Let's review all the ways to express wishes or the optative in English. First, is the most common form:

  1. I wish the flame-ant would eat him alive.

I'm going to skip all of the variations where you can replace 'wish' with a synonym. I'm also going to skip "I want the etc etc".

Now, moving on to the slightly more poetic:

  1. Let/may the flame-ant would eat him alive.

  2. Would that the flame-ant would eat him alive.

  3. The flame-ant is to eat him alive.

Now, the slightly archaic:

  1. O that the flame-ant would eat him alive. (if you spoke this in a familiar setting people would look at you strange but in a poem it works)

And now for an archaicism which most people don't know about but if you were to do it several times, people would catch on to what you're doing, that is to say, use the subjunctive but in English it only works for the 3rd person singular.

  1. The flame-ant eat him alive.

Ok, now let's move to Italian. Aside from the obvious, I'm only familiar with

  1. Vorrei che il fiamma-formica lo mangi vivente.

  2. Lascia che il fiamma-formica lo mangi vivente.

  3. Che il fiamma-formica lo mangi vivente.

Can you do the pure subjunctive?

  1. il fiamma-formica lo mangi vivente.

Beyond these I'm not familiar with any other ways but there has to be more.

  • Not relevant to the question itself, but if “flame-ant” is the same as “fire ant”, it's formica di fuoco in Italian, and it's feminine (la formica di fuoco), else it would anyway be something like la formica di fiamma. And in Italian you say mangiare qualcuno vivo to mean “to eat someone alive”.
    – DaG
    Jul 3, 2023 at 11:05
  • "flame-ant" is different from "fire-ant". "flame-ant" is an innovation, 'fire-ant' isn't but thanks for the tip regarding 'eating alive' and the correction of gender.
    – bobsmith76
    Jul 3, 2023 at 11:07
  • 2
    Io direi la formica-fiamma non fiamma-formica, fiamma è l'attributo, fiamma-formica sembra una fiamma simile a una formica. E 'lo mangi vivo', non vivente, come dice DaG. Le forme 1-2-3-4 vanno tutte bene, le prime due suonano più prosaiche, soprattutto 1, 3 e 4 più poetiche. Per una maggiore enfasi puoi fare un' inversione: Lo mangi vivo, la formica-fiamma!. Ma de gustibus, e dipende dal contesto. Jul 3, 2023 at 13:43
  • 2
    O formica di fiamma invece di formica-fiamma. Jul 3, 2023 at 13:54
  • @BakerStreet, well, that kind of raises a whole new complex issue: how should compound words in Italian be formed? Maybe I'll start a thread on it.
    – bobsmith76
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:19

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure what you mean by flame-ant but in italian you can't usually create compound words as you would in english just by adding a 'dash'. Also "vivente" is, in my opinion, used inappropriately here, the better word to use is "vivo" which means "alive" (vivente would be more like 'living' as an adjective). Anyways getting to the question, I think the most powerful ways to express the "desire" or "wish" in an archaic manner, would be:

  • Possa la formica mangiarlo vivo (May the ant eat him alive)
  • La formica lo divorasse vivo (Not sure how to translate it here but I guess it comes close to "if only the ant would eat him alive")
  • Sia la formica a mangiarlo vivo (Here it's like "it should be the and to eat him alive" meaning that the fate should be decided by the ant for him)
  • 1
    Nitpicking galore: a hyphen (-), not a dash (– or —).
    – DaG
    Jul 4, 2023 at 23:01
  • Cool, thanks. I really needed these.
    – bobsmith76
    Jul 5, 2023 at 9:32

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