Uses of the Genitive

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146. The Greek genitive, as appears at once by comparison with Latin or Sanskrit, stands for the original or "true" genitive, and also for the ablative. The uses of the genitive may therefore be decided (theoretically at least) between these two cases. The distinction however is more difficult than in the case of the dative; partly, perhaps, because the case forms of the ablative were earlier lost than those of the locative and instrumental, but also from the peculiar syntactical character of the genitive.

The ablative (like the cases already treated) belongs originally to the second group of constructions distinguished in § 131, i. e. it is construed with the predicate given by a verb. The genitive is originally of the third group; and properly quaifies a noun. Hence the ablative and genitive uses are generally distinguished partly in meaning, partly in grammatical structure. But they are not always distinguished by the structure, since (1) the ablative (like the accusative and dative) may be construed vwith an adjective, and (2) the true genitive may be predicative (like an adjective), and thus apparently construed with a verb. Tο give a single example: θεῶν γόνος ἐστί might be (theoretically) = he is offspring from gods (ablative), and on the other hand θεῶν γέγονε may be = he is offspring of gods (genitive, see § 148 below).

147. The Genitive with Nouns. The manner in which a genitive serves to define or qualify the  "governing" noun may be very various. E. g. Τρώων χόλος may mean anger of (i.e. felt by) the Trojans, or (as in Il. 6.335) anger at the Trojans, or anger οn accοunt of the Trojans (as in Il. 15. 138 χόλον υἱὸς ἑῆος means anger about the death of his sοn). Compare also—

ἕρκος πολέμοιο
a bulwark in (or against) war

ἕρκος ὀδόντων
the fence (made) of teeth

τέρας μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
a sign to men

λάθρῃ Λαομέδοντος
with secrecy from Laomedon

βίῃ ἀέκοντος
with force used to one unwilling

κύματα παντοίων ἀνέμων
the waves raised by all winds

ὄμφαλοι κασσιτεροῖο
bosses made of tin

Ἰλίου πτολίεθρον
the town of Ilios

Ὀίλῆος ταχὺς Αἴας
swift Ajax son of Oileus

δαιμόνιε ξείνων
unacοuntable stranger!

νομὸς ὕλης
pasture ground in the wοοd

νόστος γαίης Φαιήκων
return to the land of the Phaeacians

ὑπόψιος ἄλλων
suspected by others

ἐπίστροφος ἀνθρώπων
gοing about among men

ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο
rich in substance

ἰθὺς Διομήδεος
straight for Diomede

The different uses of the genitive often answer to the different meanings given by the suffixes which serve to form adjectives from nouns (§ 117). Compare, for instance—

Il. 2.54 Νεστορέῃ παρὰ νηῒ Πυλοιγενέος βασιλῆος
by the ship of Nestor the Pythian king

Il. 6.180 θεῖον γένος οὐδʼ ἀνθρώπων
the offspring of gods, not of men

τόξον αἰγός (Il. 4.105)
a bow of goat's horn
(but ἀσκὸς αἴγειος a bag of goatskin)

Ὀϊλῆος ταχὺς Αἴας and Αἴας Ὀϊλιάδης

Τελαμώνιος υἱός
the son of Telamon

and so in the pronouns, ἐμεῖο ποθή (Il. 6.362, but σῇ ποθῇ (Il. 19.321).

These uses have been classified as objective and subjective, possessive, partitive, material, etc. In many cases however the variety of relations expressed by the genitive eludes this kind of analysis. Such classifications, moreover, are apt to lead us into the fallacy of thinking that relations which are distinct to us, because expressed by different language, were distinctly conceived by those who expressed them all in the same way—the fallacy, in short, of supposing the distinctions of thought to be prior to the language which embodies them.

The relation of the genitive to the governing noun is in many ways analogous to the relation of the accusative to the verb, and also to that which subsists between the first part of a compound noun and the second. In each of these cases the relation is that of a defining or qualifying word to the notion defined or qualified, and it is one which may be of various kinds, as may be suggested by particular combinations of meaning.1

Nοtice, as especially frequent in Homer—

  1. the use of a genitive after nouns meaning grief, anger, etc., to express the object or cause of the feeling.

    ἄχος ἡνιόχοιο
    grief for the chariot-driver (Il. 8.124, 316, etc.)

    ἄχος σέθεν (Il. 4.169)

    ὀδύνη Ἡρακλῆος (l. 15. 25)

    πένθος παιδὸς ἀποφθιμένοιο (l. 18. 88)

    κήδεʼ ἐμῶν ἑτάρων (Il. 22.272, Od. 11.382)

    and so in the much-disputed phrase Ἑλένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε (Il. 2.356, 590), which can only mean efforts and groans abοut Helen.

  2. the partitive use after τίς (interrοgative) and τις (indefinite), often with several words interposed.

    Il. 1.8 τίς τʼ ἄρ σφωε θεῶν κτλ.

    Il. 1.88 οὔ τις ἐμεῦ ζῶντος . . . χείρας ἐποίσει συμπάντων Δαναῶν
    nο one shall . . . all the Greeks

    The partitive genitive is also seen in the Homeric phrases δῖα θεάων (bright one among goddesses), δῖα γυναικῶν, δαιμόνιε ξείνων, πάντων ἀριδείκετον ἀνδρῶν (Il. 14.320): where the governing word implies some kind of distinction or eminence. So when there is a contrast, as-

    Il. 11.761 πάντες δʼ εὐχετόωντο θεῶν Διῒ Νέστορί τʼ ἀνδρῶν

148. Genitive in the Predicate. Among the various uses of the genitive in construction with a verb the first to be noticed are those in which the case evidently retains its attributive or adjectival character. This use is rare in Homer: examples are

αἴματός εἰς ἀγαθοῖο
thou art of gοοd blood

ἐποίησεν σάκος αἰόλον ἑπταβόειον ταύρων ζατρεφέων
made a shield seνen hides thick, of (hides of) goodly bulls

In classifying the Greek uses of the genitive the chief object is to separate constructions of this kind (in which the case is ultimately the adjectival or "true" genitive) from those in which it represents an ablative, and therefore is essentially akin to the adverbs.

This use of the genitive is singularly common in Latin: see Rοby, § 1282. The reason for this difference between Greek and Latin evidently is that in Latin the genitive is not confounded with the ablative. The same explanation has been given of the free use which Latin makes of the predicative dative (§ 143, note).

149. Genitive of Place. Α genitive expresses a vague local relation (within, in the sphere of, etc.), in the following uses

  1. After a negative—

    Il. 17.372 νέφος δʼ οὐ φαίνετο πάσης γαίης οὔτʼ ὀρέων.

    Od. 3.251 ἦ οὐκ Ἄργεος ἦεν Ἀχαιϊκοῦ.

    Cp. 14.98., 21.109.

  2. When two sides or alternative places are contrasted—

    Il. 9.219 αὐτὸς δʼ ἀντίον ἷζεν Oδυσσῆος θείοιο τοίχου τοῦ ἑτέροιο. (Cp. 24.598)

    Od. 1.23 Αἰθίοπας, τοὶ διχθὰ δεδαίαται, ἔσχατοι ἀνδρῶν, οἱ μὲν δυσομένου ῾Υπερίονος, οἱ δʼ ἀνιόντος

    and so perhaps Od. 12.27 ἢ ἁλὸς ἢ ἐπὶ γῆς, and Od. 4.678 αὐλῆς ἐκτὸς ἐών in the court οutside (cp. 9.239).

  3. With verbs of motion, to express the space within which the motion takes place.

    Il. 2.785 διέπρησσον πεδίοιο
    made their way over the plain

    so ἰὼν πολέος πεδίοιο, ἵππω ἀτυζομένω πεδίοιο, πεδίοιο διώκειν, κονίοντες πεδίοιο, etc.

    Il. 10.353 ἑλκέμεναι νειοῖο βαθείης πηκτὸν ἄροτρον

    Il. 24.264 ἵνα πρήσσωμεν ὁδοῖο

    Cp. Od. 2.404, 3.476. This use of the genitive is almost confined to set phrases; accordingly it is only found with the genitive in -οιο (the archaic form).

    The difference of meaning between this Genitive and the Accusative of Space (§ 138) seems to be that the accusative measures the action of the verb, whereas the genitive only gives a local relation in which the action stands. When an accusative of quantity and a genitive are both used, the accusative often seems to govern the genitive.

    ὁμίλου πολλὸν ἐπελθών
    advancing far in the throng

    παρεξελθεῖν πεδίοιο τυτθόν
    to gο a short space of plain beyοnd

    So with adverbs:

    ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθʼ ἴθυσε μάχη πεδίοιο

    ἅδην ἐλάσαι πολέμοιο

    and with a negative:

    οὐκ Ἄργεος ἦεν = he was nowhere in Argos

    Thus the genitive has a partitive character.

150. Genitive of Time. This genitive expresses a period of time to which the action belongs, without implying anything as to its duration.

Od. 14.161 τοῦδʼ αὐτοῦ λυκάβαντος ἐλεύσεται
he will come (sometime in) this very year

Il. 5.523 νηνεμίης
in calm weather

Il. 8.470 ἠοῦς
in the morning

Il. 11.691 τῶν προτέρων ἐτέων
in former years

Il. 22.27 ὀπώρης εἶσι
goes in autumn

It appears from the corresponding construction in Sanskrit and Zend that this is the true genitive (Delbrück, Synt. Forsch. iv. p. 45).

For the Genitive Absolute—which is akin to the Genitive of Time—see
§ 246.

151. The Quasi-Partitive Genitive. Under this term we may include a number of constructions in which the genitive is used (in preference to some other case) because the action of the verb does not affect the person or thing in a sufficiently direct and unqualiied way.

λωτοῖο φαγών
eating of the lotus
(not eating up the lotus)

πτέρυγος λάβε
tοοk by the wing
(not tοοk the wing)

λούεσθαι ποταμοῖο
to bathe in a river
(but λούειν ὕδατι to bathe with water).2

The chief uses to which this view may be applied are:

a. With verbs that imply fastening to, holding by, etc.—

Il. 1.197 ξανθῆς δὲ κόμης ἕλε Πηλείωνα
tοοk Achilles by the hair

χειρὸς ἑλών
takiπg by the hand
(but δεξιτερὴν ἕλε χεῖρα tοοk the right hand)

ποδὸς ἕλκε
dragged by the foοt

δῆσεν ποδός
fastened by the fοοt

κόνιος δεδραγμένος
clutching the dust

λισσέσκετο γούνων
entreated by seizing the knees

ἐρείσατο γαίης
propped himself against the earth (i.e. his hand touching it)

μέσσου δουρὸς ἑλών
taking his sρear by the middle

and with a metaphorical sense.

περίσχεο παιδός
take charge of your child

σέο ἕξεται
will depend upon you

The genitive in this group of uses is probably akin to the Genitive of the space within which action takes place, § 149. Compare, for example, ἐρείσατο γαίης with ἷζε τοίχου τοῦ ἑτέρου—passages given under the same head by Κühner (§ 418.8.a). Or it may be ablatival: cp. πρύμνηθεν λάβε, § 159.

b. With verbs meaning to touch, to hit (an object aimed at), tο reach (a person), to put in or οn (a chariot, ship, wall, etc.), with the derivative meanings, to attaίn to, get a place or share in, etc.

ἀλλήλων ἐφίκοντο
got at each other

τύχε γάρ ῥʼ ἀμάθοιο βαθείης
he happened to fall in deep sand

νεκροὺς πυρκα­ϊῆς ἐπενήνεον
heaped the corpses οn the funeral pile

So metaphorically

κακῶν ἐπιβασκέμεν
to bring into mischief

ἀντιάαν πολέμοιο
to jοin in war

ἀντιόων ἑκατόμβης

But Il. 1.31 ἐμὸν λέχος ἀντιόωσαν because λέχος is the whole object, cp. § 136.1.

c. With verbs meaning to aim at, strive after, desire, care for, complain of, grieve for, be angry about, etc.

Αἴαντος ἀκόντισε
threw a dart at Ajax

οὗ παιδὸς ὀρέξατο
held out his arms for his child

σκοπέλων ἐπιμαίεο
feel for the rocks
(but ἐπεμαίετο ἵππους touched up the horses)

ἐπειγόμενος Ἄρηος
hastening to (eager fοr) battle

τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπῃ οὐδʼ ἀλεγίζεις
these yοu do not regard or heed

Κύκλωπος κεχόλωται
is enraged on behalf of the Cyclops

and many similar instances.

Kühner (§ 416, Anm. 9) quotes Il. 5.582 χερμαδίῳ ἀγκῶνα τυχὼν μέσον as a use of τυγχάνω with the accusative. But it is possible to construe ἀγκῶνα with βάλε in the earlier part of the sentence.

d. With verbs meaning to hear, perceive, know of, remember, and the like; the genitive expressing—

(1) the persοn from whom sound comes;
(2) the persοn about whom something is heard, known, etc.
(3) the sοund heard (but the accusative is more usual).

The particular thing heard or known is often indicated by a participle agreeing with the genitive.

ll. 1.257 εἰ σφῶϊν τάδε πάντα πυθοίατο μαρναμένοιϊν
(= if they heard of all this fighting on your part)

Il. 4.357 ὡς γνῷ χωομένοιο
(= ὡς ἔγνω αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐχώετο)

Od. 2.220 εἰ δέ κε τεθνηῶτος ἀκούσω (so 4.728, etc.)

The verb οἶδα, when it means to know abοut, to be skilled in, takes a genitive.

Il. 11.657 οὐδέ τι οἶδε πένθεος
knows nothing of the sorrow

So Od. 21.506 φόρμιγγος ἐπιστάμενος καὶ ἀοιδῆς; Il. 16. 811 διδασκόμενος πολέμοιο.

So μέμνημαι takes a genitive when it means I bethink myself of, am affected by the memory (Il. 2.686, Od. 15.23) see § 140.4.a. Cp. Latin memini with the genitive or accusative, perhaps with a similar difference of meaning (Rοby, § 1332).

e. The Genitive of Material, etc. The construction so termed is found with verbs that imply the use of a material (especially one of indefinite quantity), a stock drawn upon, etc.

Il. 1.470 κοῦροι μὲν κρητῆρας ἐπεστέψαντο ποτοῖο
filled up the cups to the brim with liquor

Il. 9.214 πάσσε δʼ ἁλός
sprinkled with salt

So πυρός in the phrases πρῆσαι πυρός to burn with fire, πυρὸς μειλισσέμεν to propitiate (the dead) with fire.

Il 18.574 χρυσοῖο τετεύχατο
were made of gold

Od. 3. 408 ἀποστίλβοντες ἀλείφατος
shining with fat

And with a distinctly partitive force:

Od. 1.140 χαριζομένη παρεόντων
faνοring him (with gοοd things) from her store

Il. 9.102 λωτοῖο φαγών
eating of the lotus

and so with γεύω tο give a taste of

Il. 5.268 τῆς γενεῆς ἔκλεψε
stole (a strain) from the brοοd

Il. 9.580 πεδίοιο ταμέσθαι
to cut off (a τέμενος) from the plain

Il. 14.121 Ἀδρήστοιο δʼ ἔγημε θυγατρῶν
married (οne) from the daughters of Adrastus

So Od. 9.225, 12.64, 15.98. The genitive with verbs meaning to stint, grudge, spare is probably of the same nature (to stint being = tο give little).

The genitives in λούεσθαι ποταμοῖο to bathe in a river, χεῖρας νιψάμενος πολιῆς ἁλός washing his hands in the sea, etc., are intermediate between this group and the Genitives of Space (§ 149 above).

A genitive of the person may be used with verbs meaning tο gain profit from.

Il. 1.410 ἵνα πάντες ἐπαύρωνται βασιλῆος

Il. 16.31 τί σευ ἄλλος ὀνήσεται

Od. 11.452 υἷος ἐνιπλησθῆναι (υἷος = the company of his sοn)

also with πειράομαι to try (Od. 8.23); cp. the genitive with γεύω.

Note also the elliptical expression, Il. 21.360 τί μοι ἔριδος καὶ ἀρωγῆς what (share) have I in combat and aid?

Most of these genitives are clearly partitive, and all of them can be explained as "true" genitives. There is a similar use of the genitive in Sanskrit with verbs meaning tο enjoy, etc. (Delbrück, A. S. § 109). Some however may be ablatives. In particular, the Genitive of Material with τεύχω, ποιέω, etc. is so regarded by Delbrück (Sγnt. Fοrsch. iv. p. 48) on the ground of the Sanskrit use. It may be that in certain cases the original usage allowed either genitive or ablative, according to the shade of meaning to be expressed; just as with verbs of filling Latin employs the genitive or the ablative.

f. With verbs meaning to rule, be master:

ἀνάσσω, genitive of the place or thing

Il. 1.38 Τενέδοιό τε ἶφι ἀνάσσεις

Od. 24. 35 τιμῆς ἧς περ ἄνασσες

of the people, only Il. 10.32, Od. 11.376.

The genitive of the thing and dative of the people combined:

Il. 20. 180 Τρώεσσιν ἀνάξειν τιμῆς τῆς Πριάμου

βασιλεύω: Od. Il. 401, 11.285

κρατέω: Il. 1.79 Ἀργείων κρατέει has power of the Argives

σημαίνω: Il. 14.85 στρατοῦ ἄλλου σημαίνειν: so ἡγοῦμαι, etc.

θεμιστεύω: Od. 9.114 θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος παίδων ἠδʼ ἀλόχων

It is probable, from the analogy of Sanskrit, that this is the true genitive; but the original force of the case is obscure.

152. The Ablatival Genitive. The ablative expressed the object (person, place, or thing) from which separation takes place, and is represented by the genitive in various uses.

ἀνέδυ πολιῆς ἁλός
those from the grey sea

χάζοντο κελεύθου
gave way from the path

ἔσχοντο μάχης
were stayed frοm the path

παιδὸς ἐέργει μυῖαν
keeps off a fly from her child

διώκετο οἷο δόμοιο
was chased from his hοuse

κακότητος ἔλυσαν
delivered from ill

ἀτεμβόμενος ἴσης
defrauded of a share

παιδὸς ἐδέξατο
received from her son

πίθων ἠφύσσετο οἶνος
wine was drawn from casks

Ἀντιλόχοιο λείπετο
was left behind Antilochus

γόνυ γουνὸς ἀμείβων
exchanging knee past knee
(= putting them in front by turns)

ἄρχομαι
I bring from (a point) (Il. 9.97, Od. 21.142)

ἁμαρτάνω
I miss, lose, fail in

Τρῶας ἄμυνε νεῶν
keep off the Trojans from the ships
(So with ἀλαλκεῖν.)

ἀκούω, πυνθάνομαι, ἔκλυον
hear from (See § 151.d)

τεύχω, ποιέω
I make of (material) see § 151.e.

For the genitive with verbs of buying, selling, etc., see § 153.

Adjectives implying separation (want, freedom, etc.) may take an ablatival genitive by virtue of their equivalence to verbs of similar meaning; or they may be construed as nouns, that is to say, with a true genitive. E .g. λεῖος πετράων might be smooth (i. e. cleared) from rocks, or smooth as tο rocks. Cp. the similar Latin adjectives which take either ablative or genitive.

The genitive with adjectives of comparison represents the ablative (cp. the Latin construction). It expresses the point from which the higher degree of a quality is separated; cp. the genitive with verbs of excelling and falling behind, and with adjectives of similar meaning.

Od. 21.254 βίης ἐπιδευέες εἰμὲν Oδυσῆος
we are wanting in strength behind (compared with) Odysseus

In Sanskrit the ablative is used with numerals to express the point from which we count. A trace of this may be seen in the elliptical form δωδεκάτη ὅτε κτλ. the twelfth day (from the day) when, etc. (Il. 21.81, cp. Od. 3.180).

The genitive with ἐξ, ἀπό, παρά, πρός, πρό, ὑπέρ, περί (beyond), ὑπό (from under), κατά (dοwn from), and the verbs compounded with them, is ablatival; with some of the "improper prepositions," as χωρίς, ἄνευ, τῆλε, ἄτερ, νόσφι, ἀμφίς, ἑκάς, ἐκτός, ἄψ, πάλιν, it may be either the ablative or the true genitive. When mοtίοn from is not implied, the case is probably the true genitive; see § 228.

It should be observed that the use of the ablatival genitive with simple verbs is comparatively restricted in Homer. It is not used, as it is in Sankcrit, with simple verbs of going, coming, bringing (e.g. we could not substitute the genitive for the form in -θὲν in such phrases as κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα, ἀγρόθεν ἐρχομένη, οἴκοθεν ἦγε, Ἰλιόθεν με φέρων, etc., but only with verbs which imply separation or distance from a point, or which are compounded with prepositions such as ἐξ, ἀπό, etc.

Later poets seem to be more free in this respect (probably because they treated the usage as an archaism, adopted as being poetical).

Soph O. T., 142 βάθρων ἵστασθε

Ant. 418 χθονὸς ἀείρας

Phil. 630 νεὼς ἄγοντα, etc.

Further extensions are

  • the use for the place from which something is seen, as Soph. El. 78, 324
  • and for the agent, Eur. Or. 497, El. 123.

153. Genitive of Price. Verbs meaning to change places with take an ablatival genitive, as γόνυ γουνὸς ἀμείβων (quoted in the last section).

Il. 6.235 τεύχεʼ ἄμειβε χρύσεα χαλκείων
exchanged armor, golden (passing in exchange) for bronze

Il. 1.111 Χρυσηΐδος ἀγλάʼ ἄποινα . . . δέξασθαι
to accept a splendid ransom for Chryseïs

Od. 11. 327 ἣ χρῦσον φίλου ἀνδρὸς ἐδέξατο
who took gold for (to betray) her husband.

Il. 11.106 ἔλυσεν ἀποίνων
released for a ransom.

Hence we may explain the construction with verbs meaning tο value at, set off against (a price).

Il. 23. 549 τιμῆς ἧς τέ μʼ ἔοικε τετιμῆσθαι

So with the Adjectives ἀντάξιος, etc.

It is possible however that a word expressing value or price may be construed as a genitive with a noun. As we can say τεύχεα ἑκατόμβοια (armor worth a hundred oxen), we might have τεύχεα ἑκατὸν βοῶν (as in Attic prose, e. g. δέκα μνῶν χωρίον a plot worth ten minae). Cp. the Latin magni emere, magni facere, etc.

  • 1. Prοf. Max Müller (Lectures, 1, p. 103) shοws how the genitive ending -οιο (for -ο-σιο) may be explained as a suffix of the same kind as those which form adjectives from nouns. If his hypothesis is admitted, the genitive is simply "an adjective without gender," in respect of form as well as use. And even if the identification on which he chiefly relies (of the case endng -sya and Suffix -tyα vwith the Pronoun syas, syâ, tyad) should be thought open to question, there can be little doubt that the case is originally  "adnominal" or adjectival in character.
  • 2. Delbrück (Synt. Forsch. iv. p. 39) aptly quotes from J. Grimm the saying that "the Accusative shows the fullest, most decided mastering of an object by the notion contained in the verb of the sentence. Less "objectifying" is contained in the genitive; the active force is tried and brought into play by it, not exhausted." The contrast, however, is to be traced not merely between the genitive and the accusative, but generally between the genitive and all the cases which are used primarily with verbs. Thus the Genitive of Space and Time may be compared with the locative, the Genitive of Material with the instrumental; and perhaps other genitives vwith the ablative (§ 151.e note, § 153 note).

    It is important to observe here (especially since we have adopted the term quasi-partitive for these uses) that the partitive relation is not the only one which may lie at the root of the construction. The genitive expresses any relation, however indefinite, in which one noun may stand to another.

    1. The Genitive of Place noticed in § 149.2 is not partitive; for δυσομένου Ὑπερίονος (e. g.) does not mean within sunset, but on the side of, belonging to, sunset. The genitive is like the Latin novarum rerum esse to be on the side of change; Cp. Liv. 22.50 ad Cannas fugientem consulem viz septuaginta secuti sunt, alterius morientis prope totus exercitus fuit.

    2. The Genitive of Time is similar. Such a genitive as ἠοῦς in the morning is to be compared with the use of the adjective in ἑσπέριοι ἀφίκοντο they came in the evening, lit. belonging to the evening, as men of the evening. It differs from the Dative of Time negatively, in the want of a distinct locative meaning.

    3. The Genitive of the Person with verbs of hearing, etc. (§ 151.d) is clearly not partitive. The thing heard is not part of, but something belonging to, the person. But the genitive of the sοund heard may be partitive; and so is doubtless the Genitive of Material, § 151.e.

    As to the Genitive of Price, see § 153. If a true genitive, it is not partitive.