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Unraveling the Dark Side of Latin’s Subjunctive Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Latin Language

Subjunctive. SUBJUNCTIVE.S-U-B-J-U-N-C-T-I-V-E……

Courtesy of Latin Memes & Quick Meme Builder.

Courtesy of Latin Memes & Quick Meme Builder.

Subjunctive usually scares and intimidates many students when learning Latin. This is usually due to the fact that students are unfamiliar with the term subjunctive or grammar within their own language. FEAR NOT! I am hoping that this guide will help and aid all of you who are worried about learning and memorizing the uses of the subjunctive.

While researching for this article, I realized that some people may learn better from a video and others from reading the material. Thus, I have provided both. These are a series of videos that explain the forms, uses, and grammar:

Commands & Jussives

The subjunctive is often used to express commands, an order, or prohibition.  This is seen at ne + subjunctive; while the jussive is the unique 3rd person form of the subjunctive.

EX: ne transferis= Do Not Cross!

EX: eamus =let us go OR amemus= let us make love


Deliberative Subjunctive ” What am I to…”

The deliberative subjunctive is a question as shown above.

EX: quid faciam = What am I to do



When you want to wish someone good luck or wish something on someone (even).

EX: Sit Vis Vobiscum= May the Force be with you


Indirect Commands or Questions

What is meant by Indirect is simply the idea that someone is relaying what they have already been told. This is usually introduced by a asking or saying verb along with ut or ne followed by the subjunctive.

EX: mihi imperauit ut abirem= She ordered me that I should go away or to go away.

EX: petebam quid dicturus esset= I was asking what he was about to say or would say.


Result Clauses “so…..that”, “So….as to”

The “that” clause is expressed by “ut + subjunctive.” The subjunctive is normally present, imperfect, or perfect. The “so” portion could be accomplished with adeo, ita, tam, sic, eo, tantus, tot, talis (which all mean differing amounts of ‘so, so great, so much, thus, or of the such of sort’.)

EX: Tam fortis erat ut uini non posset  = He was so brave that he could not be defeated


Causal Clauses “because, since”

The subjunctive with conjunctions such as quod, quia, quoniam, quando, cum ( which all mean since or because) are providing a clause that explains the reason or cause for an action.

EX: adsunt cum me amarent = They are present since they used to love me.


Purpose Clauses “in order to/that, to”

Purpose clauses are generally conveyed with ut + subjunctive or ne+ subjunctive. The subjunctive is present in primary sequence and imperfect in secondary. (Here is a brief page on sequence and sentences).

EX: uenio ut uiderem= I come in order/so that I may see


Temporal Clauses “When….” “Until…”

The subjunctive is used in temporal (time) clauses for two reasons.

1) With dum, donec (both meaning until) and antequam, pruisquam (both meaning before)- the subjunctive is used when the intending action of the clause is being expected or waited for.

EX: manebat dum Caesar ueniret= he waited until Caesar should come

2) Cum with the subjunctive (imperfect or pluperfect) when you are referring to the past.

EX: cum haec dixisset, exiit= When he had said these things, he departed.


– Fear Clauses I fear that/lest”

Usually fearing verbs take the infinitive ( I am afraid to jump), but with a subjunctive they are translated like ( I am afraid that she will jump  on me). This is done with ut+ subjunctive or ne + subjunctive.


Relative Clauses

First I should explain that a relative clause is usually introduced by pronouns like qui, quae, quod, (who, what, which, that), and is “relative” or “relates” to something/someone expressed in the previous part of the sentence.

EX: “The girls WHO like flowers.” “The cat WHICH are sleeping

However, the use of a the subjunctive in a relative clause is a bit different. When the relative clause hides a result, purpose, or causal clause- a subjunctive is used.

EX: milites  misit qui hostis circumdarent = He sent soldier who would surround the enemy.


Conditions “If clauses” ( If X happens, then Y is the result.) [ X being the subject of one clauses and Y being the subject of the other]

Conditions that have subjunctive in both clauses  then it should be translated with ‘” would, should, were,”


Present Subjunctives-  future time- (If X were to happen Y would happen)

Imperfect Subjunctives-  present time- (If X were now happening, Y would be happening)

Pluperfect Subjunctives-  past time- (If X had happened, Y would have happened)



Here is a great and inspirational video for any learner, who is struggling with Grammar & Subjunctives! *Warning this may contain some adult humor since it TED Talks are usually aimed at college students.



Some material and examples are in courtesy and alterations of thoses used in “Reading Latin” by Jones & Sidwell


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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


  1. Stacey Steenbergen:

    It’s hard to find experienced people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks