Thus far we have dealt with sentences that consist solely of independent clauses (i.e. a clause (a phrase consisting of a subject and verb) that can stand on its own as a separate sentence). Now we will turn our attention to sentences that contain both independent and dependent clauses - phrases consisting of a subject and verb that cannot stand on their own as a sentence. Dependent clauses always begin with a word (adverb, conjunction, or pronoun) which indicates that they are subordinate to and dependent on another clause in the sentence. Below are some examples of dependent clauses in English (bolded):
These dependent clauses cannot stand on their own; if I were to say “When I was in college”, you’d be left wondering what happened at that time.
As we can see here, the dependent clauses add important information about the circumstances under which the action of the independent clause took place.
Dependent clauses can be classified by the type of information that they add about the independent clause. Dependent clauses that tell us when something occurred is called a temporal clause.
In Latin, temporal clauses are introduced by a temporal conjunction (e.g. cum = when, postquam = after, antequam = before, priusquam = before, dum = while/until) and feature a subject and verb. The verb can be either in the indicative or the subjunctive in mood. If the verb is indicative the clause exactly defines the time when the action of the main clause happened (e.g. When the clock struck 6, I ate dinner), if the verb is subjunctive it tells us the circumstances when the action of the main clause happened (e.g. While I was taking the test, I was working very hard). Below are some examples of sentence with temporal clauses.
Whenever a subjunctive verb is used in a dependent clause of any kind, its tense is determined by 1) the tense of the main verb in the dependent clause and 2) the temporal relationship of the dependent clause to the independent clause (just like the tense of an infinitive in indirect statement). The rules that govern these criteria are referred to as the sequence of tenses.
If the verb in the independent clause expresses present or future time (i.e it is in the present, future, future perfect, and rarely the perfect tense), then we are in what is called primary sequence. In primary sequence, the verb of the dependent clause will be present subjunctive, if it expresses an action that is happening at the same time as or after the action of the independent clause, or perfect subjunctive, if it expresses an action happened prior to the action of the independent clause. Below are some examples of the use of primary sequence in temporal clauses (the perfect subjunctive is very rare in these instances):
If the verb in the independent clause expresses past time (i.e it is in the imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect tense), then we are in what is called secondary sequence. In secondary sequence, the verb of the dependent clause will be imperfect subjunctive, if it expresses an action that is happening at the same time as or after the action of the independent clause, or pluperfect subjunctive, if it expresses an action happened prior to the action of the independent clause. Below are some examples of the use of secondary sequence in temporal clauses:
|Primary Sequence||Present Subjunctive||Perfect Subjunctive|
|Secondary Sequence||Imperfect Subjunctive||Pluperfect Subjunctive|
Translate the following sentences. If the dependent clause has a subjunctive verb, explain its tense.
Cum Vulcanus vīdit Venerem cum Marte clam concumbere, catenam ex adamante fecit et circum lectum posuit.
When Vulcan saw that Venus was sleeping with Mars in secret, he made a chain out of adamant and placed it around the bed.
Cum Ulixes videret ingentēs Cyclopēs, vinum eīs dedit.
When Ulysses saw the giant Cyclopes, he gave them wine. Videret is imperfect subjunctive, representing an action contemporaneous with the independent clause.
Cucurrērunt ad Tauriam, ubi Iphigenia, Orestis soror, fuit sacerdos.
They ran to Tauria where Iphigenia, the sister of Orestis, was priest.
Cum navem fecisset, femina ad Troiam navigāvit.
After she had made a ship, the woman sailed to Troy. Fecisset is pluperfect subjunctive, representing an action completed prior to the independent clause.