FOM: ago agens agendus actus

Adrian-Richard-David Mathias Adrian-Richard-David.Mathias at
Wed Feb 6 04:45:12 EST 2002

Dear Neil, 

I accept your point that the meaning of
"agere" is closer to "to treat" than to "to do". My point 
was that there is a clear distinction in Latin grammar between
participles, which say that something is happening, and gerundives, which 
say that something ought to be happening, which distinction has been 
obliterated by the terminological carelessness of modern linguists. 

"Delenda est Carthago" means that Carthage ought to be destroyed, not that 
it is being destroyed. 

[No space here to go into the finer questions of tense and voice.]

This distinction is also suppressed in modern French bureaucratese: 
instructions for applicants will say "Candidates prepare a dossier" not 
"Candidates should prepare a dossier".  Enraged characters in novels cry 
"He is out of here", meaning "I want him out of here".  We are reaching a
situation where there is no verbal difference between a description, a
prediction and an injunction. 


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