Latin for beginners (1911)/Part III/Lesson LXX

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395. The conjunction cum has the following meanings and constructions:

cum temporal = when, followed by the indicative or the subjunctive

cum causal = since, followed by the subjunctive

cum concessive = although, followed by the subjunctive

As you observe, the mood after cum is sometimes indicative and sometimes subjunctive. The reason for this will be made clear by a study of the following sentences:

  1. Caesarem vīdī tum cum in Galliā eram, I saw Cæsar at the time when I was in Gaul.
  2. Caesar in eōs impetum fēcit cum pācem peterent, Cæsar made an attack upon them when they were seeking peace.
  3. Hoc erat difficile cum paucī sine vulneribus essent, this was difficult, since only a few were without wounds.
  4. Cum prīmī ōrdinēs fūgissent, tamen reliquī fortiter cōnsistēbant, though the front ranks had fled, yet the rest bravely stood their ground.

a. The underlying principle is one already familiar to you (cf. § 389.a). When the cum clause states a fact and simply fixes the time at which the main action took place, the indicative mood is used. So, in the first example, cum in Galliā eram fixes the time when I saw Cæsar. b. On the other hand, when the cum clause describes the circumstances under which the main act took place, the subjunctive mood is used. So, in the second example, the principal clause states that Cæsar made an attack, and the cum clause describes the circumstances under which this act occurred. The idea of time is also present, but it is subordinate to the idea of description. Sometimes the descriptive clause is one of cause and we translate cum by since; sometimes it denotes concession and cum is translated although.

396. Rule. Constructions with Cum. The conjunction cum means when, since, or although. It is followed by the subjunctive unless it means when and its clause fixes the time at which the main action took place.

Note. Cum in clauses of description with the subjunctive is much more common than its use with the indicative.

397. Note the following sentences:

  1. Oppidum erat parvum magnitūdine sed magnum multitūdine hominum, the town was small in size but great in population.
  2. Homō erat corpore īnfīrmus sed validus animō, the man was weak in body but strong in courage.

a. Observe that magnitūdine, multitūdine, corpore, and animō tell in what respect something is true. The relation is one covered by the ablative case, and the construction is called the ablative of specification.

398. Rule. Ablative of Specification. The ablative is used to denote in what respect something is true.



aliquem certiōrem facere, to inform some one (lit. to make some one more certain)

certior fierī, to be informed (lit. to be made more certain)

iter dare, to give a right of way, allow to pass

obsidēs inter sē dare, to give hostages to each other




  1. Helvētiī cum patrum nostrōrum tempore domō prefectī essent, cōnsulis exercitum in fugam dederant.
  2. Cum Caesar in Galliam vēnit, Helvētiī aliōs agrōs petēbant.
  3. Caesar cum in citeriōre Gallia esset, tamen dē Helvētiōrum cōnsiliīs certior fīēbat.
  4. Cum Helvētiī bellō clārissimī essent, Caesar iter per prōvinciam dare recūsāvit.
  5. Lēgātus cum haec audīvisset, Caesarem certiōrem fecit.
  6. Cum principēs inter sē obsidēs darent, Rōmānī bellum parāvērunt.
  7. Caesar, cum id nūntiātum esset, mātūrat ab urbe proficīscī.
  8. Nē virtūte quidem Gallī erant parēs Germānis.
  9. Caesar neque corpore neque animō īnfīrmus erat.
  10. Illud bellum tum incēpit cum Caesar fuit cōnsul.

Observe in each case what mood follows cum, and try to give the reasons for its use. In the third sentence the cum clause is concessive, in the fourth and sixth causal.


  1. That battle was fought at the time when (tum cum) I was at Rome.
  2. Though the horsemen were few in number, nevertheless they did not retreat.
  3. When the camp had been sufficiently fortified, the enemy returned home.
  4. Since the tribes are giving hostages to each other, we shall inform Cæsar.
  5. The Gauls and the Germans are very unlike in language and laws.