In Latin, so-called "future more vivid" conditionals can take one of two tenses in the protasis:

  1. Future: Si aedificabis, venient "If you build it, they will come."
  2. Future perfect: Si aedificaveris, venient "If you will have built it, they will come."

What's the difference in meaning, if any, between these two constructions? What determines the choice of one rather than the other? Is one or the other more marked in some way? Are there contexts in which only one but not the other can be used?

1 Answer 1


Usually the difference between Fut. I and Fut. II has been argued to be aspectual. For example, Ernout and Thomas 1964 mention that Fut. II often expresses "une antériorité par rapport à un fait qui se produira" (p. 226) and this use is rather common in the protasis - cf. their " cette dernière fonction est surtout frequenté en proposition subordonnée, notamment dans les conditionnelles" (p. 226). Their example is

si hunc librum legeris, laetabor

However, Schmalz (ed. Hofmann 1928) argues that this aspectual distinction between Fut. I and Fut. II was already lost in Old Latin (3-2 BC), even though it was still ("occasionally") felt in Classical Latin, cf.

"Zwischen Fut. II and I bestand ursprünglich ein Aktionsartenunterschied: fecero faxo ist perfektiv 'ich werde zur Ausführung bringen' , faciam ist imperfektiv 'ich werde mit der Ausführung beschäftig sein.' Noch bei Cic. scheint der Unterschied des durativen 1. und des perfektiven 2. Futurs gelegentlich zu spüren [...]. <...> Anderseits besteht ebenso sicher bereits bei Plt. zwischen Fut. I und II in Fällen <...> keinerlei Unterschied; die Verteilung ist lediglich durch die metrische Bequemlichkeit bestimmt (die Formen des Fut. II stehen meist im Versschluss); für die Ermittlung der Aktionsart eines bestimmten Verbums ist daher der Gebrauch des Fut. ex. nicht geeignet <...>" (Schmalz and Hofmann 1928, p. 563).

Schmalz and Hofmann specifically address the use of verb forms in the protasis in §335. Here's a summary of their findings in English (in the order protasis - adoposis, taken from Bertocchi and Maraldi 2011):

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  • Thanks for this informative answer! So, if I understand correctly, in classical Latin there's generally no difference between the two tenses in protasei, so that they can be used interchangeably? Or are there any cases where one or the other is ruled out? (I've read as much of that B&M 2011 chapter as is viewable on Google Books, but I can't find a clear answer there; and the common fut. pf. - fut. pattern is missing from their table, I don't understand why.) For example, would fut. pf. be impossible in e.g. Si eam amabis, laetus eris because there's no implication of anteriority?
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 20:50
  • @TKR, The answers to your most interesting questions can be found in "Zum Gebrauch des Futurms im Altlateinischen" by Sjoergen 1906 - available on Google Books. Feel free to add whatever you'll find there. I myself may add more details when I have more time. btw I think that sometimes there's no significant difference between Futurum simplex and Futurum exactum (in the protasis), if I understand Sjoergen 1906 correctly.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:10

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