I read in Ovid, Metamorphoses, I.474-477 (Apollo is in love with Daphne) :

Protinus alter amat, fugit altera nomen amantis
silvarum tenebris captivarumque ferarum
exuviis gaudens innuptaeque aemula Phoebes.
Vitta coercebat positos sine lege capillos.

My (rough) translation (adapted from this site since I'm not fluent in English)

Immediately the one is in love, and the other flees from love's name;
in the depths of the woods, from the skins of the wild beast 
she takes delight and she's an emulator of virgin Phoebe.
A careless ribbon is holding back her hair.

My question deals with the "-que" at the end of "innuptaeque". What does this conjunction coordinate ?

From the Ausführliche Grammatik der lateinischen Sprache I read that "-que" coordinates either 2 nouns, either 2 adjectives, either 2 pronouns, either 2 adverbs, or either 2 verbs. But in the verses I quoted, "-que" seems to be used to coordinate two propositions :

silvarum tenebris captivarumque ferarum / exuviis gaudens
innuptaeque aemula Phoebes [scilicet "est"]

I'm not convinced at all by this solution since the first proposition depends on "fugit altera nomen amantis" and the second one is an independent proposition. But I can't go further.

  • 1
    Technically speaking, in modern terminology, -que isn't a word (though the Romans thought of it that way, whence the Q of SPQR), but rather an enclitic suffix.
    – jlawler
    Apr 18, 2014 at 20:25
  • @jlawler "Enclitic suffix" strikes me as an oxymoron - aren't clitic and affix usually thought of as mutually exclusive classes?
    – TKR
    Apr 19, 2014 at 1:22
  • 1
    @TKR: No, they fade into one another, like vowels and semivowels. It's true that "enclitic suffix" is redundant, since enclitics occur at the end of the word, but redundancy is a plus in teaching. Anybody unfamiliar with "enclitic" may pick up on the "suffix". And -QUE is a part of the word it's attached to, after all; it shifts the stress one syllable to the right (ARma virUMque CAno), and the Latin stress rule is governed by the position of the stressed syllable in the word.
    – jlawler
    Apr 19, 2014 at 14:02
  • 1
    @jlawler: I think I read somewhere that it is controversial whether -que generally shifted stress or not in Latin. I don't know if poetry would provide any evidence, since Latin poetry was generally based on syllable length rather than word stress. Aug 22, 2015 at 20:53
  • I hadn't heard of that.
    – jlawler
    Aug 22, 2015 at 23:03

4 Answers 4


Torrego 2009 argues that postpositive copulative connector -que is the "standard coordinator in ancient texts." Members of the coordinated set connected by -que are usually conceptually close (Torrego 2009: 457).

She also mentions that "although rarely, the postpositive -que can coordinate clauses as well."

Ernout 1964 writes that this enclitic "disparaît de la langue parlée au debut de l'epoque imperiale" (p. 440). It was eventually ousted by the preposition et.

Torrego 2009 also has two extremely useful tables - reproduced in part below (the more pluses, the higher the frequency).

que: distribution syntax

que: distribution time

For a comprehensive description of the enclitic -que see Hofmann and Szantyr 1965.

  • 1
    As a side note, the use of -que to connect clauses, though on the whole infrequent, is a stylistic quirk of some authors. IIRC, it's pretty common in Sallust; he seems to be calquing Thucydides' somewhat idiosyncratic use of τε as a clause connective, which is also uncommon in Greek.
    – TKR
    Apr 7, 2017 at 2:14

I would say -que coördinates gaudens and aemula: She flees [rejoicing in x and imitating y]. Both words should be seen as adjectives here: participles are always in a way adjectives, and aemulus is an ordinary adjective.

What makes it slightly unusual (though not for poetry) is that the word order is different from what it would probably be in prose: innuptaeque aemula Phoebes instead of aemulaque innuptae Phoebes.


It's not correct to say that -que can only coordinate single words (nouns, adjectives, etc.); very often it coordinates whole phrases. Here, it's coordinating two phrases headed by the nominatives gaudens and aemula, both in apposition to altera. You could translate "the other flees, both delighting ... and emulating ...".

  • Thank you for this explanation. Is this construction peculiar to poetry ? Or is it something very usual in Latin in general ?
    – suizokukan
    Apr 18, 2014 at 15:58
  • It's very common in all genres of both prose and poetry. Basically, anything that can be coordinated with et can also be coordinated with -que.
    – TKR
    Apr 18, 2014 at 21:26

I think this is the usage described by Kühner p. 641 no. 4. It is (as he says) very common both in poetry and prose.

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