Uses of the Subjunctive

The Big Five

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Cum Clause

Cum clauses use the conjunction cum + an imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive:

There are three types of cum clauses

  • Circumstantial - cum is translated as "when"
  • Causal - cum is translated as "since"
  • Concessive - cum is translates as "although"

It is not important to know the terms but to know that cum may be translated as



cum milites castris appropinqarent, hostem conspexerunt.

When the soldiers were appoaching the city, they caught sight of the enemy

Indirect Question

And indirect question reports what someone has asked, or represents know or unknown information

Indirect Questions are NOT questions, they are statements of fact. i.e. they will end with a period, not a question mark.

It begins with a Mental Action Verb (thinking, speaking or hearing are the major ones)

This verb will be in indicative mood

The indirect question clause will start with a a question word:

e.g. cur (why), quis (who), quid (what), quo modo (how), num (whether)

The subjunctive verb within the Indirect Question will be imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive.


centurio nesciebant quis portas cellarum aperuisset.

The centurion was not knowing who had opened the gates of the cells

The part in bold is the indirect Question.

Purpose clauses

Purpose clauses express the reason or intention with which and action was taken.

Purpose clauses start with either ut (so that) or ne (so that....not / lest)

They will only use imperfect subjunctives.


legatus fugit ne hostes se caederent

The legate fled lest the enemies kill him(self).


The legate fled so that the enemies would not kill him(self)

Indirect Command (Substantive Purpose)

Indirect commands report what the subject has commanded, urged or persuaded another person to do.

Like purpose clauses, it uses ut (so that) and ne (lest, so that...not) to indicate the start of the clause and only use imperfect subjunctive verbs (not pluperfect)

Unlike purpose clauses though, the main verb (indicative verb) MUST BE a verb which means something close to:




(C,U.P. verbs)


imperator senatoribus imperavit ut in foro convenirent

The emperor ordered the senators so that they would meet in the forum

Result Clauses

Result Clauses give the result of a situation or an action.

Every "Yo Mama" joke is a result clause.

Like Purpose clauses, they begin with ut (so that), but unlike purpose clauses they are negated with ut...non (so that... not)

Like Purpose clauses they only use imperfect subjunctive verbs.

Unlike purpose clauses, one of seven words will be in the indicative (main) clause of the sentence'

tam, talis, tantus, ita, sic, tot, adeo


mater tua tam obesa erat ut solem cauderet.

Your mother was so fat that she blocked the sun.