previous next


Attributive and Predicate Adjectives

285. Adjectives are either Attributive or Predicate.

  1. An Attributive Adjective simply qualifies its noun without the intervention of a verb or participle, expressed or implied: as, —bonus imperātor, a good commander; stellae lūcidae, bright stars; verbum Graecum, a Greek word.
  2. All other adjectives are called Predicate Adjectives:—
  1. stellae lūcidaeerant, the stars were bright.
  2. sit Scīpiō clārus(Cat. 4.21) , let Scipio be illustrious.
  3. hominēsmītīs reddidit (Inv. 1.2) , has rendered men mild.
  4. tria praedia Capitōnīpropria trāduntur (Rosc. Am. 21) , three farms are handed over to Capito as his own.
  5. cōnsilium cēpēruntplēnum sceleris (id. 28), they formed a plan full of villany.

Note.--A predicate adjective may be used with sum or a copulative verb (§ 283); it may have the construction of a predicate accusative after a verb of naming, calling, or the like (§ 393. N.); or it may be used in apposition like a noun (§ 282. b).

Rules of Agreement

286. Adjectives, Adjective Pronouns, and Participles agree with their nouns in Gender, Number, and Case:
  1. vir fortis, a brave man.
  2. illa mulier, that woman.
  3. urbium māgnārum, of great cities.
  4. cum ducentīs mīlitibus, with two hundred soldiers.
  5. imperātor victus est, the general was beaten.
  6. secūtae sunt tempestātēs, storms followed.

Note.--All rules for the agreement of adjectives apply also to adjective pronouns and to participles.

a. With two or more nouns the adjective is regularly plural, but often agrees with the nearest (especially when attributive):—

  1. Nīsus et Euryalus prīmī (Aen. 5.294) , Nisus and Euryalus first.
  2. Caesaris omnī et grātiā et opibus fruor (Fam. 1.9.21) , I enjoy all Cæsar's favor and resources.

Note.--An adjective referring to two nouns connected by the preposition cum is occasionally plural (synesis, § 280. a): as,Iuba cum Labiēnō captī (B. Afr. 52), Juba and Labienus were taken.

b. A collective noun may take an adjective of a different gender and number agreeing with the gender and number of the individuals implied (synesis, § 280. a):—

  1. pars certāre parātī (Aen. 5.108) , a part ready to contend.
  2. colōniae aliquot dēductae, Prīscī Latīnī appellātī (Liv. 1.3) , several colonies were planted (led out) [of men] called Old Latins.
  3. multitūdō convictī sunt (Tac. Ann. 15.44) , a multitude were convicted.
  4. māgna pars raptae (id. 1.9), a large part [of the women] were seized.

Note.--A superlative in the predicate rarely takes the gender of a partitive genitive by which it is limited: as,vēlōcissimum animālium delphīnus est (Plin. N. H. 9.20), the dolphin is the swiftest [creature] of creatures.

287. One adjective may belong in sense to two or more nouns of different genders. In such cases,—

    An Attributive Adjective agrees with the nearest noun:—
    1. multae operae ac labōris, of much trouble and toil.
    2. vīta mōrēsque meī, my life and character.
    3. rēs, vir, tempusūllum dīgnum fuit (Mil. 19) , if any thing, if any man, if any time was fit.
    A Predicate Adjective may agree with the nearest noun, if the Nouns form one connected idea:—
      factus est strepitus et admurmurātiō; (Verr. 1.45), a noise of assent was made (noise and murmur).

    Note.--This is only when the copula agrees with the nearest subject (§ 317. c).

    But generally, a Predicate Adjective will be masculine, if nouns of different genders mean living beings; neuter, if things without life:
    1. uxor deinde ac līberī amplexī(Liv. 2.40) , then his wife and children embraced him.
    2. labor (M.) voluptāsque (F.) societāte quādam inter nātūrālī sunt iūncta (N.) (id. 5.4), labor and delight are bound together by a certain natural alliance.
    If nouns of different genders include both living beings and things without life, a Predicate Adjective is sometimes masculine (or feminine), sometimes neuter, and sometimes agrees in gender with the nearest if that is plural:—
    1. rēx rēgiaque classis ūnā profectī(Liv. 21.50) , the king and the royal fleet set out together.
    2. nātūrāinimīca sunt lībera cīvitās et rēx (id. 44.24), by nature a free state and a king are hostile.
    3. lēgātōs sortēsque ōrāculī exspectandās (id. 5.15), that the ambassadors and the replies of the oracle should be waited for.
a. Two or more abstract nouns of the same gender may have a Predicate Adjective in the neuter plural (cf. § 289. c):—

  1. stultitia et temeritās et iniūstitia ... sunt fugienda(Fin. 3.39) , foliy, rashness, and injustice are [things] to be shunned.

Adjectives used Substantively

288. Adjectives are often used as Nouns (substantively), the masculine usually to denote men or people in general of that kind, the feminine women, and the neuter things:

Note.--The plural of adjectives, pronouns, and participles is very common in this use. The singular is comparatively rare except in the neuter (§ 289. a, c) and in words that have become practically nouns.

omnēs, all men (everybody). omnia, all things (everything).
mâiōrēs, ancestors. minōrēs, descendants.
Rōmānī, Romans. barbarī, barbarians.
līberta, a freedwoman. Sabīnae, the Sabine wives.
sapiēns, a sage (philosopher). amīcus, a friend.
bonī, the good (good people). bona, goods, property.

a. Certain adjectives have become practically nouns, and are often modified by other adjectives or by the possessive genitive:—

  1. tuus vīcīnus proximus, your next-door neighbor.
  2. propinquī cēterī, his other relatives.
  3. meus aequālis, a man of my own age.
  4. êius familiāris Catilīna (Har. Resp. 5) , his intimate friend Catiline.
  5. Leptae nostrī familiārissimus (Fam. 9.13.2) , a very close friend of our friend Lepta.

b. When ambiguity would arise from the substantive use of an adjective, a noun must be added:—

  1. bonī, the good; omnia, everything (all things); but,—
  2. potentia omnium rērum, power over everything.

c. Many adjectives are used substantively either in the singular or the plural, with the added meaning of some noun which is understood from constant association:—

  1. Āfricus [ventus], the southwest wind; Iānuārius [mēnsis], January; vitulīna [carō], veal (calf's flesh); fera [bēstia], a wild beast; patria [terra], the fatherland; Gallia [terra], Gaul (the land of the Gallī); hīberna [castra], winter quarters; trirēmis [nāvis], a three-banked galley, trireme; argentārius [faber], a silversmith; rēgia [domus], the palace; Latīnae [fēriae], the Latin festival.

Note.--These adjectives are specific in meaning, not generic like those in § 288. They include the names of winds and months (§ 31).

For Nouns used as Adjectives, see § 321. c.

For Adverbs used like Adjectives, see § 321. d.

289. Neuter Adjectives are used substantively in the following special senses:—

a. The neuter singular may denote either a single object or an abstract quality:—

raptō vīvere, to live by plunder. in āridō, on dry ground.

  1. honestum, an honorable act, or virtue (as a quality).
  2. opus est mātūrātō, there is need of haste. [Cf. impersonal passives § 208. d.]
b. The neuter plural is used to signify objects in general having the quality denoted, and hence may stand for the abstract idea:—

honesta, honorable deeds (in general). praeterita, the past (lit., bygones).

  1. omnēs fortia laudant, all men praise bravery (brave things).
c. A neuter adjective may be used as an appositive or predicate noun with a noun of different gender (cf. § 287. a):—
  1. trīste lupus stabulīs (Ecl. 3.80) , the wolf [is] a grievous thing for the fold.
  2. varium et mūtābile semper fēmina (Aen. 4.569) , woman is ever a changing and fickle thing.
  3. malum mihi vidētur esse mors (Tusc. 1.9) , death seems to me to be an evil.

d. A neuter adjective may be used as an attributive or a predicate adjective with an infinitive or a substantive clause:—

  1. istuc ipsum nōn esse (Tusc. 1.12) , that very “not to be.”
  2. hūmānum est errāre, to err is human.
  3. aliud est errāre Caesarem nōlle, aliud nōlle miserērī; (Lig. 16), it is one thing to be unwilling that Cæsar should err, another to be unwilling that he should pity.

Adjectives with Adverbial Force

290. An adjective, agreeing with the subject or object, is often used to qualify the action of the verb, and so has the force of an adverb:—
  1. prīmus vēnit, he was the first to come (came first).
  2. nūllus dubitō, I no way doubt.
  3. laetī audiēre, they were glad to hear.
  4. erat Rōmae frequēns (Rosc. Am. 16) , he was often at Rome.
  5. sērus in caelum redeās (Hor. Od. 1.2.45) , mayst thou return late to heaven.

Comparatives and Superlatives

291. Besides their regular signification (as in English), the forms of comparison are used as follows:—

a. The Comparative denotes a considerable or excessive degree of a quality: as,—brevior, rather short; audācior, too bold.

b. The Superlative (of eminence) often denotes a very high degree of a quality without implying a distinct comparison: as,—mōns altissimus, a very high mountain.

Note.--The Superlative of Eminence is much used in complimentary references to persons and may often be translated by the simple positive.

c. With quam , vel , or ūnus the Superlative denotes the highest possible degree:—

  1. quam plūrimī, as many as possible.
  2. quam maximē potest (maximē quam potest), as much as can be.
  3. vel minimus, the very least.
  4. vir ūnus doctissimus, the one most learned man.

Note 1.--A high degree of a quality is also denoted by such adverbs as admodum , valdē, very, or by per or prae in composition (§ 267. d. 1): as,—valdē malus, very bad= pessimus; permāgnus, very great; praealtus, very high (or deep).

Note 2.--A low degree of a quality is indicated by sub in composition: as,—subrūsticus, rather clownish, or by minus, not very; minimē, not at all; parum, not enough; nōn satis, not much.

Note 3.--The comparative mâiōrēs (for mâiōrēs nātū, greater by birth) has the special signification of ancestors; so minōrēs often means descendants.

For the Superlative with quisque , see § 313. b. For the construction of a substantive after a Comparative, see §§ 406, 407; for that of a clause, see § 535. c, 571. a. For the Ablative of Degree of Difference with a Comparative ( multō etc.), see § 414.

292. When two qualities of an object are compared, both adjectives are in the Comparative:—

  1. longior quam lātior aciēs erat (Liv. 27.48) , the line was longer than it was broad (or, rather long than broad).
  2. vērior quam grātior (id. 22.38), more true than agreeable.

Note.--So also with adverbs: as, “libentius quam vērius (Mil. 78) , with more freedom than truth.

a. Where magis is used, both adjectives are in the positive:—

  1. disertus magis quam sapiēns (Att. 10.1.4) , eloquent rather than wise.
  2. clārī magis quam honestī (Iug. 8) , more renowned than honorable.

Note.--A comparative and a positive, or even two positives, are sometimes connected by quam . This use is rarer and less elegant than those before noticed:—

  1. clārīs mâiōribus quam vetustīs (Tac. Ann. 4.61) , of a family more famous than old.
  2. vehementius quam cautē (Tac. Agr. 4) , with more fury than good heed.

293. Superlatives (and more rarely Comparatives) denoting order and succession—also medius , [ cēterus ], reliquus—usually designate not what object, but what part of it, is meant:—

  1. summus mōns, the top of the hill.
  2. in ultimā plateā, at the end of the place.
  3. prior āctiō, the earlier part of an action.
  4. reliquī captīvī, the rest of the prisoners.
  5. in colle mediō (B. G. 1.24) , half way up the hill (on the middle of the hill).
  6. inter cēteram plānitiem (Iug. 92) , in a region elsewhere level.

Note.--A similar use is found in sērā ( multā ) nocte, late at night, and the like. But medium viae, the middle of the way; multum diēī, much of the day, also occur.

hide References (29 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (28):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 1.9.21
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 9.13.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 10.1.4
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.24
    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 4.21
    • Cicero, For Ligarius, 16
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 5
    • Cicero, For Sextus Roscius of Ameria, 16
    • Cicero, For Sextus Roscius of Ameria, 21
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 1.1.45
    • Cicero, For Milo, 19
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.569
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.108
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.294
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 3
    • Tacitus, Annales, 15.44
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.61
    • Tacitus, Agricola, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 48
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 50
    • Cicero, de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, 3.39
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.12
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.9
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 8
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 92
    • Cicero, De Inventione, 1.2
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Cicero, For Milo, 78
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: