Latin/Lesson 4-Ablative

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Intro: 12
Chapter 1 123456
Chapter 2 12345678
Chapter 3 12345678
Chapter 4 12345678910
Chapter 5 123456789

The Ablative Case

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The ablative case in Latin has 9 main uses:

  1. With certain prepositions, eg. in, cum, sub, ab
  2. Instrumental ablative, expressing the equivalent of English "by", "with" or "using"
  3. Ablative of manner, expressing how an action is done, only when an adjective is used alongside it. Example: Magnā cūrā id scrīpsit: he wrote it with great care.
  4. Ablative of time when or within which. note: not to be mistaken with the accusative of time which indicates for how long a period of time an action occurs.
  5. Locative Ablative, using the ablative by itself to mean "in", locating an action in space or time
  6. Ablative of separation or origin, expressing the equivalent of English "from"
  7. Ablative of comparison; when the first element to be compared was in the nominative or accusative case, quam was often omitted and the second element followed in the ablative case.
  8. Ablative with special deponents, which is technically the instrumental ablative but is used idiomatically with a few deponent verbs, such as ūtor, fruor, fungor, potior, vēscor
  9. Ablative Absolute, which is a type of participial phrase generally consisting of a noun (or pronoun) and a modifying participle in the ablative case; usually set off by commas, the phrase describes some general circumstances under which the action of the sentence occurs.

The different uses of the ablative will be dealt progressively. For a summary of all forms of the ablative, please consult the Appendix.

Grammar Part 5: The Power of the Ablative Case

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Ablative generally indicates position in time and/or space (i.e. when and where). It can also indicate the idea of ways of getting to a location, abstractly or concretely.

Ablative of Means

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How would you translate "I made the toga by hand"?

  • Hint: You would not (and should not) use the genitive. The case you are studying right now can be used by itself for this goal.
  • Hint: Remember that you won't need to use the pronoun "I," since Latin is based not on word order, but on the endings!
  • Glossary:
    "to make" - Facio ("I make"), facere ("to make"), feci ("I made"), factus ("made")
    "toga" - Toga, togae feminine
    "hand" - Manus, manus feminine (This is fourth declension)
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Answer: Togam manu feci.

In this case, the word "manu" is in the ablative (see fourth declension list) and thus means "by hand."


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I have my wisdom by means of my teacher.

  • 'Glossary:
    "wisdom" - Sapientia, sapientiae feminine
    "to have" - Habeo ("I have"), habere ("to have"), habui ("I had"), habitus ("had")
    "teacher" - Magister, magistri masculine (This is a second declension word, despite the 'r' at the end, like puer.)
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Answer: Habeo sapientiam magistro.

Ablative of Time

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How would you say: I will arrive at the 5th hour.

'at the 5th hour' is indicating position of time. Thus, it can be put into the ablative case, giving:

adveniam quinta hora

In general, therefore, in order to say "In the morning", "At nine O'clock," or "In the tenth year," use ablative. It is generally used to refer to a specific time in which something has, does, or will occur.

Example: I will leave in the night.

Hint: Future tense can be looked up in the appendices of this Wikibook!

Hint: to leave- discedo, discedere; night- nox, noctis(This is a third declension word!)

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Answer: Discedam nocte.

Note the simplicity in which Latin translates the six words into simply two. The ending based language completely negates the need for the words "I," "will," "in," and "the."

Ablative of Place

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Naves navigabant mari. The ships were sailing on the sea.

The ablative is also useful for showing the location of things, in general where you would use the words on, in, or at. There is an exception for the slightly more archaic locative, which is used with the words domi (from domus, domus, f., home), ruri (from rus, ruris, n., country [as opposed to city]), and Romae (from Roma, Romae, f., Rome), as well as with the names of towns, cities and small islands.

Latin has its own way of handling prepositions depending on the nouns and their cases in the sentence, including the versatile in, which can take many different meanings depending upon the case of the object.

Ablative with prepositions

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Here are a few prepositions that can take the ablative (for a fuller list, see the lesson on adverbs and prepositions in the previous chapter):

Latin English
in[1] in, on
a/ab from
de down from, concerning
e/ex out of, out from
cum with
sine without
pro on behalf of, in front of
super[2] upon, above, beyond
sub[3] under, beneath

  1. Means "into" or "against" when used with the accusative
  2. Has static meaning when used with the ablative but connotes motion when used with the accusative
  3. Usually means "up to" or "up to the foot of" when used with the accusative

As a general rule, when motion is implied, use the accusative instead.

Example 3

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Servus ex agris venit.

"The slave came from the fields."

Note: Ager (ager, agri, m., field) must take an ablative suffix to match the preceding preposition, in this case e/ex.

Incidentally, both ager and campus mean "field," but ager, like its English derivative "agriculture", connotes a farming field, while campus (think "camping" or "college campus") means "open field." The Campus Martius was a large field in Rome used for military training.

The Vocative Case

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While you will rarely need to ask Lupus where the bathroom is in Latin, you may find yourself reading either quotes or letters in which a person is being directly addressed. The case it will be in is the vocative.

For example, "Hail, Augustus" will appear in Latin as Ave Auguste, and not Ave Augustus.

Each declension has its own form of the vocative singular and plural. They are listed in the table below.

Furthermore, in all but the second declension, the nominative and vocative are exactly the same!

Number First Second* Third Fourth Fifth
Singular a us->e, ius->i, r->r -- us es
Plural** ae i es us es
  • In the second declension singular, there are three separate possibilities for the vocative, depending on its nominative ending. Hence, if it is a us word, it will become an e and so forth.

Examples for different declensions in the second declension

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  • -us:
    Lupus ->Lupe (given name, wolf)
  • -ius:
    Filius -> Fili (son)
    Horatius-> Horati (given name)
  • -r:
    Puer-> Puer (boy)
In all cases, the plural vocative is exactly the same as the plural nominative. This extends to those words which are neuter, which always have an 'a' for the nominative and vocative.


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  1. Hello, Sextus.(Hello= Salve)*
    Salve, Sexte.
  2. Speak, girl! (Speak= dico, dicere, dixi)*
    Dic, puella.
  3. Knee, run!*(Knee= genu; run= curro, currere, cucurri)*
    Genu, curre!
  4. Oh, heart, why do you lead me? (Oh-o; heart- cor, cordis-f.; lead-duco, ducere;
    O, cor! Cur ducis tu me?
  • Note that the first three also require use of the imperative. The imperative is used when ordering or telling someone what to do, e.g.- "Stop," or "Get away from me."

The basic form of the imperative is created by dropping the "re" off of the infinitive form of the verb, as in: Amare, which becomes Ama; at least in the singular active form, which is all that these exercises require. More can be found about this subject in the chapter on verbs.