In English, an expression of purpose tells us what is intended by a particular course of action. Below are some basic examples and variations of expression of purpose (the expression of purpose is bolded):
There are two things worth noting about expressions of purpose. First, they are dependent on a previous verbal construction. Second, the verbal action contained in the expression of purpose always happens after the verbal construction on which they are dependent. In other words, they have a sense of futurity to them.
As you will see below, Latin has a number of ways to express purpose.
The most common way to express purpose in Latin is through a purpose clause. Purpose clauses are dependent clauses (i.e. they generally follow an independent clause) that have three key features:
How do we translate a sentence containing purpose clause? Take the following example:
First, we break the sentence into dependent (bolded) and independent clauses (italicized). In the case of a sentence containing a purpose clause, we can recognize the dependent clause rather easily as it begins with ut or ne.
We then translate the independent clause:
After that, we select the appropriate translation for the purpose clause based on the nature of its subject. If the subject of the purpose clause is the same as the subject of the independent clause, we can simply translate the ut plus the verb as “to verb” or “in order to verb” (in case of ne, “to not verb”). In the case of the sentence above, this is the case and we can translate it as follows:
If the subject of the purpose clause is different from that of the independent clause, we translate ut plus the verb as “so that [subject] could verb.” We can see this in the example below:
Identify the purpose clause in the following sentences from Hyginus and translate.
Ubi Python sensit Latonam fortem esse, sequi coepit ut eam interficeret.
“ut eam inteficeret; When Python understood that Lato was strong, he began to follow her in order to kill her.”
Agenor suos filios misit ut sororem reducerent.
“ut sororem reducerent; Agenor sent his own sons to bring back their sister.”
At filii eius venerunt ut ad Athamentem transirent.
“ut ad Athamentem transirent; But his brothers came so that they could cross over to Athamas.”
Alcinous inter eos stetit, ne bellarent. “ne bellarent; Alcinous stood between them so that they not go to war.”
A variation on the standard purpose clause is known as the relative clause of purpose. In a relative clause of purpose, the ut or ne is replaced by a relative pronoun (i.e. quī, quae, quod) or relative adverb (i.e. ubi, unde). We can differentiate a relative clause of purpose from a regular relative clause by the use of the subjunctive:
Last semester, we learned about how gerunds (click here to review) or gerund-replacing-gerundives (click here to review) can be used to express purpose. Remember that a GRG is a verbal action and the object which receives the action. Gerunds and GRGs can also be used as the object of the prepositions ad (with the accusative) and causā/gratiā (with the genitive) to express purpose.
Thus, our example sentence can be written in the following ways as well:
NB: GRGs take their case from their function in the sentence, but their gender and number from their object.
As we noted a few weeks ago, participles or verbal adjectives play a large number of roles in Latin. One of these roles is as a way to express purpose. We use the future active participle (click here to review), which naturally indicates future intent (“about to verb”), to express purpose. When translating the future active participle as an expression of purpose, it is important to remember that participles modify nouns and, thus, it will be the noun modified by the participle that will be acting with a particular purpose in mind.
To follow up on our example again:
The last and least common way to express purpose in Latin is by using the supine. The supine is a weird verbal noun whose origin is not very well understood. However, it is very closely related to the fourth principal part and exists in only two cases: the accusative and the ablative. We form the accusative supine by dropping the -us from the fourth principal part and adding a -um for the accusative supine and a -ū for the ablative supine. So, amātus becomes amātum in the accusative and amātū in the ablative).
The accusative supine is used with only a verb of motion to express purpose (we will learn about the ablative supine later). Here is our example sentence using the supine:
Find the phrase that expresses purpose in the sentence and identify the Latin construction. Then, translate.
misit Absyrtum filium cum militibus armatis ad eam persequendam.
“ad eam persequendam; GRG with preposition; He sent Absyrtus, his son, with armed soldiers to attack her.”
Diomedes, Thraciae rex, equos quattuor eius miserunt, qui hostes acribus dentibus peterent. “qui hostes acribus dentibus peterent; relative clause of purpose; Diomedes, the king of Thraces, sent his four horses to attack the enemies with their sharp teeth.”
Femina, lectura eius carmina, aquam bibit. “lectura eius carmina; future active participle; The woman, about/in order to recite her song, drinks water.”
Telegonus, Ulixis et Circes filius, missus a matre est ut patrem quaereret. “ut genitorem quaereret; purpose clause; Telegonus, the son of Odysseus and Circe, was sent by his mother to find his father.”
Repetitum eos profectus est.
“repetitum eos; supine; He set out to find them.”