Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in The Classical Outlook 83:1 (Fall 2005), pp. 18-20. Copyright 2005 The American Classical League. Used by permission.


All Latin students eventually have a problem with qui. To solve it, they need a third qui in their quiver. The problem shows up when they advance into third year, transitioning from Caesar to Roman Comedy, or to the poets. The familiar “who” often leads to nonsense, and they are at a loss. There are three qui’s: the relative pronoun, the interrogative adjective, and the old ablative instrumental, e.g.
1. qui dixit, who spoke
2. qui vir, which man
3. illud qui, that thing by means of which

It is the third that causes problems. So this article addresses the question “how do you tell qui from qui ?” There are six main ways to tell when to say “how,” “whereby,” or “the way” for qui:
1. The whereby/how qui is usually interrogative.
2. It is often marked further by being paired with a following quia: qui? quia “How . . . ? Because . . .”
3. The most frequent associated idea is of knowing, with a form of scire or gnoscere: qui scis, qui noveris? “How do you know?”
4. Qui followed immediately by an adverb or comparative is whereby/how/the way: qui minus quam . . . “How less than . . .”
5. The obvious noun antecedent is not a person, but a tool: machinas qui, “tools to __ with” (“with which to__”).
6. If the context is of giving or seeking, qui is instrumental, “how,” “a way,” “the means, “ e.g. da mi qui comparem “Give me the means to buy . . .” There is no antecedent.

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