Latin Gender Agreement

I can’t seem to work out a way to look this up, but I keep running into an issue with what you’re supposed to do about gender agreement when multiple genders are involved. It occurred to me that perhaps somebody could just tell me.

The rule given is that adjectives must agree with their subjects in number, case and gender:

Pueri laeti sunt.

Swell. But what if you have multiple subjects of different genders?

Puer et puella laet?? sunt.

Also, what’s the rule for a predicate nominative in mixed genders? Can you say:

Hic vir est clavis.

…even though clavis is feminine? And then what gender do you assume in a further clause?

Hic vir est clavis, qu?? voravisti.

I’m afraid the Japanese has completely overwritten my Latin from high school, but I’ll try to remember to dig up my old textbooks when I get home to see if I can find anything.

Mixed genders in a case like this, where they are essentially two halves of a whole, are treated as masculine: Puer et puella laeti sunt. (I find this helps if you think of them as “Class A” and “Class B,” since there’s nothing inherently masculine or feminine about them). See below.

From Hale & Buck’s Latin grammar: “Nouns agree in case… and, if possible, in gender and number… Volsinii, oppudum Tuscorum, ‘Volsinii, a city of the Etruscans,’ Plin. N.H. 2, 139. (Agreement in gender and number is impossible.)” This is an appositive, but there are less clear examples that show the same in the predicate nouns. They cite examples where a masc. noun takes effector and a fem. noun takes effectrix, but where it’s not possible to change they don’t.

Further: “An adjective, participle, or pronoun belonging or referring to two or more substantives of the same gender and number must agree with them in gender, and it may be either the number of the nearest, or plural, even if the nearest is singular. … of different gender or number, or both, may agree with the nearest of them; otherwise it must be in the masculine plural if one of the substantives denotes a man, in the feminine plural if one of them denotes a woman and none of them a man, or in the neuter plural if all of them denote things.”

I’ve reformatted their capitalization and italics a bit but I haven’t changed their wording.

As far as mastery of Latin, any auctoritas (street cred) I might once have possessed has long since withered away like an inbred bloodline. However, I happened upon the following.

I found this on GoogleBooks. Source (which I believe to be public domain).