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Subject:Conditionals in indirect discourse
Time:05:34 pm
Does anyone understand how conditionals work in indirect discourse? Either can be confusing by itself but together they can be really confusing (for me).

For example: [Scribis] Caesarem, si ad me ire coepisset, in Samnium ad me venturum.

The protasis is ppf. subj. (coepisset) and the apodasis is fut. (venturum, presumably subj.). How is this translated? The ppf. protasis makes me think of a contrary-to-fact past, in which case it would be translated, "You write that if Caesar had begun to come to me, I would go into Samnium." However, my workbook claims that it's a future-less-vivid, which would be, I guess, "You write that if Caesar should begin to come to me, I would go into Samnium." Is the workbook correct? How do you figure that out?

Likewise the second example: [Scribis] Sin autem ille circum istaec loca commoraretur, te ei, si propius accessisset, resistere velle."

Now there are two protases, the first being impf. subj. (commoraretur) and the second being ppf. subj. (accessisset), and the apodasis is a pres. infin. (velle). The impf. subj. could be a contrary-to-fact present while the ppf. subj. could be a contrary-to-fact past, which would translate, "But if he were being mentioned around such places, and if he had drawn near, you would want to resist him." My workbook simply calls this a "present general condition," which is not a phrase I'm familiar with. Given that this conditional comes immediately after the previous one (they are connected by "sin), it seems that perhaps it is somehow also a future-less-vivid (assuming that the previous one is, somewhat).

In any case, I am at a loss to properly translate these. Help!

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fregimus
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Time:2008-07-17 07:49 am (UTC)
This passage is from a letter of Pompey to Domitius (Cic. Att. VIII. 12c), and the essential part of it is:

…scribis tibi in animo esse observare Caesarem et, si … ad me ire coepisset, … in Samnium ad me venturum, sin autem ille circum istaec loca commoraretur, te ei, si … accessisset resistere velle.

I do not know Latin grammar well; I am just an avid reader of Latin but has never been formally taught it.

I would say that your observations are entirely correct up to the point where pluperfect in a condition should necessarily indicate that this condition has not fulfilled in the past. This is not always so. The reverse happens in Latin speech often enough, and it seems to me that the distinction is rather semantic than syntactic. In other words, one cannot always judge by syntax alone whether a condition is impliedly false, or merely unfulfilled as yet.

"You write that if Caesar should begin to come to me, I would go into Samnium." — not I, but you. You are translating venturum as if it were a verb in future tense 1st person; that is in fact a future participle, and what is going on here is scribis tibi in animo esse … in Samnium ad me venturum, that is, you write that you are going to come to me in Samnum. Also, I would rather use to go (move, march, advance) rather than to come to translate ire: if Caesar should begin to move upon me (i.e. advance his army).

General condition, to the best of my knowledge, is the one that is set in indefinite present time, or could have been true during a significant length of time or repeatedly in the past, e.g. si vis pacem para bellum, if you want peace, prepare war, i.e. whenever one lounges for peace he should prepare war.

Edited at 2008-07-17 07:58 am (UTC)
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filialucis
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Time:2008-07-17 08:48 am (UTC)
Yes, the workbook is correct. The sneaky thing here is that coepi is a defective verb. It looks like a pluperfect but its meaning is actually present (perfect), because the verb doesn't have a present system and the perfect system has present force. (Same goes for memini, odi, and novi.)
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fregimus
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Time:2008-07-17 10:13 am (UTC)
Aw! Excellent point, thank you. And what about accessisset in the next conditional clause?
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