I received this question:

Dear Mr. Thomas,

I am having some trouble understanding infinitive verbs.

As I have learned, an active infinitive such as audire translates as to hear, whereas a passive infinitive such as audiri translates as to be heard.

Oddly, I have seen some English translations of Latin sentences not including the word to at all!

For example, Ea non potest audire. (Test XXVI, #13) = She can’t hear.

Furthermore, Is debet vocare. (Test XXVI, #16) = He should call.

I have also seen this in the passive: Ea non potest audiri (Test XXVI, #14) = She can’t be heard.

In every case, the to seems to disappear. Why is this? Do infinitive verbs sometimes lose the need to be preceded by a to? Or is to not a mandatory part of the Latin –> English translation?

P. S.

We have heartily enjoyed Visual Latin I this year and are planning to do Visual Latin II next year. Thank you for helping me along this year!

Here is my reply:

I apologize for the delay. The wifi here has been terrible this time.  Several years ago, I was in Greece, and the wifi was better than the wifi in Tennessee.  Not this time.  Finally catching up this morning…

Several of your questions hinge on the verb potest.  This is critical.  Watch what happens when I translate the verb using the word able.

Ea non potest audire.  She is not able to hear.

Ea non potest audiri.  She is not able to be heard.

Here’s the thing.  As you know, you can also translate the verb potest with the English word can.  When you do this, it does not make sense to use to + the verb.  Still, the sentences really mean the same thing.

Ea non potest audire.  She can not hear.

Ea non potest audiri.  She can not be heard.

Make sense?

The same thing happens with debet.  Debet means should, or ought.  If you go with should, you would not use to + the verb.  If you go with ought, you would.

Is debet vocare.  He should call.  Or, He ought to call.

I hope this helps! 

Happy to hear that you are enjoying Visual Latin!

Have a happy Monday!

Dwane Thomas