Suppose I want to ask for an example, artificial or from literature, of a certain kind of sentence in Latin. I might want to see a certain construction (like accusativus cum infinitivo in a subordinate clause), a certain word in a certain form (like future imperatives of facere), or a sentence satisfying some other condition (like having every letter of the alphabet). How should I ask such questions?

I do hope that such questions can be on-topic if asked well, and the tag has quite a few questions already. That said, I recognize some issues:

  • It is not easy to show effort in finding examples myself. If I have found no good examples, it's hard to show that I tried to find any.
  • The question can come across as too broad. There might be myriads of good examples out there, but I only want one or two, and I will accept an excellent answer when I see one. I would like to know how to efficiently narrow such questions down.

I think having illuminating examples of interesting phenomena is an important ingredient in learning anything, including Latin. But I don't know how to pose such questions well, so some guidelines or suggestions would be appreciated.

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On at least some sites, "example requests" are not considered to be qualitatively different from "list questions," which are generally frowned upon. Even though you might accept an answer, there's no theoretical limit to the number of answers that could be given, and the criteria for selecting one answer over another will often be subjective. See Are list questions off topic? for more.

Setting aside for now the question of what our rules should be, we can make our "example request" questions narrower and more definitively answerable in several ways:

  • Ask for published (preexisting) examples, not new creations. This is an excellent way to limit answers to a narrower, more objective subset. Requests for examples to be used in teaching could be drawn directly from pedagogical works.
  • Specify a time period or genre. Specifying that you'd like the example to come from Contemporary Latin, or from dactylic hexameter, effectively limits the number of applicable examples.
  • Specify an author or work. Naming an author, or even a particular work, limits answers further.
  • Ask for an objective criterion, such as oldest or shortest. That is, there's only one "oldest" example of X, and only one "shortest" example of Y, so answers can be more easily judged as good or bad. Other examples of criteria like this are longest, most common (based on something objective, like inscriptional evidence), smallest, etc.

Of course, it's not necessary to include all of these limiters in an example request question. We can even manage without strict rules on these sorts of questions, and instead simply use close votes to determine consensus. But if you'd like to make your question more objectively answerable, these techniques will help.

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