It's sort of a silly question, but it confuses me and I have no choice but to ask. What is the most accurate way to write: He came, he saw, he conquered. Is it OK to use 'and' as in 'and he conquered'; should there be a comma before 'and' as in: He came, he saw, and he conquered.

  • Presumably the most accurate way to write it is ueni, uidi, uici, or perhaps VENI VIDI VICI. – tchrist Sep 14 '13 at 12:29
  • I guess so too, but I forgot to add: In English :) – user52023 Sep 14 '13 at 12:40
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    @tchrist, since we're talking about a 'he' here, surely VENIT VIDIT VICIT would be more appropriate? In English, I would never add the 'and'; sounds un idiomatic to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 14 '13 at 12:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Well, yes; Caesar wrote in the first person, but relating what he did would be in the third. The and does sound weird there. I drank, I got drunk, I fell over. has a more authentic feel to it, as compared with I ate, drank, and was merry. Contrast with what happens now with the repeated subject there: I ate, I drank, ?and I was merry. I think the repeated subjects makes it not want the and. – tchrist Sep 14 '13 at 13:14
  • @tchrist I feel that the repeated subject also makes it more sequential. I ate, drank, and was merry seems to describe a night, in no particular order, while I ate, I drank, and I was merry suggests a sequence of events. Am I alone in this interpretation? – terdon Sep 14 '13 at 13:50

The original was written telegram style

a clipped way of writing that attempts to abbreviate words and pack as much information into the shortest possible number of words and or characters

For Caesar, this was easy because Latin basically does not use subject pronouns. The English sentence I came is rendered veni, the first person being communicated by the conjugation of the verb. Since Latin (unlike English) is a highly conjugated and declined language, much is communicated by the word endings and forms, allowing for a more concise rendition of concepts, and positioning of words is used primarily for emphasis or style, rather than grammatical structure.

In addition, Caesar omitted the et (English and) which was routinely used in Latin at the time, again to create a punchy style. He was describing a military campaign, so punchy seems appropriate.

There is no question that you could render this in numerous ways in English, depending on the emphasis and style you wished to apply.

John took on Rome. Came, saw, conquered.

He came. He saw. He conquered.

He came, he saw, and he conquered.

He came, saw, and conquered.

He came, and then he saw. Ultimately, he conquered.

All are correct (although the first relies on an implied subject). All are accurate. Which is appropriate (of these and the many other possible variants) depends on your personal goals and preferences.

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Both are grammatical, and so, too, are He came, saw, conquered and He came, saw, and conquered. Which a writer chooses depends on the impression the writer wishes to create, and on the style of the rest of the text. Where and is used, a comma will show that a new clause follows.

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