Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

March 1995


Published in The Classical Outlook 72 (Spring 1995), pages 79–84. Copyright © 1995 American Classical League. Used by permission.


“When is quod ‘which’ and when is quod ‘because’?” asked Betsy A. Beacom, intermediate Latin student. Good question, and once alerted to it, even the professor becomes conscious of starting the wrong way with the word sometimes. The obvious answer about relative pronouns and their antecedents has serious shortcomings. Frequently the entire preceding idea is the antecedent and we do not know if the quod will refer to it or tell the why of it; a neuter antecedent is no guarantee of a “which”: sometimes a preceding neuter noun—even immediately preceding—can still leave you with a “because,” as in items (1) and (2):
1. his omnibus rebus unum repugnabat, quod . . .
2. ipse a datro cornu, quod eam partem minime fi rmam hostium esse animadverterat, proelium commisit
Both (1) and (2) have an apparent neuter singular antecedent, and turn out “because” instead. A guide is needed that will not have the student trying the wrong choice fi rst and having to backtrack.

Is one choice more frequent and thus a likelier way to start? Yes, but not helpfully. The conjunction quod (contextually rendered “because,” “since,” “as for,” “that,” or even “but”) outnumbers the pronoun quod (“which”) four to one in Caesar, but Cicero is four to one the other way! Though the preponderance might help in stylometry, it does not do much in general to help the reading student.

A search for identifying circumstance was done. First every passage in Books One and Two of Caesar’s Gallic Wars exhibiting a quod, and every such passage of Cicero’s Letters to Atticus, Book Eight, were collected. The which-quod’s and the because-quod’s were examined. Several words which seemed to mark one or the other were then checked through all seven books of the Gallic War Commentaries. Sixteen ways to recognize the two at sight were uncovered, nine for “because,” seven for “which”:

Summary, “because”
1. facile, quod, 2. propterea quod, 3. primum quod/in primis quod, 4. eo/multo/hoc -ius/magis quod, 5. quod [accusative] e.g., quod eos, 6. quod si, 7. accurat/incusat, quod, 8. ratio/causa/res, quod, 9. quod [ablative absolute]

Summary, “which”
1. quod facile, 2. id quod, 3. quod est/erat, 4. quod fit/accidit 5. quod ante(a), 6. quod ubi, and the essential one, 7. quod [no accusative] [transitive verb]

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