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525. The uses of some of the more common Conditional Particles may be stated as follows:—

a. is used for affirmative, nisi ( ) and nōn for negative conditions.

    With nisi (generally unless) the apodosis is stated as universally true except in the single case supposed, in which case it is (impliedly) not true:
    1. nisi Conōn adest, maereō, unless Conon is here, I mourn (i.e. I am always in a state of grief except in the single case of Conon's presence, in which case I am not).
    With nōn (if not) the apodosis is only stated as true in the (negative) case supposed, but as to other cases no statement is made:—
    1. Conōnnōn adest, maereō, if Conon is not here, I mourn (i.e. I mourn in the single case of Conon's absence, nothing being said as to other cases in which I may or may not mourn).

    Note.--It often makes no difference in which of these forms the condition is stated.

    Sometimes nisi , except if, unless, occurs:—
    1. nōlī putāre ad quemquam longiōrēs epistulās sorībere, “nisi quis ad plūra scrīpsit(Fam. 14.2) , ... except in case one writes more to me.

    Note 2.-- is an old form surviving in a few conventional phrases and reappearing in poets and later writers.

b. Nisi vērō and nisi forte regularly introduce an objection or exception ironically, and take the Indicative:—
  1. nisi vērō L. Caesar crūdēlior vīsus est (Cat. 4.13) , unless indeed Lucius Cæsar seemed too cruel.
  2. nisi forte volumus Epicūrēōrum opīniōnem sequī; (Fat. 37), unless, to be sure, we choose to follow the notion of the Epicureans.

Note.--This is the regular way of introducing a reductio ad absurdum in Latin. Nisi alone is sometimes used in this sense: as, “nisi ūnum hōc faciam ut in puteō cēnam coquant(Pl. Aul. 365) , unless I do this one thing, [make them] cook dinner in the well.

c. Sīve ( seu ) ... sīve ( seu ), whether ... or, introduce a condition in the form of an alternative. They may be used with any form of condition, or with different forms in the two members. Often also they are used without a verb:—

    nam illō locō libentissimē soleō ūtī, sīve quid mēcum ipse cōgitō, sīve quid scrībō aut legō; (Legg. 2.1), for I enjoy myself most in that place, whether I am thinking by myself, or am either writing or reading.

Note.--Sīve ... seu and seu ... sīve are late or poetic.

d. Sīn, but if, often introduces a supposition contrary to one that precedes:—

  1. accūsātor illum dēfendet poterit; sīn minus poterit, negābit (Inv. 2.88) , the accuser will defend him if he can; but if he cannot, he will deny.

e. Nisi is often used loosely by the comic poets in the sense of only when a negative (usually nesciō ) is expressed, or easily understood, in the main clause:—

    nesciō: nisi dīxisse nēminī certō sciō; (Ter. Ph. 952), I don't know: only I am sure that I have n't told anybody.

hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (3):
    • J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge, Select Orations of Cicero, Allen and Greenough's Edition., AG Cic. 4.6
    • J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge, Select Orations of Cicero, Allen and Greenough's Edition., AG Cic. 81
    • J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge, Select Orations of Cicero, Allen and Greenough's Edition., AG Cic. S. Rosc..21-46.36-42.42
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