Accusative and infinitive in esse construction

By will3008, in 'Latin Grammar Questions', Jan 17, 2008.

  1. will3008 New Member

    Hello everyone, i know this doesn't really fit into the Latin to English 'Translation' category but i have a grammar problem...

    I am studying GCSE Latin and am fairly competent, but keep getting stuck on constructions such as the following:

    Senatoribus nuntiavit illos pueros iam carissimos sibi esse.

    Intellexit enim Tiberium illos heredes suos facturum esse.

    Quod Tiberius sperabat hoc modo eum (Marcus) minus crudelem futurum esse.

    The first one means:
    He announced to the Senators that these boys were to be cared for.

    For he understood might make them his heirs.

    Because Tiberius was hoping that in this way he might be less cruel in the future.

    As you can see, i have a pretty good understanding of these sentences - and i seem to be getting the 'esse' bit right; but the fact remains that i basically don't understand literally what this kind of construction means.

    Could you guys please help me, and provide me with a full explanation of what stuff like 'ad Pisonem necandum missum esse' means (what is the purpose of esse) because i can't grasp it.

    Any help would be really appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    What you're seeing is the "accusative with infinitive" construction, a noun clause formation used after "verbs of the head". By that last phrase, I mean words that express some action of an above-the-neck organ, e.g. mouth: dico, nuntio, iuvo etc., ear: audio, brain; intellego, sentio, spero etc.

    The clause is then an object of the verb; in the first example the clause is the thing nuntiavit - announced. To build this clause, you take the subject of the clause, place it in the accusative, and change the verb to an infinitive. Tense of the infinitive is relative to the tense of the main verb, which is a little different than in English. If it occurs at the same time as the main verb, use present infinitive; if before the main verb, use past infinitive.

    The acc. w. inf. by its nature is used to relate speech indirectly; rather than give the exact words a person said, you give a report of it from your own perspective. Instead of the sentence "He announced to the senators 'These boys are now very dear to me'", the text has:

    Senatoribus nuntiavit - "He announced to the senators..."
    illos pueros iam carissimos sibi esse - "...that those boys were very dear to him"

    To illustrate what happens when the tense of the infinitive and main verb changes, note the following:

    Senatoribus nuntiavit illos pueros iam carissimos sibi fuisse - He announced to the senators that those boy had been very dear to him[/i].

    Senatoribus nuntiat illos pueros iam carissimos sibi esse - "He announces to the senators that those boys are very dear to him."

    Note also the use of sibi here, the reflexive pronoun must refer back to the subject of the main verb nuntiavit. If this word were eo, it would refer to some other party.

    The Romans seemed to prefer this construction over reporting direct speech or using simple finite-verb narrative; you see it a lot in Livy and other historians.

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