō? an utrīque— id quod est vērius? (Manil. 57)
An affront has been offered—shall I say to Gabinius or to Pompey? or—which is truer—to both?

Multum sunt in vēnātiōnibus, quae rēs vīrēs alit. (B. G. 4.1)
They spend much time in hunting, which [practice] increases their strength.

Note— But quod alone often occurs.

Cassius noster, quod mihi māgnae voluptātī fuit, hostem rêiēcerat. (Fam. 2.10)
Our friend Cassius—which was a great satisfaction to me—had driven back the enemy.

e. The antecedent noun, when in apposition with the main clause, or with some word of it, is put in the relative clause.

fīrmī [amīcī], cûius generis est māgna pēnūria (Lael. 62)
steadfast friends, a class of which there is great lack (of which class there is, etc.).

f. A predicate adjective (especially a superlative) belonging to the antecedent may stand in the relative clause.

vāsa ea quae pulcherrima apud eum vīderat (Verr. 4.63)
those most beautiful vessels which he had seen at his house
[Nearly equivalent to the vessels of which he had seen some very beautiful ones.]

 

Special Uses of the Relative

308. In the use of relatives, the following points are to be observed.

a. The relative is never omitted in Latin, as it often is in English.

liber quem mihi dedistī
the book you gave me

Is sum quī semper fuī.
I am the same man I always was.

Eō in locō est dē quō tibi locūtus sum.
He is in the place I told you of.

b. When two relative clauses are connected by a copulative conjunction, a relative pronoun sometimes stands in the first and a demonstrative in the last.

Erat profectus obviam legiōnibus Macedonicīs quattuor, quās sibi conciliāre pecūniā cōgitābat eāsque ad urbem addūcere. (Fam. 12.23.2)
He had set out to meet four legions from Macedonia, which he thought to win over to himself by a gift of money and to lead (them) to the city.

c. A relative clause in Latin often takes the place of some other construction in English,—particularly of a participle, an appositive, or a noun of agency.

lēgēs quae nunc sunt
the existing laws (the laws which now exist)

Caesar quī Galliam vīcit
Cæsar the conqueror of Gaul

iūsta glōria quī est frūctus virtūtis (Pison. 57)
true glory [which is] the fruit of virtue

ille quī petit
the plaintiff (he who sues)

quī legit
a reader (one who reads)

d. In formal or emphatic discourse, the relative clause usually comes first, often containing the antecedent noun (cf. § 307.b above).

Quae pars cīvitātis Helvētiae īnsīgnem calamitātem populō Rōmānō intulerat, ea prīnceps poenās persolvit. (B. G. 1.12)
The portion of the Helvetian state which had brought a serious disaster on the Roman people was the first to pay the penalty.

Note— In colloquial language, the relative clause in such cases often contains a redundant demonstrative pronoun which logically belongs in the antecedent clause.

Ille quī cōnsultē cavet, diūtinē ūtī bene licet partum bene. (Plaut. Rud. 1240)
He who is on his guard, he may long enjoy what he has well obtained.

e. The relative with an abstract noun may be used in a parenthetical clause to characterize a person, like the English such.

quae vestra prūdentia est(Cael. 45)
such is your wisdom
[Equivalent to prō vestrā prūdentiā]

Audīssēs cōmoedōs vel lēctōrem vel lyristēn, vel, quae mea līberālitās, omnēs. (Plin. Ep. 1.15)
You would have listened to comedians, or a reader, or a lyre-player, or—such is my liberality—to all of them.

f. A relative pronoun (or adverb) often stands at the beginning of an independent sentence or clause, serving to connect it with the sentence or clause that precedes.

Caesar statuit exspectandam classem; quae ubi convēnit, etc. (B. G. 3.14)
Cæsar decided that he must wait for the fleet; and when this had come together, etc.

quae quī audiēbant
and those who heard this (which things)

quae cum ita sint
and since this is so

quōrum quod simile factum (Cat. 4.13)
what deed of theirs like this?

quō cum vēnisset
and when he had come there (whither when he had come)

Note— This arrangement is common even when another relative or an interrogative follows. The relative may usually be translated by an English demonstrative, with or without and.

g. A relative adverb is regularly used in referring to an antecedent in the locative case; so, often, to express any relation of place instead of the formal relative pronoun.

mortuus Cūmīs quō sē contulerat (Liv. 2.21)
having died at Cumœ, whither he had retired
[Here in quam urbem might be used, but not in quās.]

locus quō aditus nōn erat
a place to which (whither) there was no access

rēgna unde genus dūcis (Aen. 5.801)
the kingdom from which you derive your race

unde petitur
the defendant (he from whom something is demanded)

h. The relatives quī, quālis, quantus, quot, etc. are often rendered simply by as in English.

idem quod semper
the same as always

cum esset tālis quālem tē esse videō (Mur. 32)
since he was such a man as I see you are

tanta dīmicātiō quanta numquam fuit (Att. 7.1.2)
such a fight as never was before

tot mala quot sīdera (Ov. Tr. 1.5.47)
as many troubles as stars in the sky

i. The general construction of relatives is found in clauses introduced by relative adverbs: as, ubi, quō, unde, cum, quārē.

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/relative-pronouns