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Memento Mori: Life and death question!

by Jeff Stone
(Durham NC USA)

I see the phrase memento mori frequently. I find the imperative mood interesting in its use here. I would like to use the verb for "to live" in a similar sense. Ultimately for a craft project I would like to do a twist on the memento mori art works and express the command to live.


Ultimately I want to express: Remember you must die, but first you must live.

My attempts so far have lead to the following: memento mori sed primo vive

But i don't understand Latin grammar very well. Could you assist with this translation?

Thank you!



Dear Jeff,

In the phrase memento mori, memento is the future imperative and mori is an infinitive. It's literal translation is remember to die.

So, how to add a second infinitive meaning to live?

Momento mori, at primum vivere.

Remember to die, BUT first to live.

Use a Latin dictionary to look up at. It's just a little more emphatic than sed. The choice of primum over primo is less concrete, you may use either.

If you're wondering how mori is infinitive, again, seek a good dictionary for the principle parts: morior, mori, mortuus sum, a deponent verb.

Hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.

Sincerely,

John

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