Satius est impunitum relinqui facinus nocentis

Leizorex

New Member
Found this proverb,
"Satius est impunitum relinqui facinus nocentis, quam innocentem damnari"
Meaning is clear: better that a guilty person be freed than that an innocent should be punished, but I am perplexed by the syntax.

Literally, "Better it is unpunished to leave a deed harmful, than innocent [person] to be condemned"

BUT, while impunitum and facinus agree properly, both neuter nominative singulars, why is "nocentis" in genitive?

"Innocentem" is in accusative, which would make sense of the verb damno were in the ACTIVE infinitive, but should not it be "innocens" to be subject (not object) of passive infinitive?

I want to correct it to, "Satius est impunitum relinqui facinus nocens, quam innocens damnari", OR, "Satius est impunitum relinqui facinus nocens, quam innocentem damnare"

What am I missing?

Gratia vobis omnibus!


 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
BUT, while impunitum and facinus agree properly, both neuter nominative singulars, why is "nocentis" in genitive?
Because it means "of a guilty person".
"Innocentem" is in accusative, which would make sense of the verb damno were in the ACTIVE infinitive, but should not it be "innocens" to be subject (not object) of passive infinitive?
It's the subject of an accusative-and-infinitive substantive clause. Ever heard of this?
 
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Leizorex

New Member
Ah! "Crime of [one who is] guilty. That makes sense.

As for the second clause, so it is "quam" that requires the accusative?

Thanks very much!
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
As for the second clause, so it is "quam" that requires the accusative?
No, it's a more general thing.

Sometimes, an infinitive clause can work as a noun, for instance as the subject or object of a verb. Here, for example, the clause impunitum relinqui facinus nocentis is the subject of the verb est, and the clause innocentem damnari is being compared to that subject after quam, so both clauses basically fulfill the same function as a nominative noun. When an infinitive clause works as a noun in this way, the subject of the infinitive (and anything that should agree with it, for instance an adjective) is in the accusative. It might help to keep in mind that a nominative must be or agree with the subject of a finite (i.e. conjugated) verb.* Here, facinus and nocentem are not the subjects of est. They are the subjects of the infinitives relinqui and damnari respectively, and together with them form substantive clauses, that's why they're in the accusative.

Here are a couple of other, simpler examples of the accusative-and-infinitive phenomenon:

Oportet te venire = "It is necessary for you to come", "You need to come". Te venire (accusative subject, infinitive verb) is a substantive clause, subject of the verb oportet.

Scio te venturum esse = "I know you to be going to come", "I know that you will come". Te venturum esse (accusative subject, infinitive verb) is a substantive clause, object of the verb scio.

*An exception to this is the historical infinitive.
 
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