The Plan for April – A Grammatical Commentary / by Anthony Gibbins

We will be doing something different with the April posts. Instead of riffing on this or that topic, each post will provide a Grammatical Commentary of the day’s page. Here is today’s post, to show you what I mean. I'm not sure who exaclty this particular level of grammatical analysis will help, but hopefully it will find its audience.

Today’s page has 4 sentences. The first contains only two words. salve is an Imperative Verb meaning Be well! It is a common Latin greeting. lector means reader. It is in the Vocative Case because the reader - that’s you - is being addressed.  

Hello reader!

The second sentence also contains two words. ut means so many different things in so many different circumstances. vales means you are well. But put the two together and make it a question and ut vales? means something like How are you doing?

How are you?

The bare bones of the third sentence are ades ut cognoscas num Marcellus in periculo sit You are here that you might find out whether Marcellus is in danger. This needs some pulling apart. ades means you are here. The Pronoun tu you is used, although it need not be, because ades already contains that information. ut cognoscas is a Purpose Clause, i.e. it explains the Purpose of why you are here. There are numerous ways to express Purpose and this is a common one; ut plus a verb in the Subjunctive Mood. ut cognoscas means that you might find out. num Marcellus in periculo sit is an Indirect Question. The Direct Question would be est Marcellus in periculo? Is Marcellus in danger? num at the beginning of an Indirect Question means whether. An Indirect Question requires a Subjunctive Verb, and sit is is the Subjunctive form of est. Marcellus is described as noster our, an affectionate epithet. The whole sentence in preempted with a Prepositional Phrase sine dubio without a doubt.

Without a doubt you are here that you might find out whether our Marcellus is in danger.

The bare bones of the fourth sentence are pauca narranda sunt a few things are needing to be told. pauca is an Adjective being used Substantively, which means that it is standing in for a Noun. The Adjective itself means few. pauca is Plural and Neuter so on its own, Substantively, it means a few things. If it was Plural and Feminine - paucae - it would mean a few women, and if it was Plural and Masculine - pauci - it would mean a few men or a few people. narranda is a Gerundive of Obligation, which is its own thing and just doesn’t exist in English. A Gerundive is traditionally described as a Verbal Adjective, although there are people who will argue against that definition. But anyway, here, at its most literal, narranda means needing to be told, and describes pauca. sunt means are. pauca is expanded upon with the Prepositional Phrase de tabernaria about the shopkeeper. tabernaria is expanded upon with the Genitive zoopolii of the pet store. primum is an Adverb meaning firstly and tamen is an Adverb meaning however.

Firstly, however, a few things are needing to be told about the shopkeeper of the pet store.