Cuttings: He Conquers Who Endures He Conquers Who Endures | Cuttings
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June 12, 2015

He Conquers Who Endures

On the meaning/usage of 'vincit qui patitur'.

I originally named this site ‘Vincit Qui Patitur’. It’s a Latin phrase, translated as “he conquers who endures”, and is attributed to the Roman satirist Persius.

It’d be nice if we could just take that archaic phrase to mean “he who endures, conquers”.

But since this is the Internet, of course not. An astute linguist explains the phrase:

Vincit means “conquers”. Like its English translation, it can be transitive (as in Omnia vincit amor, “Love conquers all”) or intransitive (as in In hoc signo vinces, “By this sign you will conquer”), so you have to use the context to tell whether a nearby noun phrase is a subject or direct object. Usually in Latin, case endings do this, as illustrated below:

Vincit rex. “The king conquers.” Vincit regem. “He/she conquers the king.”

Qui patitur means “who suffers (or endures)”, and it’s acting as a fused relative, just like its translation in English. Even in Latin, though, we can’t tell if that fused relative is a subject or an object. It’s the same problem that confuses English speakers about whoever and whomever. So actually, what we have here is a translation that is faithful even in preserving the ambiguity of the original!


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