Subjunctive Uses


Homo Sapiens
Staff member
This guide is intended for beginning or intermediate Latin students who are just starting to learn the subjunctive. It begins with a quick description of how to form the subjunctive, followed by a description of first the independent, then the dependent uses of the subjunctive. Each use has several examples to clarify all the key aspects of its usage. Not all uses or all details are covered, in order to keep the guide accessible.

I. Formation of the Subjunctive
For this section, these verbs will be used as examples:
amō, amāre, amāvī, amātus: to love
videō, vidēre, vīdī, vīsus: to see
dīcō, dīcere, dīxī, dīctus: to say
audiō, audīre, audīvī, audītus: to hear

The subjunctive has only 4 tenses – present, imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect.

A. Present Subjunctive
- Drop the from the 1st principal part.
- If the verb is first conjugation, add -e- and then the standard personal endings.
- If the verb is any other conjugation, add -a- and then the standard personal endings.
Examples: amem, amēs, amet, etc.; videam, videās, videat, etc.; dīcam, dīcās, etc.; audiam, audiās, etc.

Alternatively, you can use the mnemonic "shE wEArs A dIAmond tIAra" to remember the correct vowels for each conjugation (including 3rd-io, which I didn't provide an example of above)

B. Imperfect Subjunctive
- Add the personal endings directly to the second principal part (present active infinitive)
Examples: amārem, amārēs, amāret (this rule applies to every conjugation)

- N.B.: Deponent verbs do not have a pres. act. inf. form. The endings should be added onto whatever the PAI would be if the word were not deponent.

The verb fateor, fatērī, fassus sum is 2nd conj. Therefore, the endings will be added onto the stem fatēre-:

fatērer, fatērēris, fatērētur, etc. (as usual for deponent verbs, the passive endings must be used)​
The verb sequor, sequī, secūtus sum is 3rd conj. Therefore, the endings will be added onto the stem sequere-:
sequerer, sequerēris, sequerētur, etc.​

C. Perfect Subjunctive
- Take the perfect stem (3rd PP without the -ī)
- Add -eri- and then the personal endings
Examples: amāverim, avāverīs, etc. (same for every conjugation)

- Exactly like perf. pass. indicative, but using the subj. forms of sum instead (see section below on irregular subjunctives)
Examples: amātus sim, amātus sīs, etc.

D. Pluperfect Subjunctive
- Take the perfect stem (3rd PP without the -ī)
- Add -isse- and then the personal endings
Examples: amāvissem, avāvissēs, etc. (same for every conjugation)

- Exactly like plupf. pass. indicative, but using the subj. forms of sum instead (see section below on irregular subjunctives)
Examples: amātus essem, amātus essēs, etc.

Subjunctive of Irregular Verbs:
the present tense is ever formed irregularly.
sumsim, sīs, sit, etc.
(similarly, possumpossim, possīs, possit, etc.)
volōvelim, velīs, velit, etc.
nōlō, mālōnōlim, mālim, etc.
ferō and are conjugated exactly as expected (feram, eam, etc.)
N.B.: Do not confuse velim (present subj.) and vellem (imperfect subj.)! Same goes for nōlim/nōllem, etc.

II. Independent Uses of the Subjunctive
The subjunctive is almost entirely used in subordinate clauses (hence its name – sub (under) + iungō (to join)), but there are a couple situations where it gets used in the main clause. Of these, hortatory/jussive is the most common/important.

A. Hortatory/Jussive
The subjunctive can sometimes be used for a light command or exhortation and is generally translated with “let” (or as a normal imperative in the second person – see example 3).

In the first person, this is usually called “hortatory” (hortor, to encourage). In the 2nd (rare) or 3rd persons, this is called “jussive” (iubeō, to order). With rare exceptions, the hortatory/jussive is found only in the present tense.

The hortatory and jussive subjunctives are negated with .

  1. Ad fōrum eāmus! Let's go to the forum!
  2. ad fōrum eāmus! Let's not go to the forum!
  3. Istō bonō utāris, dum adsit; cum absit, requīrās. Use this blessing while it is present; when it is wanting do not regret it.
  4. Placentam edant! Let them eat cake!
  5. Fīat lūx. Let there be light.
B. Optative
The optative (optō, to wish) expresses a desire or a wish. It is almost always introduced by utinam (“if only”) and negated with utinam nē. It can be found in 3 tenses – present, imperfect, or pluperfect.

The difference in meaning and translation between the 3 tenses should be made clear by the first 3 examples.

  1. Utinam sodālis meus suam partem pēnsī faciat! If only my partner would do his share of the assignment!
  2. Utinam sodālis meus suam partem pēnsī faceret! If only my partner were doing his share of the assignment!
  3. Utinam sodālis meus suam partem pēnsī fēcisset! If only my partner had done his share of the assignment!
  4. Utinam nē sodālis meus perperam pēnsum fēcisset! If only my partner hadn't done the assignment wrong!
  5. Dī tē perdant! May the gods destroy you! (optative without utinam)
C. Deliberative
The deliberative subjunctive is used in questions when a person is wondering what they should do or should’ve done. It can be found in 2 tenses – present or imperfect.

  1. Quid faciam? What am I to do? / What should I do?
  2. Quid facerem? What was I to do? / What should I have done?
D. Potential
The potential subjunctive is used in certain specific situations and is generally translated with “might” or “would”. It is negated with nōn. It is usually found in the present and imperfect tenses.

  1. Tē aggredī nōn audeam. I wouldn't dare to attack you.
  2. Putārēs eōs victōs esse. You would've thought that they had been defeated.
  3. Aliquis dīcat... Somebody might say...
The potential subjunctive is also found after forsitan ("perhaps"). Fortasse, also meaning "perhaps", takes the indicative.

  1. Forsitan temerē fēcerim. Perhaps I have acted rashly.
  2. Fortasse quaerēs (ind.)... Perhaps you will ask...
III. The Sequence of Tenses (Cōnsecūtiō Temporum)
This is a concept that’s often confusing to people. However, the sequence of tenses actually happens in English as well, following almost exactly the same rules! Observe the following English sentences:
  1. I wonder [whether he is doing the project]. – "is doing" = Latin present tense
  2. I wonder [whether he did the project]. – "did" = Latin perfect tense
  3. I wondered [whether he was doing the project]. – "was doing" = Latin imperfect tense
  4. I wondered [whether he had done the project]. – "had done" = Latin pluperfect tense
When the tense of the main clause changes (wonder → wondered), the tense of the subordinate clause changes as well! This is basically all there is to the rule of the sequence of tenses.

This chart explains the sequence of tenses formally:
Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 1.30.21 PM.png

*i.e. -ūrus/a/um sim for primary sequence, and -ūrus/a/um essem for secondary sequence

Note that the tenses are exactly what you’d expect to see in English – if you look at the sentences above, you’ll see that when the main clause is primary sequence (“wonder”), the subordinate clause uses the present or perfect tenses; when the main clause is secondary sequence (“wondered”), the subordinate clauses uses the imperfect or pluperfect tenses. It would sound incorrect to say “I wondered whether he is doing the project,” because that doesn’t follow the sequence.

N.B.: With purpose clauses, indirect commands, and a couple other uses, English does not generally follow the sequence. Latin does.

IV. Purpose Clauses
Purpose clauses are one of many ways in Latin to express why or to what end someone is doing something.

They are introduced by ut or (NOT ut nōn).

There are several ways to translate purpose clauses. If the subject of the purpose clause is the same as the main clause, the best options are usually “to”, “in order to” or “so as to”. If the subject is different, you’ll probably need a phrasing like “so that”. If you’re feeling pretentious, negative purpose clauses (introduced by ) can be translated with “lest”.

Because purpose clauses logically always denote something in the future relative to the main clause (you’re doing something so that something else will happen in the future), they can only be used with the present or imperfect subjunctive.*

As shown in the sequence of tenses chart, if the main verb is present, you would use the present subjunctive. If the main verb is past, you would use the imperfect subjunctive.**

  1. Ad fōrum eō ut pānem emam. I go to the forum to buy bread.
  2. Ad fōrum īvī ut pānem emerem. I went to the forum to buy bread.
    • (N.B.: the subordinate clause is translated exactly the same in English, but the tense of the subjunctive is different in Latin, because the tense of the main verb changed from present to past)
  3. Iūdicibus pecūniam dō condemner. I give the judges money so as not to be convicted.
  4. Iūdicibus pecūniam dedī condemnārer. I gave the judges money so as not to be convicted.
  5. Puella latuit parentēs sē invenīrent. The girl hid so that her parents would not find her.
    • (N.B.: in many types of subjunctive clauses, the reflexive pronoun can refer to the subject of the main clause)
* In very rare cases, the logic of the sentence may require the perfect or pluperfect subjunctive:
Dictātor, sine causā creātus esset, praetextum bellī gerendī quaerere coepit.
"The dictator, lest he have been elected without reason, began to seek a pretext for waging war."

** In rare cases, the present subjunctive is used after a secondary sequence main verb, if the purpose clause refers to the speaker's reason for making a particular statement, rather than to anything in the sentence:
Ut breviter dīcam, nihil illa fēcit quod nōn omnīnō laudābile esset.
"To say it briefly, that woman did nothing which was not thoroughly praiseworthy."

Unlike many of the other types of ut clauses, there are rarely specific words in the main clause that give away that the ut clause is a purpose clause. In general, if the main clause doesn’t have any words that would point to it being a different type of clause, you can assume it is a purpose clause. This is discussed in more detail in the section on result clauses.

Sometimes, the main clause does contain words like eō consiliō (“with this intention”), idcircō or ideō (“for this reason”).

  1. Caesar copiās ēmīsit eō consiliō, ut hostēs in insidiās indūceret. Caesar sent out his troops with this intention: to lead the enemies into an ambush.
  2. Legum idcircō omnēs servī sumus, ut līberī esse possīmus. We are all slaves to the laws for this reason: so that we can be free.
Relative Clauses of Purpose
Occasionally, ut is/ea/id ("so that he/she/it") can be replaced with a form of the relative pronoun quī, quae, quod. This is especially common after words like mittō ("to send"). Obviously, the rel. pronoun must have an antecedent in the main clause.

  1. Caesar legātōs mīsit quī (= ut eī) pācem peterent. Caesar sent ambassadors to seek peace.
  2. Caesar duās legionēs relīquit quae (= ut eae) castra custodīrent. Caesar left two legions to guard the camp.
  3. Scrībēbat orātiōnēs quās (= ut eās) aliī dīcerent. He wrote speeches for other men to deliver. (lit.: "He wrote speeches which other men were to deliver/would deliver")
V. Result Clauses
Result clauses, as the name suggests, indicate a result or consequence of the main clause.

They are introduced by ut or ut nōn (NOT !!!!!).
Result clauses are translated with “that”.

Because result clauses logically always denote something in the future relative to the main clause (you’re doing something, and then something else happens as a result), they can only be used with the present or imperfect subjunctive.* As with purpose clauses, if the main verb is present, you would use the present subjunctive. If the main verb is past, you would use the imperfect subjunctive.**

Unlike purpose clauses, there are usually specific words (the “so/such words”) in the main clause which indicate that you’re looking at a result clause.

Words that commonly signal result clauses (so/such words):
tam: so
ita: so; in such a way
sīc: so; in such a way
adeō: to such a degree; so much
tantus, tanta, tantum: so great, so large (tantum + gen. = “so much” — tantum vīnī = “so much wine”)
tot (indeclinable adjective): so many
tālis, tāle: such, of such a kind

In some circumstances, is, ea, id or the demonstratives hic and ille can be used synonymously to tālis, in which case they can signal a result clause. Similarly, (“to there”) can mean “to such a point” and signal a result clause.

  1. Adeō magistram timeō ut alloquī nōn audeam. I fear the teacher so much that I do not dare to address her.
  2. Adeō magistram timēbam ut alloquī nōn audērem. I feared the teacher so much that I did not dare to address her.
  3. Rōma tam pulchra est ut ibi semper mansūrus sim. Rome is so beautiful that I am always going to remain there.
  4. Tantus imperātor est ut omnēs eum admīrentur. He is such a great general that everyone admires him.
    • (N.B.: Unlike in purpose clauses, is NOT used to refer to the subject of the main clause; is, ea, id is used instead)
  5. Tam permōtus est ut statim ē proeliō fugeret. He was so shaken that he immediately fled from the battle.
  6. Urbem ita munīvit ut hostēs intrāre nōn possent. He fortified the city in such a way that the enemies couldn't enter.
  7. Venēnum tāle est ut quisquis bibat statim moriātur. The poison is such that whoever drinks (it) immediately dies.
* Often, the perfect subjunctive is used instead of the imperfect subjunctive after a secondary sequence main verb, especially if the action in the result clause happened only once. So, for instance, in example 5, you could easily replace fugeret with fūgerit (perfect subjunctive).

** Logic may require a present subjunctive to be used after a secondary sequence main clause:
Amphitheātrum tam firmē aedificātum est ut etiam nunc stet.
"The amphitheater was built so firmly that it stands even now."

Result Clauses Without Signaling Words
Sometimes, result clauses do not have a “so/such” word. Then ut should be translated “such that” or “with the result that”.

  1. Tēlō ictus est, ut stāre nōn posset. He was hit by a spear, such that he could not stand.
  2. Morbō afflictus est, ut unō oculō caecus fieret. He was struck with a disease, such that he became blind in one eye.
How can you tell whether these clauses are purpose or result? Context! Does the clause explain why someone did something? It’s purpose. Does the clause simply express a consequence of the main clause? It’s result.

Substantive Result Clauses
Words meaning “it happens” (accidit, fit), “it turns out” (ēvenit), or “to cause/bring about” (efficiō, impetrō) can also introduce a special type of result clause called a “substantive result clause”.

These are usually just translated as “that,” but can sometimes be translated with an infinitive phrase (see examples).

  1. Accidit ut sacrificium factūrus sim. It happens that I am about to perform a sacrifice.
  2. Accīdit ut sacrificium factūrus essem. It happened that I was about to perform a sacrifice.
    • (N.B.: The principal parts of accidō are acci, -ere, accī, ---; thus, the only difference between pres. and pf. is the long i)
  3. Effēcērunt ut magister pēnsum nōn daret. They brought it about that the teacher did not give homework.
    • (Alternate translation: They caused the teacher not to give homework.
VI. Indirect Commands
Just as indirect statements report a statement someone said, indirect commands report a command someone gave.

Whenever someone tells someone to do something, or demands that something happen, you need an indirect command. As this suggests, indirect commands will usually be translated with "to" or "that". Which you use depends on the context and the grammar of the rest of the sentence – use whichever works best in English!

Indirect commands are introduced by ut or (NOT ut nōn).

Like purpose and result clauses, indirect commands are found in either the present or imperfect subjunctive.

Any verb of commanding can signal an indirect command. These are the most common, but the list is by no means complete:
Words that commonly signal indirect commands (verbs of commanding):
imperō (1): to command (+ dat.)
persuādeō, -ēre, -suāsī, -suāsus: to persuade (+ dat.)
moneō, -ēre, -uī, -itus: to warn (+ acc.)
hortor, hortārī, hortātus sum: to encourage (+ acc.)
rogō (1): to ask (+ acc.)
petō, petere, -īvī, -ītus: to seek, to ask (+ ab + abl.)
postulō (1): to demand (+ ab or ex + abl.)
quaerō, -ere, quaesīvī, quaesītus: to ask (+ ab + abl.)

N.B.: iubeō usually takes an acc.+inf. rather than an indirect command. So iubeō tē abīre, not iubeō ut abeās.

  1. Magister discipulīs imperat ut sē diligenter audiant. The teacher commands the students to listen to him carefully.
  2. Magister discipulīs imperāvit ut sē diligenter audīrent. The teacher commanded the students to listento him carefully.
    • (N.B.: In indirect commands, like purpose clauses, the reflexive pronoun sē can refer to the subject of the main clause.)
  3. Ā legātīs postulāvit ut omnia rectē fierent. He demanded from his lieutenants that everything be done properly.
  4. Ōrō nōs tam crūdēlī morte morī patiāris. I beg you not to allow us to die such a cruel death.
  5. Herculī negōtium dedit ut Cerberum ex inferīs referret. He gave Hercules the task of bringing Cerberus back from the underworld. (N.B.: non-standard translation for more natural English)
  6. Periculō cognitō, Caesar legātōs mīsit quī a Helvetiīs peterent ut exercituī per eōrum finēs tūtō incēdere licēret. With the danger discovered, Caesar sent ambassadors to ask the Helvetians that it be permitted for the army to advance through their territory safely. (relative clause of purpose and indirect command)
  7. Tam saevē imperāvit ut cīvēs occīderentur, ut etiam ipsīus militēs iussa facere recūsārent. So savagely did he command that civilians be killed, that even his own soldiers refused to carry out his orders. (indirect command and result clause)
VII. Fear Clauses
Fear clauses are, as the name suggests, used in sentences like "I fear that this will happen".

IN FEAR CLAUSES, UT AND ARE REVERSED!!!! means "that" and ut (sometimes nē nōn) means "that...not"!

Fear clauses are the first type of clause on this list that can use the full sequence of tenses.

In most contexts, the present subjunctive should be translated with "will", and the imperfect with "would". Perfect and pluperfect should be translated exactly as expected.

Fear clauses are signaled by verbs of fearing, such as timeō, vereor, and metuō. In addition, the phrase periculum est nē ("there is danger that...") can introduce a fear clause.

  1. Timeō captīvus effugiat. I fear that the captive will escape.
  2. Timēbam captīvus effugeret. I feared that the captive would escape.
  3. Timeō captīvus effūgerit. I fear that the captive has (already) escaped.
  4. Timēbam captīvus effūgisset. I feared that the captive had (already) escaped.
  5. Vereor ut A+ hāc quaestiōne meruerim. I fear that I did not earn an A+ on this quiz.
  6. Sī proelium nōn explōrātō locō committeret, periculum erat in insidiās caderet. If he engaged in battle with the location not having been explored, there was danger that he’d fall into an ambush.
  7. Metus Caesar rex appellārētur Brūtum impulit ut cōnsilium eius interficiendī inīret. Fear that Caesar would be called king pushed Brutus to form a plan to kill him. (fear clause + ind. command)
VIII. Indirect Questions
Indirect questions are very similar to indirect statements and commands, though their usage is a little more wide-ranging.

They can be introduced by any interrogative pronoun/adverb, just like a direct q., and use the full sequence of tenses.
Common Question Words:
num: whether ("she asked whether it was...")
quis, quid: who/what?
quam: how? (as in “how difficult is this?”)
quandō: when?
ubi: where?
quō: to where? (“whither”)
quantus, -a, -um: how great? how big?
an: whether (same usage as num)
quī, quae, quod: which?
quōmodo: how? (as in “how did you do this?”)
quot: how many?
unde: from where? (“whence”)
cūr: why?
quālis, quāle: what sort?
The “signal word” can sometimes be a verb of asking or wondering, but it can also be a wide range of other mental action verbs – knowing, hearing, thinking, perceiving, showing, etc. The examples should demonstrate the range of verbs pretty clearly.

  1. Mīror quid faciās. I wonder what you are doing.
  2. Mīrābar quid facerēs. I wondered what you were doing.
  3. Mīror quid fēcerīs. I wonder what you did.
  4. Mīrābar quid fēcissēs. I wondered what you had done.
  5. Mīror quid factūra sīs. I wonder what you are going to do.
  6. Mīrābar quid factūra essēs. I wondered what you were going to do.
  7. Sciō ubi herī fuerīs et quōs convocāverīs. I know where you were yesterday and whom you summoned.
  8. Audīvistīne quot hostēs a Caesare victī essent? Did you hear how many enemies had been defeated by Caesar?
  9. Dubitō an ille vēra loquātur. I doubt whether that man is speaking the truth (lit. “true things”)
  10. Ostendam tibi quantam vim ad mutandōs animōs rhētorica habeat. I will show you how much force rhetoric has to change minds.
  11. Nēmō ignorat quālī virō summam potestātem nūper commīserīmus. Nobody is unaware what kind of man we have recently entrusted the highest power to.
IX. Cum Clauses
We've all learned that cum means "with" and is a preposition taking the ablative.

In fact, cum is also a conjunction meaning "when/since/although". This is extremely common.

How can you tell whether it's a preposition or conjunction? Context.

There are four major types of cum clauses: temporal, circumstantial, causal, or concessive.

A. Cum Temporal
This is the only type of cum clause that takes the indicative. In this case, cum is always translated as "when".

Temporal cum clauses are fairly uncommon and mainly occur in general statements about repeated events. When it does occur in other contexts, it is often hard to distinguish from the cum circumstantial. It does not necessarily need to follow the sequence of tenses exactly.

  1. Cum magister loquitur, discipulī audiunt. When the teacher is talking, the students listen.
  2. Cum tacent clāmant. When they are silent, they shout. ("Their silence is a shout.")
  3. Cum rōsam vīderat, tum vēr incipere arbitrābātur. When(ever) he saw a rose, he thought spring was beginning then.
  4. Valdē gāvīsus sum cum audīvī hunc nuntium. When I heard this message, I rejoiced greatly.
Sometimes, the main clause denotes a circumstance (in the imperfect indicative), and the cum clause contains the "main event" of the sentence (perfect indicative). This is sometimes called cum inversum.

In viā ambulābam, cum subitō monstrum horrendum vīdī! I was walking in the road, when suddenly I saw a horrible monster!

Lastly, cum is always used with the indicative (future or future perfect) in statements about future time.

  1. Cum Rōmae erō, tē visitābō. When I'm in Rome, I will visit you.
  2. Cum pēnsum perfēcerō, tēcum loquar. When I've finished my homework, I'll talk with you.
B. Cum Circumstantial
Circumstantial cum clauses take the subjunctive (almost always imperfect or pluperfect – because they're usually found after secondary sequence main verbs) and are translated with "when" or "while". They are extremely common in narrative passages.

  1. Cum Rōma maximō bellō premerētur, virtūte Q. Fabī Maximī servāta est. When Rome was being weighed down by a very large war, it was saved by the virtue of Quintus Fabius Maximus.
  2. Cum Caesar ā Galliā proficiscerētur, nuntius allātus est Gallōs arma resūmpsisse. While Caesar was setting out from Gaul, a message was brought to him that the Gauls had taken up arms again.
  3. Cum domum advēnisset, statim ad cubiculum suum contendit ut dormīret. When she had arrived home, she immediately hastened to her bedroom to sleep.
C. Cum Causal
Causal cum clauses can take any tense of the subjunctive and are translated with "because".

  1. Perfacile est, cum virtūte omnēs superēmus, totīus Galliae imperiō potīrī. Because we surpass everyone in virtue, it is extremely easy (for us) to gain power over all Gaul.
    • (N.B.: Although cum is followed by an ablative (virtūte), it is NOT the preposition meaning "with". How can you tell? Context! If cum means "with" here, then there's no way to make sense of the subjunctive verb superēmus.)
  2. Magister, cum timēret ut discipulī probī essent, eōs semper diligenter custodiēbat. Because he was afraid that the students were not well-behaved, the teacher always guarded them diligently.
D. Cum Concessive
Concessive cum clauses can take any tense of the subjunctive and are translated with "although".

Generally, the main clause will contain the signaling word tamen ("nevertheless").

  1. Cum prīmī ordinēs cēcidissent, reliquī tamen fortiter resistēbant. Although the front lines had fallen, nevertheless the remaining men resisted bravely.
  2. Cum certē maximus imperātor habeāris, tamen ad hoc bellum gerendum idoneus mihi nōn vidēris. Although you are certainly considered the best general, nevertheless you don’t seem suitable to me to wage this war.
  3. Brevī tempore multa mīlia virōrum sibi adiunxit, cum initiō nēminem habuisset. In a short time he joined many thousands of men to himself, although he had had nobody in the beginning.
    • (N.B.: no tamen! But since the two parts are contrasting, context makes it clear that “although” is the right translation)
How Can You Tell?
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether a cum clause is circumstantial, causal, or concessive. So how can you know?

Well, sometimes, you can’t! The line between circumstantial and causal is very, very fine. Most of the time, it doesn’t even matter whether you translate it as “when” or “because”.

Otherwise, just use the context of the sentence and determine which makes the most sense.

X. Other Minor Subjunctive Uses
A. Proviso Clauses
The words dum, dummodo, and modo can occasionally introduce what's called a proviso clause. They are translated as "provided that" or "as long as" and take either the present or imperfect subjunctive.

  1. Tē vīvere patiar, dummodo multa mīlia passuum inter nōs intersint. I will allow you to live, as long as there are many miles between us.
  2. Modo valētūdō bōna sit, tēcum mox cēnābō. As long as my health is good, I will dine with you soon.
B. Anticipatory Clauses
The word dum (sometimes also quoad) can also mean "until" or "for" (in the sense of waiting for something to happen). In these contexts, it generally takes the present or imperfect subjunctive.

  1. Caesar exspectāre statuit dum reliquae cōpiae convenīrent. Caesar decided to wait for the remaining forces to gather.
  2. Comitia dīlāta sunt dum lex ferrētur. The election was delayed until a law could be passed.
The words priusquam and antequam, meaning "before", can take a subjunctive when the action in the clause never happened or was never completed.

Priusquam cōpiae ad proelium satis bene īnstruī possent, hostēs subitō impetum fēcērunt. Before the troops could be drawn up for battle well enough, the enemies suddenly launched an attack.

C. Conditional Statements
Contrary-to-fact conditional statements with (“if”) use the present, imperfect, or pluperfect subjunctive, just like the optative subjunctive uses. There are 3 main types of subjunctive conditions: Future Less Vivid, Present Contrary-to-Fact, and Past Contrary-to-Fact.

The examples below should make the translations clear.
FLV: hūc veniās, bene sit. If you were to come here (in the future), it would be well.
Pres. CTF: hīc adessēs, bene esset. If you were here (right now), it would be well.
Past CTF: hīc adfuissēs, bene fuisset. If you had been here (in the past), it would’ve been well.

Click this link to read a much more detailed guide on conditional statements by Pacifica.

D. Others
I have already written guides on quīn clauses and relative clauses that take the subjunctive!
Also worth noting is the use of the subjunctive inside indirect statements. I have a guide on that as well!
Last edited:


Staff member
Thanks for this, Dantius. I'm sure it will be useful.
Obviously, the rel. pronoun must have an antecedent in the main clause.
However, the antecedent is occasionally left implied. You can have things like misit qui regem certiorem facerent = "He sent (people/messengers) to inform the king."
petō, petere, -īvī, -ītus: to seek, to ask (+ ab + abl.)
postulō (1): to demand (+ ab or ex + abl.)
quaerō, -ere, quaesīvī, quaesītus: to ask (+ ab + abl.)
Peto and quaero can also be constructed with ex.
a Helvetiis
You need ab there.
IN FEAR CLAUSES, UT AND ARE REVERSED!!!! means "that" and ut (sometimes nē nōn) means "that...not"!
Stating that they are reversed can be confusing. Perhaps we should explain the logic behind it.

When you fear that something will happen, you wish that it won't, hence the ne.

When you fear that something will not happen, you wish that it will, hence the ut (or ne non).

The theory I know of as to how this came about is that the verb of fearing and the ne or ut clause were originally independent, much like this:

Timeo! Ne mihi irascatur! = "I'm afraid! May he not get angry with me!" which evolved into Timeo ne mihi irascatur = "I'm afraid he'll get angry with me."

Timeo! Ut iuvet me!* = "I'm afraid! May he help me!" which evolved into Timeo ut iuvet me = "I'm afraid he won't help me".

*Ut can also be used in independent wishing clauses much like utinam. I think this use of ut is more common in older Latin.
Temporal cum clauses are fairly uncommon
Perhaps it would be fair to say that they're relatively uncommon with the imperfect and pluperfect indicative, compared to the circumstantial equivalent, but for the rest I'd say they're actually pretty common.

Causal cum clauses can take any tense of the subjunctive and are translated with "because".
Or "since" or "given that". While "because" is often an acceptable translation for this sort of cum, many becauses can't translate to it. I guess I tend to favor "since/given that", especially when explaining the cum circumstantial to students, because these can more universally translate back to a cum circumstantial.
Most of the time, it doesn’t even matter whether you translate it as “when” or “because”.
I disagree here. While I guess there can be ambiguous exceptions, most of the time, one of the translations will sound wrong, or at least definitely unnatural, to me.