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Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

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    Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

    When is the collective noun 'populus' considered plural, and when is it singular?

    QUESTION #1:
    On Worksheet #7 (p.187) in the Final Review lesson of Second Form Latin the following sentences are given to be translated from Latin into English:

    7. Populus ab imperatore ducitur. (English: The people are led by the general.)

    'Populus' = Nominative, Singular form


    8. Imperator populos duxit.

    'populos' = Accusative, Plural form

    *NOTE: Answer key shows English translation as: The general lead* the people.


    Why was the singular case 'populus' chosen when "the people" was the subject of the sentence and then the plural case 'populos' chosen when "the people" was the direct object?


    *QUESTION #2:
    There seems to be a typo in the key, “lead” in the answer to #8 above, should be “led”, right?


    Thank you!!

    #2
    Re: Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

    Populus is a collective noun used in the singular to refer to one people (whether the underlying idea is the Roman people, or a tribe or nation, or whatever group of people). As in the first sentence, the singular can be used to emphasize the people as a unified group, a collective entity. Caesar uses a singular form repeatedly to refer to the Roman people.

    The plural forms may be used to emphasize the plurality of the peoples. In the second sentence, populos might refer to various groups of people. In other contexts, populos might refer to various tribes or states, as in "three peoples of Gaul." (I think the plural forms are often translated "people" simply because we generally prefer "people" to "peoples" in American English.)

    It's a good question, but the use of the word as a subject or direct object does not influence whether it is used in the singular or plural.

    And you are correct that duxit means led.

    Bonnie

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      #3
      Re: Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

      Originally posted by AJnKS View Post
      There seems to be a typo in the key, “lead” in the answer to #8 above, should be “led”, right?
      Originally posted by Bonnie View Post
      You are correct that duxit means led.
      Oh, that's an embarrassing typo! Thank you for pointing it out to us!
      Last edited by Michael; 08-22-2018, 07:43 AM.
      Michael
      Memoria Press

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        #4
        Re: Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

        Thank you for your quick response and clear explanation, Bonnie. Translating from Latin to English is relatively easy to translate both 'populus' (singular) and 'populos' (plural) to the English 'people' since, as you pointed out, we use 'people' as both singular and plural in English.

        But, what is not clear to me is what to do in the reverse situation, i.e. what if we had been given the English sentence "The people are led by the general," and asked to translate into Latin?
        Even though I recognize that 'The people' is being used to refer a collective whole, the plural verb 'are' would have influenced me more, and I probably would have written:
        Populi ab imperatore ducitur. instead of the original Latin sentence that was given.

        When translating from English to Latin, would using the plural 'populi' instead of singular 'populus' in that example be incorrect?

        Perhaps the English word 'people' is a special case. Collective nouns in English usually take a singular verb. (e.g. The team is going out for pizza.) But using a singular verb with 'people' sounds odd, even if 'people' refers to a group acting as a unit. 'The people is going out for pizza' sounds wrong.

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          #5
          Re: Second Form Latin, collective nouns-- plural vs. singular

          Originally posted by AJnKS View Post
          Perhaps the English word 'people' is a special case.
          English is definitely part of the problem here. Technically, the plural of person is persons and the plural of people is peoples. However, we typically use people for the plural of person, and people takes a plural verb in English whether it means "a single people" or "multiple persons."

          Going back to your Latin sentence, populus is the better translation because the general is leading "the people," i.e. this group conceived of in Latin as singular and thus taking a singular verb. Populi would imply the general is leading multiple groups, perhaps several different Gallic tribes.

          Does that help?
          Michael
          Memoria Press

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