it behoves you all to read this post (not really) / by Anthony Gibbins

I should like to see the word behoves come back in a really big way. You know, it’s likely that I only ever learnt this word because it is a translation commonly suggested for oportet, oportere, oportuit.  In full, it behoves, it is proper, one should or ought to, it is demanded by some principle or standard. I heard someone on a Podcast last week say that it behoves us all to remain vigilant against the rise of Xenophobic Nationalism. There really should be more of it. (Behoving, that it, not Nationalism).

On today’s page, Alan tells Scipio that it behoves him to choose a dog from the pet shop. Strong language perhaps, but Alan is a pretty serious guy. I thought we should look at a few of the ways that Latin can suggest a sense of duty.


With the impersonal Verb oportet

te oportet canem eligere. It behoves you to choose to a dog.


With the Verb debeo, debere, debui, debitum to be due to do a thing, to be morally bound.

[tu] debes canem eligere. You ought to choose a dog.


With the Impersonal Phrase necesse est it is necessary, unavoidable, inevitable, indispensable

necesse est tibi canem eligere. It is necessary for you to choose a dog.


With the Gerundive of Obligation (which is difficult to translate hyper-literally)

canis tibi eligendus est. There is to you a dog having to be chosen (ie. You should choose a dog).


The shop-keeper greets them entering (ie: as they enter). ‘Son,’ the kind father says to Scipio, ‘it behoves you to choose a dog for yourself. For I should like to give a dog to you.’