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Postpositive Particles

Punctuation and postpositive particles. Postpositive particles are used in Latin to mark the beginning of new sentences. In written English, we use punctuation to accomplish this task (the period, colon and semicolon can all be used to mark the ending of one sentence and the beginning of another). In ancient written Latin, there was no punctuation, but the use of postpositive particles helped readers to quickly recognize the beginning of a new sentence or clause.

Frequently found postpositive particles. There is an astoundingly large number of Latin words which can be used as postpositives:

tamen, autem, enim, quidem, ergo, vero, igitur

In some cases you may want to regard these particles as verbal punctuation, and not attempt to translate them at all into English. These postpositives are particles - not actually words. Their function in the sentence is not so much to convey information or meaning, but to help organize the way the sentence is constructed. Ask yourself this question: what does a colon mean? A colon does not exactly mean anything that you can express in words, but at the same time it carries out an important function in the sentence. The same is true of postpositive particles. They help you to read and comprehend the Latin, but this does not mean that they can or should be translated into an English word or phrase.

Post-positive position. The reason they are called "postpositive" is because they are placed (or "positioned") after ("post") the first word or word unit of their sentence. This can be very hard for English speakers to get used to. When you read Latin, you should treat the postpositive particle as if it were attached to the preceding word unit. The particle is not a word, so it cannot stand alone. It can only be used with another word or word unit, and it leans back on the previous word or word unit, so you can safely pronounce it as it were a single word. You are used to this with the particle "-que" in Latin, which is regularly written together with the preceding word, as if it were a single word. The other postpositive particles - enim, vero, etc. - are extremely closely associated with the preceding word or word unit, even if they are written out in modern printed texts as a separate word.

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