Humanities › History & Culture Relative Clauses in Latin Share Flipboard Email Print "Mulier quam vidēbāmus" means "the woman whom we saw". Hero Images/Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Ancient Languages Figures & Events Greece Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated November 28, 2019 Relative clauses in Latin refer to clauses introduced by relative pronouns or relative adverbs. The relative clause construction includes a main or independent clause modified by its dependent of subordinate clause. It is the subordinate clause that holds the relative pronoun or relative adverb giving its name to this type of clause. The subordinate clause usually also contains a finite verb. Latin uses relative clauses where you might sometimes find a participle or a simple appositive in English. pontem qui erat ad Genavamthe bridge (which was) at GenevaCaesar .7.2 Antecedents... or Not Relative clauses modify the noun or pronoun of the main clause. The noun in the main clause is referred to as the antecedent. This is true even when the antecedent comes after the relative pronoun.This antecedent noun can even appear within the relative clause.Finally, an antecedent that is an in indefinite may not appear at all. ut quae bello ceperint quibus vendant habeantthat they may have (people) to whom to sell what they take in warCaesar De Bello Gallico 4.2.1 Markers of the Relative Clause The relative pronouns are normally: Qui, Quae, Quod orquicumque, quecumque, and quodcumque) orquisquid, quidquid. quidquid id est, timeō Danaōs et dōna ferentēswhatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they offer gifts.Vergil .49 These relative pronouns agree in gender, person (if relevant), and number with the antecedent (the noun in the main clause that is modified in the relative clause), but its case is usually determined by the construction of the dependent clause, although occasionally, it comes from its antecedent. Here are three examples from Bennett's New Latin Grammar. The first two show the relative pronoun taking its case from the construction and the third shows it taking it from either the construction or the antecedent, but its number comes from an unspecified term in the antecedent: mulier quam vidēbāmusthe woman whom we sawbona quibus fruimusthe blessings which we enjoypars quī bēstiīs objectī sunta part (of the men) who were thrown to beasts. Harkness notes that in poetry sometimes the antecedent can take the case of the relative and even be incorporated into the relative clause, where the relative agrees with the antecedent. An example he gives comes from Vergil: Urbem, quam statuo, vestra estThe city, which I am building is yours..573 The relative adverbs are normally: ubi, unde, quo, orqua. nihil erat quo famem tolerarentthere was no means by which they could relieve their starvationCaesar .28.3 Latin uses the adverbs more than in English. Thus instead of the man from whom you heard it, Cicero says the man whence you heard it: is unde te audisse dicisCicero De Oratore. 2.70.28 Relative Clause vs. Indirect Question Sometimes these two constructions are indistinguishable. Sometimes it makes no difference; other times, it changes the meaning. Relative Clause: effugere nēmō id potest quod futūrum estno one can escape what is destined to come to passIndirect Question: saepe autem ne ūtile quidem est scīre quid futūrum sitbut often it is not even useful to know what is coming to pass. Sources Baldi, Philip. "Complex Sentences, Grammaticalization, Typology." Walter de Gruyter, 2011.Bräunlich, A. F. "The Confusion of the Indirect Question and the Relative Clause in Latin." Classical Philology 13.1 (1918). 60–74.Carver. Katherine E. "Straightening out the Latin Sentence." The Classical Journal 37.3 (1941). 129-137.Greenough, J.B. G.L. Kitteredge, A.A. Howard, and Benjamin L. D’Ooge (eds). "Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges." Boston: Ginn & Co., 1903. Hale, William Gardner Hale, and Carl Darling Buck. "A Latin Grammar." Boston: Atheneum Press, 1903. Harkness, Albert. "A Complete Latin Grammar." New York: American Book Company, 1898.