Opertet vs debere vs passive perephrastic

Notascooby

Active Member
How do I express " ought" as in " he ought to do this" and similar sentences. In many places where I expect to encounter one I actually find another. For this reason I can't figure out which is the correct one to use in whatever context.

My thinking is that a statement like

Carthago delenda est: is just a generic statement. Carthage ought to be destroyed (because it is a self evident fact(that it must be destroyed));

Carthaginem delere debuimus: we ought to destroy Carthage (because we have some kind of generic obligation to do so);

nos opertet carthaginem delere: we ought to destroy Carthage (because we have some kind of definite obligation to do so). This is brought out better if we go old school and say ' it behoves us to destroy Carthage'.

Anyone any thoughts on this?

As always my usual disclaimer as to my competence in these matters is summed up in my username.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Carthaginem delere debuimus: we ought to destroy Carthage (because we have some kind of generic obligation to do so);
Carthaginem delere debuimus (perfect tense) means "We ought to have destroyed Carthage", "We should have destroyed Carthage"; that refers to the past. "We ought to destroy Carthage", which refers to the present, is Carthaginem delere debemus (present tense).

Perhaps the only useful thing I can say regarding your question is that debeo, in classical Latin, most often denotes a moral duty.

Oportet (opertet isn't a word) also sometimes has a nuance of "it must be done because it the right thing to do", but it is not so markedly about moral duty as debeo, I should say. As for the gerundive, I guess it's more or less neutral.

Just because you find another construction than your own doesn't necessarily mean yours is wrong. Sometimes it could be that yours isn't the best for the situation, but there are many contexts where there is more than one valid option. You can always ask us about specific situations where you're in doubt.
 
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