Latin Conjunctions and How to Use Them

Roman Aqueduct at Segovia
The roman aqueduct (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Segovia, one of the most significant and best-preserved Roman monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula, built between the second half of the 1st Century AD and the early years of the 2nd Century. Cristina Arias / Cover / Getty Images

In Latin and in English, conjunctions are words that join other words together. The very word 'conjunction' means join together:

  • con 'with' + junct... (from iungo) 'join'.

The most common conjunctions in English are "and," "but," and "or." "And" is used to join any two parts of a sentence together. "But" is an "adversative," and contrasts parts of a sentence. "Or" may be referred to as a "disjunction" and means different things depending on whether it is being used informally or mathematically/logically.

Latin Conjunctions

Latin has comparable conjunctions, but it has more of them. The basic conjunctions in Latin are:

  • et,
  • -que,
  • sed,
  • at/ac,
  • atque
  • nec,
  • neque,
  • vel
  • aut.

The Latin Conjunction "And"

To translate the English "and" you would use the Latin et if you wanted the conjunction to be a separate and independent word, and -que if you wanted a conjunction that is added to the end of the second conjoined object.

In the following, the bolded forms are the conjunctions.

  • arma virumque cano
    arms and the man I singvs
  • arma et virum canowhich doesn't fit the hexameter meter Vergil needed in the Aeneid, but means the same thing.

There are other words for "and" like ac or atque. These can be used, like et ... et, in pairs as "correlative conjunctions" to mean "both ... and".

The Latin Conjunction "But"

The Latin for "but" is sed or at

  • vera dico, sed nequicquam....I speak the truth, but in vain....

The Latin Conjunction "Or"

The Latin for the correlative conjunction "either ... or" is vel ... vel or aut ... aut.

Aut or vel can also be used singly for "or". the negative is nec ... nec or neque ... nequemeaning "neither ... nor". Nec or Neque used singly means '(and) not'. Vel and autmay be described as "disjunctions." An aside, the use of "v" to stand for "or" in symbolic logic comes from the Latin word vel.

Coordinating Conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction is one that pairs a set of equally ranked words, phrases, clauses, or sentences.

  • ac - and
  • at - but
  • atque - and, and also, moreover
  • aut - or
  • et - and
  • nec non - and besides
  • sed - but
  • vel - or

Pairs of Conjunctions (Correlative)

Correlative conjunctions are terms that are pairs of equal objects:

  • atque ... atque - both ... and
  • aut ... aut - either ... or
  • et ... et - both ... and
  • nec ... et - not only ... but also
  • nec ... nec - neither ... nor

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are words that compare an independent clause to a dependent clause: the dependent clause cannot stand on its own, but rather delimits the main part of a sentence.

  • antequam - before
  • cum - when, whenever, since, because
  • dum - while, if only, so long as, until
  • si - if
  • usque - until
  • ut - while, as

Sources

  • Moreland, Floyd L., and Fleischer, Rita M. "Latin: An Intensive Course." Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.
  • Traupman, John C. "The Bantam New College Latin & English Dictionary." Third Edition. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007.