The Dative

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360. The dative is probably, like the genitive, a grammatical case, that is, it is a form appropriated to the expression of a variety of relations other than that of the direct object. But it is held by some to be a locative with the primary meaning of to or towards, and the poetic uses (like it clāmor caelō Aen. 5.451) are regarded as survivals of the original use.

In Latin the dative has two classes of meanings.

  1. The dative denotes an object not as caused by the action, or directly affected by it (like the accusative), but as reciprocally sharing in the action or receiving it consciously or actively. Thus in dedit puerō librum (he gave the boy a book), or fēcit mihi iniūriam (he did me a wrong), there is an idea of the boy's receiving the book, and of my feeling the wrong. Hence expressions denoting persons, or things with personal attributes, are more likely to be in the dative than those denoting mere things. So in Spanish the dative is used whenever a person is the object of an action (yo veo al hombre  I see [to] the man). This difference between the accusative and the dative (i.e. between the Direct and the Indirect Object) depends upon the point of view implied in the verb or existing in the mind of the writer. Hence Latin verbs of similar meaning (to an English mind) often differ in the case of their object (see § 367.a).
  2. The dative is used to express the purpose of an action or that for which it serves (see § 382). This construction is especially used with abstract expressions, or those implying an action.

These two classes of datives approach each other in some cases and are occasionally confounded, as in §§ 383-384.

The uses of the dative are the following.

I. Indirect Object (general use) 1. With Transitives (§ 362)
2. With Intransitives (§ 366 - § 372)
II. Special or Idiomatic Uses 1. Of Possession (with esse; § 373)
2. Of Agency (with Gerundive) (§ 374)
3. Of Reference (datīvus commodī; § 376 - § 381)
4. Of Purpose or End (predicate use) (§ 382)
5. Of Fitness etc. (with Adjectives) (§§ 383-384).
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Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7.