edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

Accusative Direct Object

Book Nav

387. The direct object of a transitive verb is put in the accusative (§ 274).

a. The Accusative of the Direct Object denotes (1) that which is directly affected, or (2) that which is caused or produced by the action of the verb.

  1. Brūtus Caesarem interfēcit.
    Brutus killed Cæsar.
  2. aedem facere
    to make a temple
    [Cf. proelium pūgnāre to fight a battle, § 390]

Note— There is no definite line by which transitive verbs can be distinguished from intransitive. Verbs which usually take a direct object (expressed or implied) are called transitive, but many of these are often used intransitively or absolutely. Thus timeō (I fear) is transitive in the sentence inimīcum timeō (I fear my enemy) but intransitive (absolute) in nōlī timēre (don't be afraid). Again, many verbs are transitive in one sense and intransitive in another.

Helvētiōs superāvērunt Rōmānī
The Romans overcame the Helvetians.

Nihil superābat.
Nothing remained (was left over).

So also many verbs commonly intransitive may be used transitively with a slight change of meaning.

you are laughing

Mē rīdēs.
You're laughing at me.

b. The object of a transitive verb in the active voice becomes its subject in the passive, and is put in the nominative (§ 275).

Brūtus Caesarem interfēcit.
Brutus killed Cæsar.

Caesar ā Brūtō interfectus est.
Cæsar was killed by Brutus.

Domum aedificat.
He builds a house.

Domus aedificātur.
The house is building (being built).

388. Certain special verbs require notice.

a. Many verbs apparently intransitive, expressing feeling, take an accusative, and may be used in the passive.

Meum cāsum lūctumque doluērunt (Sest. 145)
They grieved at my calamity and sorrow.

sī nōn Acrisium rīsissent Iuppiter et Venus (Hor. Od. 3.16.5)
if Jupiter and Venus had not laughed at Acrisius.

Rīdētur ab omnī conventū (Hor. S. 1.7.22)
He is laughed at by the whole assembly.

For the Cognate Accusative with verbs of taste, smell, and the like, see § 390.a.

Note— Some verbs commonly intransitive may be used transitively (especially in poetry) from a similarity of meaning with other verbs that take the accusative.

gemēns īgnōminiam (Georg. 3.226)
groaning at the disgrace
[Cf. doleō]

festīnāre fugam (Aen. 4.575)
to hasten their flight
[Cf. accelerō]

Cōmptōs ārsit crīnīs. (Hor. Od. 4.9.13)
She burned with love for his well-combed locks.
[Cf. adamō]

b. Verbs of motion, compounds of circum, trāns, and praeter, and a few others, frequently become transitive, and take the accusative (cf. § 370.b).

mortem obīre
to die
(to meet death)

Cōnsulātum ineunt. (Liv. 2.28)
They enter upon the consulship.

Nēminem convēnī. (Fam. 9.14)
I met no one.

sī īnsulam adīsset (B. G. 4.20)
if he should go to the island

trānsīre flūmen (id. 2.23)
to cross the river
(Cf. § 395.)

cīvēs quī circumstant senātum (Cat. 1.21)
the citizens who stand about the senate.

Note— Among such verbs are some compounds of ad, in, per, and sub.

c. The accusative is used after the impersonals decet, dēdecet, dēlectat, iuvat, oportet, fallit, fugit, praeterit.

ita ut vōs decet (Plaut. Most. 729)
so as befits you

pedibus dēlectat claudere verba. (Hor. S. 2.1.28)
My delight is (it pleases me) to arrange words in measure.

Nisi fallit.
Unless I am mistaken.
(unless it deceives me)

Iūvit tibi tuās litterās prōfuisse (Fam. 5.21.3)
It pleased me that your literary studies had profited you.

nōn praeterit. (Fam. 1.8.2)
It does not escape your notice.

Note 1— So after latet in poetry and post-classical prose.

Latet plērōsque. (Plin. N. H. 2.82)
It is unknown to most persons.

Note 2— These verbs are merely ordinary transitives with an idiomatic signification. Hence most of them are also used personally.

Note 3— Decet and latet sometimes take the Dative.

Ita nōbīs decet (Ter. Ad. 928)
Thus it befits us.

Hostīque Rōma latet. (Sil. It. 12.614)
And Rome lies hidden from the foe.

d. A few verbs in isolated expressions take the accusative from a forcing of their meaning. Such expressions are.

ferīre foedus
to strike a treaty
(i.e. to sanction by striking down a victim)

vincere iūdicium (spōnsiōnem, rem, hōc)
to prevail on a trial, etc.
[As if the case were a difficulty to overcome; cf. vincere iter (Aen. 6.688).]

aequor nāvigāre (Aen. 1.67)
to sail the sea
[As if it were trānsīre, § 388.b, above]

Maria aspera iūrō. (id. 6.351)
I swear by the rough seas.
[Cf. (id. 6.324). The accusative with verbs of swearing is chiefly poetic.]

noctīs dormīre
to sleep [whole] nights
(to spend in sleep)

Note 1— These accusatives are of various kinds. The last example approaches the cognate construction (cf. the second example under § 390).

Note 2— In early and popular usage some nouns and adjectives derived from transitive verbs retain verbal force sufficient to govern the accusative.

Quid tibi istanc tāctiō est? (Plaut. Poen. 1308)
What business have you to touch her?
[Cf. tangō.]

mīrābundī bēstiam (Ap. Met. 4.16)
full of wonder at the creature
[Cf. mīror]

vītābundus castra (Liv. 25.13)
trying to avoid the camp
[Cf. vītō]

389. Many verbs ordinarily transitive may be used absolutely, having their natural object in the ablative with (§ 273, Note 2)

priusquam Pompōnius êius adventū cōgnōsceret (B. C. 3.101)
before Pomponius could learn of his coming
[Cf. êius adventū cōgnitō  his arrival being discovered]

For accusative and genitive after impersonals, see § 354.b. For the accusative after the impersonal gerundive with esse, see § 500.3.