What is a purpose/final clause?

Constructions in Latin are not as terrifying as you may think; it's just a case of learning the grammatical rules for each construction and putting them into practice. 

A purpose clause indicates the reason for which a certain action was done. As with other constructions, the verb found in a purpose clause will always be subjunctive. If we were to use a purpose clause in English, the verb would be an infinitive (I went to the shops to buy some groceries). 

The Latin purpose clause will be made up of 'ut' (=in order to), or 'ne' (=in order to not) and the imperfect subjunctive (-rem, -res,-ret, -remus, -retis, -rent)

Consider the following example:

denique ego ad patrem redii ut rem explicarem.

Finally I returned (perfect, 1st person ending) to my father in order to explain the matter.

More literally: Finally I returned to my father so that I could explain the matter. 

If the purpose clause is negative (i.e. not to do something), we use the conjunction 'ne' instead of 'ut'. Consider the following example:

noctem exspectavimus ne ab hostibus videremur. 

We waited for night in order to not be seen by the enemy. 

Or, we waited for night so that we wouldn't be seen by the enemy.

(NB. the Latin word 'hostis' (enemy) is nearly always written in the plural form, so expect to find 'hostes' or 'hostibus' frequently)

So, to recap:

* A purpose clause is used to express a reason for why an action has been done;

* The imperfect subjunctive is always used (because the verb is still a possibility, it hasn't happened yet so we can't use an indicative verb);

* Purpose clauses are always made up of the conjunctions: 'ut' or 'ne', and the imperfect subjunctive;

* It's worth learning your verb endings of the imperfect subjunctive so that these constructions are easy to spot in unseen translations.

Paige R. GCSE Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Latin tutor, A Level Classi...

9 months ago

Answered by Paige, a GCSE Latin tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Felix O. 13 plus  Religious Studies tutor, A Level Religious Studies ...
View profile
£20 /hr

Felix O.

Degree: BA Modern Languages (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: Latin, Russian+ 2 more

Religious Studies

“So much is dependent on success in your CEs, GCSEs and A levels- so don't leave it to chance!- leave it to someone who has considerable recent success to show you how it can be done. In our 1:1 sessions, YOU are the priority; no big c...”

PremiumCharles W. 13 plus  Latin tutor, IB Latin tutor, GCSE Latin tutor, A ...
View profile
£18 /hr

Charles W.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: Latin


“I have recently graduated from Bristol with First Class Honours in Classics, a subject that I have always been fascinated with. My tutorials will hopefully share this passion with you! I have taught young children Latin at a local pri...”

MyTutor guarantee

Ben P. IB Latin tutor, 13 plus  Latin tutor, GCSE Latin tutor, A Leve...
View profile
£18 /hr

Ben P.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: Latin, Classical Greek

Classical Greek

“About me:  Hi, I’m Ben, a friendly and passionate graduate in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Exeter.  Having thoroughly enjoyed my three years of studying at the university, I am graduating this summer with a...”

About the author

Paige R. GCSE Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Latin tutor, A Level Classi...
View profile

Paige R.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: Classics and Ancient History (Masters) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: Latin, Classical Greek+ 1 more

Classical Greek
Classical Civilisation

“I am a postgradute student of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. In my teaching, I intend to inspire a lasting sense of awe about the ways in which antiquity has shaped our lives today. My focus is mainly on the...”

You may also like...

Other GCSE Latin questions

How is the Latin future participle formed?

How do you translate an ablative absolute?

How should you translate an ablative absolute?

What is the main difference between Latin and English?

View GCSE Latin tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss