'What is a Gerund, Sir?'
It is almost impossible to start any survey of the uses of Gerunds & Gerundives without referring to the immortal Molesworth books (if you haven't read them, find them immediately!) The one entitled 'How To Be Topp' (sic) explains various ruses and schemes to cheat your way to success in different school subjects (from the point of view of Nigel Molesworth, the world's laziest Prep School boy).
When he gets to Latin, he has to admit however that the only way really is to WORK ('chiz chiz…'); so instead he outlines a few ways to distract the teacher and thereby get the odd brief moment of respite.
One trick that never fails (he claims) is to put up your hand and ask, earnestly: "What is a Gerund, Sir?" This, he says, will cause the master (who has no idea) to stutter, clutch the desk and flip his way surreptitiously underneath it through the pages of Kennedy's Shortbread Eating Primer until he finds the relevant bit, giving the class at least a couple of minutes off….
Fortunately for you, VDB has already done the necessary research, so you need have no fears about the advice you are about to get (although you should definitely still look at the cartoon strip in the above-mentioned book - entitled 'The Private Life of the Gerund' - to get the complete picture).
The Gerund in English
A Gerund is actually a Noun formed from a Verb - having the meaning of the basic idea of that verb; it ends in the letters "-ING" and can often take an Object:
e.g. "I'd like the chanceof MEETINGEmma Watson"
"Nobody likesWAITINGfor the bus"
"My favourite hobby isCOLLECTINGMars-bar wrappers"
You may notice, of course, that exactly the same ending is used for Present Participles in English. The difference is that with a Participle, the word is used as an adjective, rather than a noun. If you want to be sure which one you have, try the following method:
REPLACE THE "---ING" VERB WITH AN INFINITIVE ('To …….'). IF IT STILL MAKES SENSE, IT WAS A GERUND:
"I'd like the chanceTO MEETEmma Watson"
"Nobody likesTO WAITfor the bus"
"My favourite hobby isTO COLLECT…."
Try it with this one and you'll see the difference:
"I noticed my friendTRYINGnot to laugh"
"I noticed my friendTO TRYnot to laugh……..???" It's a participle!
Gerunds in Latin
For once, the formation of a Gerund is quite simple. The Present Stem is used with an ending (see chart below) which, being a noun, declines (equally simply) like the 2nd neuter noun BELLUM (not all cases are needed, as you will see below).
There is only one verb which has an IRREGULAR Gerund:
EO (and its compounds): EUNDUM - Going
Neither 'SUM' nor its compounds have Gerunds.
How Gerunds are used
Gerunds are not so common in Latin. This is because for a lot of the time, they preferred actually to use an Infinitive, rather than the Gerund, because the meaning was the same; this especially happened when the verbal idea was the actual Subject or Object in the sentence:
e.g. "I hateWRITINGessays"
( = 'I hate TO WRITE…..')
"LEARNINGa foreign language can be very useful"
( = 'It can be very useful TO LEARN…..')
In fact, it would have been grammatically incorrect to use a Gerund in Latin in sentences like these.
You will be most likely to meet Gerunds used in one of FOUR ways:
1. In the GENITIVE case
e.g. " …. the chanceOF GOINGto the city."
2. In the ABLATIVE case (this is the only time an Infinitive can't be substituted with the same meaning)
e.g. "He escaped from the dogBY RUNNING very fast"
3. In the ACCUSATIVE case, after the Preposition "AD" - here with the specialised meaning "FOR THE PURPOSE OF…."
e.g. "They hired a boat FOR THE PURPOSE OF SAILINGto the island"
4. In the GENITIVE case again, with the uncommon Preposition "CAUSA" - which is strange not only that it takes the Genitive, but because it also is written AFTER its noun (or in this case, Gerund).
It has the (very similar) meaning "FOR THE SAKE OF…."
e.g. "I climbed the wallFOR THE SAKE OF SEEINGmore clearly"
You may notice that these last two uses have almost the same meaning as a PURPOSE CLAUSE. In fact, Romans did often convey the idea of Purpose using gerunds like this rather than Ut or Ne with the Subjunctive.
SO: CASES NOT NEEDED ARE……
Nominative: They used the Infinitive instead as mentioned above
Vocative: You are unlikely to say 'Hi' to a Gerund
'Straight' ACCUSATIVE (i.e. direct object): Infinitive used again
Dative: well, OK, they do exist in the Dative, but you are highly unlikely to meet one, and I'm not going to bother with them here….!
PRACTICE SENTENCES AS EXAMPLES
Here are just a couple of each type to give you a chance to try recognising which is which. Highlight the 'Answer' line to see if you got the meaning right.
1. E PERICULO EFFUGERE CONAMUR IN URBE MANENDO.
Answer: We are trying to escape the danger by staying in the city.
2. MATER DOMUM AD DORMIENDUM REDIIT.
Type: AD + acc
Answer: Mother has gone home to have a sleep ('for the purpose of sleeping').
3. PATER MIHI OCCASIONEM BENIGNE DEDIT AD GRAECIAM EUNDI.
Answer: My father has kindly given me the opportunity of going to Greece.
4. IUVENES POST MURUM SE CELAVERUNT MELIUS AUDIENDI CAUSA.
Type: Gen + CAUSA
Answer: The young men hid behind the wall so they could listen better ('for the sake of hearing better').
5. DUX PLURES COPIAS MITTIT AD HODIE OPPUGNANDUM.
Type: AD + acc
Answer: The general is sending more troops for the purpose of attacking today.
6. PUERI IN AGROS FESTINAVERUNT LUDENDI CAUSA.
Type: Gen + CAUSA
Answer: The boys hurried into the fields to play ('for the sake of playing').
7. CELERITER CONTENDENDO, EXERCITUS AD MARE DECIMA HORA ADVENIT.
Answer: By marching quickly, the army reached the sea in the late afternoon.
8. ARS BENE LOQUENDI NON OMNIBUS EST FACILIS.
Answer: The art of speaking well is not easy for everybody.
However much Molesworth's Gerunds might have looked down their noses at Gerundives, the truth is that they are far more common (come to think of it, that might explain the 'social snobery''!)
To make matters a little more complicated, how's this for a 'definition' of a Gerundive: it is an ADJECTIVE formed from a Gerund (that actually makes it an adjective formed from a noun formed from a verb….).
However, they have uses that, although complicated, are very satisfying once you have cracked what's going on.
The two structures are usually known as:
1. GERUNDIVE ATTRACTION
2. GERUNDIVE OF OBLIGATION
Firstly, though, this is how they are formed:
TAKE THE GERUND, and REPLACE THE ---UM (noun ending)
WITH ---US -A -UM (adjective).
e.g. MITTENDUS -a -um
The MEANING depends on which of the two uses you have.
Are you attracted to Gerundives…? Quite a lot of Latin nouns were. This structure occurs when a Gerund, in one of the four uses listed previously, is followed by a Direct Object - something that happens far more often than not, which explains why you don't see Gerunds nearly as often as Gerundives.
It was, in fact, quite hard to invent enough sensible sentences to give you examples of the Gerund uses above - it's much more likely that you'll need an Object too.
Take, therefore, a sentence such as:
e.g. He escapedby climbing.
So far so good, but we'd presumably like to know what he climbed:
e.g. He escaped by climbing a tree.
You would expect that, since 'tree' has just been added as the object of the verb 'climb', you could just insert it in the Accusative.
e.g. EFFUGIT ASCENDENDO ARBOREM.
You would be wrong.
The 'stylish' way to write this in Latin involved a more complicated process of 'mutual attraction'.
FIRSTLY - the object noun became 'attracted' into the CASE of the Gerund;
THEN - the Gerund itself became 'attracted' to the noun, and changed its ending to agree with it (thereby magically transforming itself into a Gerundive - the adjective form)
The whole thing was then written with the Gerundive at the end of the phrase (unless it is the use with 'causa' which goes last of all); so our example ends up:
e.g. EFFUGIT ARBORE ASCENDENDA ( both Abl. sing. endings; 'tree' being feminine).
Here's another example:
e.g. The boy ran to the forum for the sake of watching the soldiers
PUER AD FORUM CUCURRIT MILITUM SPECTANDORUM CAUSA
(This could of course have been done using UT instead)
TRANSLATING INTO ENGLISH
Although the actual structure is complicated, it is a bit easier to translate Gerundives of this type into English.
Firstly, decide which of the 4 ways (as with the Gerunds above) you have got: this is not as hard as it sounds, as "ad" and "causa" are give-aways, and the Ablative case is quite easy to spot too.
Then, starting with the idea of the usage you have, translate the GERUNDIVE first, just as if it were a Gerund; then add the noun, making it sound like the object of that verb:
e.g. FLUMEN TRANSIERUNT PONTE AEDIFICANDO
Main clause: "They crossed the river….."
Then 1. It's the Ablative case usage, so start with "BY…."
2. Translate the Gerundive as a Gerund: "BY BUILDING…"
3. Add the noun as the object: "BY BUILDING A BRIDGE."
e.g. AD GRAECIAM NAVIGAVIT AD FRATREM PETENDUM
Main Clause: "He sailed to Greece…."
Then 1. It's 'Ad + acc' usage, so start"FOR THE PURPOSE OF…."
2. Translate the Gerundive as a Gerund: "….LOOKING FOR…."
3. Add the noun as the object: "…..HIS BROTHER."
"He sailed to Greece for the purpose of looking for his brother."
Of course, this can be rephrased into better English if you wish.
I'll give you some to try yourself when we've looked at the other way Gerundives are used.
GERUNDIVE OF OBLIGATION
You already know the verb 'DEBEO' - meaning "I ought…"
Another way of expressing what someone should, or needs to do was achieved using the Gerundive: in fact, the 'normally stated' meaning of a Gerundive has this sense of something needing to be done (passive idea):
e.g. NUNC EST BIBENDUM
Now there is a need for something to be drunk….
i.e. It's time for a drink…!
One of the nicest ways of understanding this 'need/ought' idea is to consider the meaning of the Gerundive of AMO, in particular the Feminine ending:
'AMANDA' - this literally means:
'Someone feminine who ought-to-be-loved'
Know anyone called Amanda?
How about the word in English "AGENDA"?
Literally, it means 'Things (neuter plural -A ending) needing-to-be-done'
I hope you're starting to get the idea.
HOW IT'S DONE IN LATIN
This can be distinguished from the 'Gerundive Attraction' usages by spotting a couple of other KEY 'INGREDIENTS' in the sentence:
1. There will always be the verb 'SUM' present
2. The Gerundive is very likely to be in the NOMINATIVE case (unless it's actually also part of an Indirect Statement…..sorry!)
3. Very often, there will be a noun in the DATIVE: this is the case used for the person who must or needs to do the verb.
e.g. MAGISTER EST ROGANDUS NOBIS
Literally: 'The master is needing-to-be-asked for us'
In other words: 'We ought to/need to/must ask the master'.
TRANSLATING INTO ENGLISH
Once you've spotted these 'ingredients', you know you've got one.
If you want 'Steps' to follow until you can do it naturally, try:
Step 1: Make the Dative word the SUBJECT
Step 2: Take note of the tense of 'Sum' and translate accordingly -
Present: 'Must/have to/need to…'
Imperfect: 'Had to/needed to…'
Future: 'Will have to/will need to…'
Step 3: Just add the meaning of the verb
Step 4: Translate the Nominative noun as the Object (weird, but right!)
e.g. URBS ERAT STATIM OPPUGNANDA ROMANIS
1. Dative word becomes the subject:
2. Imperfect tense of Sum:
"….needed to/had to….
3. Meaning of verb:
4. Nominative noun becomes the object:
" ….the city….
5. So, whole thing:
"The Romans had to attack the city at once".
Sometimes there's either no Nom noun
or no Dative for the person needing to do it
(or both are missing!)
In these situations, it's generally less specific: we've already seen one lacking both these elements above:
"NUNC EST BIBENDUM"
i.e. 'Now there is (something) needing-to-be-drunk (for no-one in particular)
However you look at it, it still means "Time for a drink"!
Or this one:
i.e. "(Something) was needing-to-be-hurried (for who-knows-who)
Probably the context would tell you who had to hurry:
"They/We/Julius Caesar had to hurry…"
One last example. Can you recognise the famous song of which this is the last verse in Latin? (Hint: 'Lateo' means to 'lie hidden' - or 'hide away')
AMOR LUSIT MODO FACILI
HODIE LATENDUM EST MIHI
O CREDO EGO 'HERI'!
Highlight the lines below if you have been living in a cave all your life….
(VDB's translation of the rest of the song is available on request!)
Love was such an easy game to play
(literally: Love played in an easy way)
Now I NEED a place TO HIDE AWAY
(literally: Today there is a needing-to-be-hidden-away for me)
Oh, I believe in Yesterday
MIXED GERUNDIVES (PRACTICE SENTENCES)
Finally, here are some sentences for you to try. Decide which type you have, and follow the advice above.
This is VDB's last chance to test you out - so don't expect them to be all that easy!
1. DOMINUS SERVIS DEDIT OPUS MURI AEDIFICANDI.
Type: Attraction (genitive)
Answer: The master gave the slaves the job of building a wall.
2. FILIA MEA TRISTIS EST QUOD CANIS INTERFICIENDUS MIHI ERIT.
Answer: My daughter is upset because I'm going to have to put down our dog.
3. CAPTIVI ILLI AD REGEM STATIM DUCENDI SUNT.
Answer: Those prisoners must be taken to the king at once.
4. REMUS PUTABAT MURUM FRATRIS NON SATIS ALTUM ESSE AD URBEM MUNIENDAM.
Type: Attraction (Ad + acc)
Answer: Remus thought that his brother's wall wasn't high enough to protect a city ('for the purpose of fortifying…')
5. M PORCIUS CATO SEMPER IN ORATIONIBUS DICEBAT CARTHAGINEM DELENDAM ESSE.
Type: Obligation - but acc case used as it is in an Ind. Statement
Answer: In his speeches, Marcus Porcius Cato always used to say that Carthage had to be destroyed.
6. VOBIS OMNIBUS AD FORUM FESTINANDUM ERIT SI CONSULEM AUDIRE CUPITIS.
Answer: You will all have to hurry to the forum if you want to hear the consul.
7. NEMO MULTAM PECUNIAM UMQUAM COMPARAVIT LIBERIS DOCENDIS.
Type: Attraction (ablative)
Answer: Nobody ever made much money by teaching children…..
8. MOX OCCASIO NOSTRIS DABITUR HOSTIUM SUPERANDORUM.
Type: Attraction (genitive)
Answer: Our men will soon be given the chance of overcoming the enemy 'Soon the chance will be given to our men…')
9. MARCO, CUM OMNES AMICOS AD CENAM INVITAVISSET, PLUS VINI ERAT EMENDUM.
Answer: Since Marcus had invited all his friends to dinner, he had to buy some more wine.
10. NUM HANC ARBOREM ASCENDISTI ILLARUM PUELLARUM SPECTANDARUM CAUSA?
Type: Attraction (gen + CAUSA)
Answer: Don't tell me you've climbed this tree to watch those girls!
('Surely you haven't climbed….. for the sake of watching…..')
11. M CRASSUS CUPIDITATEM MAGNAM HABEBAT AURI COMPARANDI
Type: Attraction (genitive)
Answer: Marcus Crassus had a great love of making money for himself ('…of collecting gold').
12. PONS NOBIS AEDIFICANDUS MELIOR EST AD FLUMEN TRANSEUNDUM.
Type: Both! The 'attraction' one is AD + acc.
Answer: We must build a better bridge to get across the river.
ONE LAST KILLER...:
CAESAR NON MULTO POST COGNOVIT HOSTES AUFUGISSE, MILITIBUSQUE QUAM CELERRIME CONTENDENDUM FUTURUM ESSE AD EOS CAPIENDOS.
Answer: Not much later, Caesar realised that the enemy had run away, and that his soldiers would have to march as quickly as possible to catch them.
(Sorry! 'futurum esse' is the future infinitive of 'sum'…..)
AND WITH THAT, YOU HAVE COMPLETED THIS SURVEY OF THE LANGUAGE STRUCTURES THAT YOU MIGHT MEET AT GCSE.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF GROUND COVERED.
IF YOU FIND THAT THERE IS A NEEDING-TO-BE-LOOKED-AT-AGAIN FOR YOU FOR THE SAKE OF REVISING…
….I WON'T BE SURPRISED!