by Francis A Lattanzio
mood can be organized in a number of different ways. Every source I encountered
first divides the imperative mood into "Commands" and "Negative Imperatives"
(also known as prohibiton). Beyond this, however, each grammar treated
the imperative somewhat differently. Allen and Greenough's New Latin
Grammar nexts separates commands and negative imperatives into the
Present and the Future - that is, A&G choose tense as their primary
criteria for organization. George Lane, in his A Latin Grammar,
divides commands into 2nd and 3rd Person Imperatives. Clearly, these two
schools of thought present fundamentally different divisions (by tense
vs. by person). Finally, Gildersleeve and Lodge present a third, hybrid
view that incorporates elements of both tense and person.
my own organization of the imperative. I happen to prefer Allen and Greenough's
method (you'll see why).
Imperative (2nd Person Imperative; First Imperative)
Imperative (3rd Person Imperative; Second Imperative)
Reference to Future
Negative Imperative (2nd Person Negative Imperative; First Negative Imperative)
Negative Imperative (3rd Person Negative Imperative; Second Negative Imperative)
Commands, along with negative imperatives,
form one of the two sub-sets of the imperative mood. Commands come in two
flavors, but both behave similarly on a grammatical level: A command is
the main verb of its sentence and makes it an imperative sentence
(one of the four base types of sentences). Commands can then be sub-divided
into these two categories...
2nd Person, or First Imperatives
Before examining the details and schools
of thought on such imperatives, let's first go over the basics, which transcend
the lines of the different schools. First, these come under the umbrella
of commands, and thus are the main verbs of their sentences. Second, the
uses of these imperatives fall into these two categories. Note that there
is no difference in the syntax of the verb or sentence, only in the
Now, onto the interesting stuff... Here
are the three schools of thought on such imperatives. Note that they are
not different ways of interpreting the meaning of such imperatives;
rather, they provide different criteria for sub-dividing the category of
Direct orders, to anyone - inferiors,
equals, and superiors.
Desires, wishes, prayers, etc.
We'll look at specific examples in order
to further examine how these three ideas "work" (or don't):
Allen and Greenough call this a Present
Imperative, as the command looks for completion in the present. Note
that A&G do not restrict the person of the Present Imperative.
George Lane refers to these as 2nd
Person Imperatives, because the recipient of the command is always
the 2nd person.
Gildersleeve and Lodge call this the First
Imperative. As stated above, the G&L method is something of a hybrid.
They define First Imperative as "looking forward to immediate fulfillment"
thereby incorporating elements of Allen and Greenough's Present Imperative;
also, the First Imperative takes only the second person, just as Lane's
Take this for example:
dic, Marce Tulli,
This is your garden-variety imperative,
and (as you would expect) any of these methods work equally well. Obviously,
this command looks to immediate fulfillment, and the recipient is in the
2nd person (as evidence of the vocatives).
"Speak your opinion, Marcus Tullius."
However, now consider this example
from Allen and Greenough (pg. 283):
ollis salus populi suprema
Now, let's see how the three schools fare...
This example does fit the criteria of Allen and Greenough's Present Imperatives,
as the command seeks completion in the present. Next, do Lane's and G&L's
methods, however, work as well? Clearly, this is not a second person
command, so it would seem that their methods fall short here. However,
if you jump ahead to the future imperative, you'll
see that one of the uses of the future imperative is in "general directions
for all time." I don't think you'd have much trouble arguing that this
statement could be interpreted as such. In light of this, (i.e. we consider
this a future imperative by virtue of its meaning), the above example doesn't
break the rules set out by Lane and G&L, as it then doesn't fall into
"Let safety of the people be the first
or 3rd Person Imperative
Once again, before going over the
schools of thought, here are the basic uses of the future imperative. Remember
that future imperatives are a sub-set of the larger category of commands
(just look at the goofy borders). Thus, their grammatical behavior is the
same as any command. Future imperatives have two main uses; as before with
the uses of present commands, the syntax is identical, and only the meaning
As you might expect, each grammar divides
these imperatives along different lines. Again remember that these schools
of thought do not produce different meanings:
The command is meant to be fulfilled sometime
in the future.
The command serves as a law, general rule,
recipe, maxim, etc.
Again, we will examine each method through
Allen and Greenough state that the Future
Imperative is used in commands when "there is a distinct reference
to future time." (284) This reference can come either in direct reference
(a word such as "cras," for example), or as "general directions serving
for all time."
George Lane treats this as the Third
Person Imperative. The third person imperative is used "in laws, legal
documents, and treaties, and also in impressive general rules and maxims."(266)
Note that, in this method, the second person of the future imperative doesn't
Gildersleeve and Lodge call this the Second
Imperative. The second imperative can be either second or third person
and looks for contingent (i.e. future) fulfillment. Second Imperatives
"[are] used chiefly in laws, legal documents, etc." Once again, the G&L
method falls somewhere in between Lane's idea and that of A&G: Gildersleeve
and Lodge set out restrictions on both time and person.
regio imperio duo sunto.
Again, for the common example, all three
ways work fine. The sentence shows elements of both "the future" and "the
"There shall be two [men] with the
king's power." (example from Lane, 266)
That being said, consider the following
example from Plautus's Mercator:
cras petito, dabitur.
Allen and Greenough's method of looking
at this makes perfect sense - there's a direct reference to future time
("cras"). Gildersleeve and Lodge's method also works, as the fulfillment
of the command is contingent in that it must be done "tomorrow." Lane's
method, however, doesn't really make sense. I think you would find it hard
to argue that this statement is a "general rule"; moreover, this sentence
is clearly directed at the 2nd person, not the 3rd person as Lane suggests.
"Ask tomorrow, it shall be given."
(from Allen and Greenough, 284)
So, you probably want to know, which
one is the best? From the above discussions, I think we can agree that
the methods laid out be A&G and G&L are superior to Lane's: The
main problem with Lane's conception of commands is his treatment of 3rd
person commands. Though future commands are rare in the second person,
they do exist, despite what Lane says - just look in any elementary Latin
text book, and you'll find directions on how to form the second person
future imperative. This narrows the field down to Allen and Greenough vs.
Gildersleeve and Lodge. Both grammars do an excellent job of dividing commands,
and neither has any obvious holes, as Lane's setup does. Gildersleeve and
Lodge provide more specific criteria than Allen and Greenough, as they
lay out guidelines for both tense and person (which work without exception),
while A&G divide commands by tense only. In this respect, the G&L
method is best, as it gives more working rules with which to classify,
understand, and translate a given imperative. In the end, however, I prefer
Allen and Greenough, but only because they choose more appropriate names
for the categories. The names "Present" and "Future" really give you a
sense of how and why the categories are divided. Gildersleeve and Lodge's
corresponding "First" and "Second," however, are pretty much arbitrary
and even a little misleading. (I know this is really splitting hairs, so
this is perhaps my general preference for A&G showing through.)
The negative imperative is a sub-set
of the imperative mood, not a special form of command. (Look
at the tree on the top of the page for a visual representation of this
idea.) As such, negative imperatives are parallel to commands on several
levels. First, from a grammatical standpoint, they act identically to commands.
That is, they are the main verb of the sentence and make it an imperative
sentence. Second, they have parallel uses as commands. For example, present
negative imperatives are used both for direct orders and for desires, prayers,
etc. Finally, negative imperatives have corresponding sub-divisions to
Person/First Negative Imperative
As mentioned above, negative imperatives
mirror commands in many ways. The three grammars (Lane, A&G, G&L)
divide these imperatives along the same lines as they do commands. (Just
look at the definitions above for these and insert "negative" where necessary.)
The only difference (aside from the obvious) between negative imperatives
and their affirmative cousins is that negatives can be formed in three
Though I've translated these identically,
each has it's own nuance of meaning. The first is the most "ceremonious"
and formal, while the third is least so. (These are
the three most popular ways of expressing the negative imperative in prose.
In poetry, however, you'll find a myriad of ways of creating negative imperatives.
Discussing all of these ways, which vary according to poet, time period,
etc. is really beyond the scope of this page, but I just thought I'd warn
Noli + infinitive
Cave/Cave ne + Present Subjunctive
"Don't you run!"
Ne + Perfect Subjunctive
Person/Second Negative Imperatives
In case you haven't caught on by now,
the theme the negative imperatives is the parallelism to commands. The
uses of future negative imperatives correspond exactly to those of the
future imperatives, as do the schools of thought
from the three grammars. Simply refer to the above discussions and replace
"imperative" with "negative imperative."
Henry and J.B. Greenough. New Latin Grammar. New Rochelle, New York:
Aristide D. Caratzas Publisher, 1998.
B.L. and G. Lodge. Latin Grammar. London: Macmillan Education Ltd,
A Latin Grammar. New York: AMS Press, 1970.
L. and Rita M. Fleischer. Latin: An Intensive Course. Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1977.
and designed by Francis A Lattanzio
for Prof. Struck's Latin 309 class, 1999. R2.0
"NOTEPAD - THE RIGHT WAY"
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