The Passive of the Verb

by William Harris
(the text is published with the permission of the author)

Where are we now in the verb?

We have gone through the six tenses of the active (as against passive), factual or "indicative" (as against conditional/subjunctive), and we have worked through the Infinitives, the Active and Passive Participles,the Active Future Participle and Gerundive. We have also looked at the Imperative Active (the passive can be noted as very rare)

We have NOT done the Passive of the six tenses of the active indicative verb (although we have looked at passives in the auxiliary classes above). Now let us do a mirror image of the verb, as it were, and go back and work out the passives.

We could have done the actives, then the passives, then the infinitives participles and imperative active and passive, it would have been logical . But I wanted to get you through active verb into infinitives and participles, which all work together in real-life Latin writing, so you could do more realistic practice in reading, which is after all the crux of your learning Latin. So I held the passive back.... If you wondered, that's why, OK?

1t should be easy to define the passive as an active turned backwards, and sometimes that is exactly what it is. Catullus has a line about some young lovers --mutuis animis amant, amantur "with mutual minds they love (and) are loved." These plural present passive words are as simple and direct as the poet's perception in that lovely Catullan "sonnet" Poem #45.

But in a second class of words, the Deponents (like reor "I think") the passive function is not clear. We are dealing with a middle leve actually a Middle Voicel between active and passive, whjich is not unlike Romanic language reflexive verbs, although there are differences. So we translate these Deponents as if they were active in meaning, despite the passive forms.

In this class of the "Deponents", we have passive verbs which are exclusively passive, that is they show no forms which would be an active counterpart. We usually translate these verbs as actives, such as utor "use", fungor "make use of", fruor "enjoy", vescor "feed (of an animal, like German fressen)". But part of this is out own simplistic eagerness to do direct word for word translation. These verbs really have something of a middle function, and utor really means" I make for myself some use of....something", fruor " I take for myself pleasure in...", and if we take the trouble to see these deponents in this light, we see exactly why they take an ablative direct object rather than the usual object (accusative) case. Utor cultello means "I make for myself some use of something with (ablative) a pen-knife"., fruor is really "I take for myself some pleasure with ..."

For simplicity's sake you may want to say with the traditionalists:

Deponent verbs are passive in form, active in meaning
... and many take an ablative object (utor, fruor, fungor, vescor and sometimes potior)

This is simple, automatic and easy to recall. Or you may go back to what I have written above, which is complex, not quite clear, but historically true: That Deponent employ a Middle Voice involving the do-er and his interests.

Or as the Proverb goes, "suum cuique", "to each his own (way),

Now to the forms. You will see immediately that the present, imperfect and future are similar to the basic active forms, but are for the most part extended by an -r- or some -r- based configuration, which is the note for passiveness. But the perfect, pluperfect and future perfect passive are made up in quite a different way: You take the past participle (PPP) and put after it (as separate word, not fused) a form of the verb esse "to be" actually the present of esse for the perfect passive, the imperfect "eram" for the pluperfect passive, and the future "ero" for the future perfect passive.

It's simpler than the previous sentence implies, but you will have to know the forms of the irregular but terribly common verb "be". You have seen it already but, best memorize it firmly right now.

        PRESENT         IMPERFECT       FUTURE          PERFECT Sg.     sum             eram            ero             fui         es              eras            eris            fuisti         est             erat            erit            fuit
Pl.     sumus           eramus          erimus          fuimmus 
        estis           eratis          eritis          fuistis 
        sunt            erant           erunt           fuerunt/ere

Present Stem Passives in the Indicative

The Present Passive Indicative

        I               II              III             IV
Sg.     amor            moneor          ducor           audior
        amaris          moneris         duceris         audieris
        amatur          monetur         ducitur         auditur
Pl.     amamur          monemur         ducimur         audimur 
        amamini         monemini        ducimini        audimini 
        amantur         monentur        ducuntur        audiuntur

Note that the 2 sg forms in -ris have a commonly used by-form in -ere, which is especially confusing since it looks like an infinitive (or even the by-form of the 3 plural perfect.)

Some things deserve special attention:

First the ending -mini (2 plural) is most rare~, you might see it once in two blue moons, if then. And it is historically strange, in that it is really a plural in -i of a participle of a type unknown in Latin but found in Greek (-menoi), with an "understood" i.e. evaporated verb: estis "you are" which was once somehow intuited. Thus the meaning is " are). Perhaps forget this one until you see a strange form in -mini.

Second, there are two forms listed for the 2 nd sg. passive, one is -ris which is easy to remember, but equally common is the by-form in -re. The problem is that amare "you are loved" looks like the present infinitive amare "to love" the very common Infinitive form, hence the two are constantly confused, with the infinitive coming out on top. Try to remember this because its a sure place for an bad mistake.

And you might note that in Class III the infinitive is ducere with a short -e-, while the 2 sg. passive is ducere with a long -e-.

It doesn't do you much good to tell you about longs and shorts at this stage, since they are never marked in printed texts other than in high school textbooks, which you will not be wanting to use after working through this book. By the time you get far enough along to begin reading poetry, and master some of the basic rhythmic schemes which form the basis of Roman poetry, you will see that some vowels must be pronounced long, and others short, to make the line come out right. Vice versa, if the meter is a regular one, and you know it, you will be able to tell which vowels are long and which short. But this is down the road, and he who travels light travels faster, so we are ignoring the long marks for the present.

The Imperfect Passive Indicative

The imperfect and future passive are regular enough, I think they need little comment, so I shall print them out as follows:

          I               II              III             IV
Sg.       amabar          monebar         ducebar         audiebar
          amabaris        monebaris       ducebaris       audiebaris
          amabatur        monebatur       ducebatur       audiebatur
Pl.       amabamur        monebamur       ducebamur       audiebamur
          amabamini       monebamini      ducebamini      audiebamini
          amabantur       monebantur      ducebantur      audiebantur

The Future Passive Indicative

           I              II              III             IV
Sg.        amabor         monebor         ducar           audiar
           amaberis       moneberis       duceris         audieris
           amabitur       monebitur       ducetur         audietur 
Pl.        amabimur       monebimur       ducemur         audiemur
           amabimini      monebimini      ducemini        audiemini
           amabuntur      monebuntur      ducentur        audientur

First you will note that the verb divides in the way it treats the future here exactly as in the active forms, i.e. the first two classes go with -b- forms, the last two favor the -e- vowel forms, with the exception of the 1 sg. which with it's -am is identical with the (soon to appear) present conditional (subjunctive).

Also note that the 2 nd sg. passive of the third and fourth classes is indistinguishable from the corresponding 2 nd passive forms in the present .

(Summary: In the fut. pass. of III and Iv the 1 sg. could be a conditional, the 2 nd sg. could be a present passive, but the rest are clearly future.)

Perfect Stem Passives in the Indicative

Now we come to the passives of the perfect, pluperfect and future perfect, which as I said are indirectly (periphrastically) formed by combining form of sum/esse "to be" with the Perfect Passive Participle (PPP).

The Perfect Passive Indicative

       I               II              III             IV
Sg.    amatus sum      monitus sum     ductus sum      auditus sum
Pl.    amati sumus     moniti sumus    ducti sumus     auditi sumus
Obviously the PPP must match up with whatever or whoever is being talked about, so the appropriate case will always appear from the sentence construction, and forms will be masculine, feminine or neuter (amatus, amata, amatum). To save space I list just the masculine form since that is the form found in the dictionary, rather than from any latent machismo.

Problem with this and the next two classes: You can translate the elements directly into English, and come out with "loved, he is" meaning "he is loved", since est is normally "is". Wrong, it is a past passive tense (has been loved)! The only acceptable meaning is past: "he was loved, he has been loved". Please note this carefully: The right meaning is NOT just what the two words say.

Just s o the next formthe Pluperfect Passive amatus erat is not "he was loved, but "he had been loved". And thge Futur Perfect Passive amatus erit not "he will be loved" but "he will have been loved". I am not quibbling, there is a difference, and the difference is real. N.B. or simply nota (imperative sg.!)

The Pluperfect Passive Indicative

       I               II              III             IV
Sg.    amatus eram     monitus eram    ductus eram     amatus eram
Pl.    amati eramus    moniti eramus   ducti eramus    auditi eramus

The Future Perfect Passive Indicative

       I               II              III             IV
Sg.    amatus ero      (as above.....)
Pl.    amati erimus
Perhaps I should note in closing is that the future forms of esse "be" exhibits the same o/u back vowel in the 1 sg and 3 p1. (front vowel -i- in all the other forms) just as you have seen in amabo/amabunt, whereas the rest of the forms use the vowel -i-. This is hardly surprising after all.

Now we have completed the regular indicative, basic verb, both active and passive, in all six tenses or time sequences. We have also outlined infinitives, active and passive, participles active and passive, and we pause before lunging ahead into the last distinctive feature of the regular verb: the Subjunctive or Conditional.

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