Lesson 22 – Deponent and semi-deponent verbs

When a Latin verb is passive in form, but has an active meaning, it is called a deponent verb.

For example:

sequor, sequi, secutus sum (3) means ‘to follow’ and not ‘to be followed’.

Even though it appears to be passive, it is translated with an active meaning and can have an object following it.

For example:

Robertus Willelmum sequitur  –  Robert follows William.

Examples of deponent verbs

Latin English
conor, conari, conatus sum (1) to try
ingredior, ingredi, ingressus sum (3) to enter
loquor, loqui, locutus sum (3) to speak
morior, mori, mortuus sum (3) to die
ordior, ordiri, orsus sum (4) to begin
orior, oriri, orsus sum (4) to rise
potior, potiri, potitus sum (4) to gain mastery of
queror, queri, questus sum (3) to complain
sequor, sequi, secutus sum (3) to follow
testor, testari, testatus sum (1) to witness
utor, uti, usus sum (3) to use
vereor, vereri, veritus sum (2) to fear

Participles of deponent verbs

Deponent verbs have participles, formed in the same way as for normal verbs and the meaning is always active.

For example:

The present participle for sequor, sequi, secutus sum (3) ‘to follow’ is sequens, sequentis ‘following’.

The past participle for sequor, sequi, secutus sum (3) ‘to follow’ is secutus, -a, -um ‘having followed’.

The future participle for sequor, sequi, secutus sum (3) ‘to follow’ is secuturus, -a, -um ‘about to follow’.

Semi-deponent verbs

For these verbs only the perfect tense, and the tenses formed from it, are in the passive form, but just as with deponent verbs, the meaning is always active.

Examples of semi-deponent verbs

Latin English
audeo, audere, ausus sum (2) to dare
confido, confidere, confisus sum (3) to trust
diffido, diffidere, diffisus sum (3) to distrust
fido, fidere, fisus sum (3) to trust
gaudeo, gaudere, gavisus sum (2) to be glad
soleo, solere, solitus sum (2) to be accustomed

Handy hint

gaudere and solere (the last two verbs, in bold) are those which you have the greatest chance of encountering. However, it is worth noting that the past participles of these two verbs can also be used in a passive way, meaning ‘enjoyed’ and ‘accustomed’. Fortunately, in most cases, the overall sense of the sentence you will be working with will help you to translate this correctly.

Checklist

Are you confident with

  • the meaning of a deponent and semi-deponent verb?
  • the form of a deponent and semi-deponent verb?

What next?