The Genitive

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341. The genitive is regularly used to express the relation of one noun to another. Hence it is sometimes called the adjective case, to distinguish it from the dative and the ablative, which may be called adverbial cases.

The uses of the genitive may be classified as follows.

I. Genitive with Nouns: 1. Of Possession (§ 343)
2. Of Material (§ 344)
3. Of Quality (§ 345)
4. Of the Whole, after words designating a Part (Partitive, § 346)
5. With Nouns of Action and Feeling (§ 348)
II. Genitive with
1. After Relative Adjectives (or Verbals) (§ 349)
2. Of Specification (later use) (§ 349.d)
III. Genitive with
1. Of Memory, Feeling, etc. (§§ 350-351, 354).
2. Of Accusing, etc. (Charge or Penalty) (§ 352)


Genitive with Nouns

342. A noun used to limit or define another, and not meaning the same person or thing, is put in the genitive. This relation is most frequently expressed in English by the preposition of, sometimes by the English genitive (or possessive) case.

librī Cicerōnis
the books of Cicero, or Cicero's books

inimīcī Caesaris
Cæsar's enemies, or the enemies of Cæsar

talentum aurī
a talent of gold

vir summae virtūtis
a man of the greatest courage

But observe the following equivalents.

vacātiō labōris
a respite FROM toil

petītiō cōnsulātūs
candidacy FOR the consulship

rēgnum cīvitātis
royal power OVER the state


Possessive Genitive

343. The Possessive Genitive denotes the person or thing to which an object, quality, feeling, or action belongs.

Alexandrī canis
Alexander's dog

potentia Pompêī (Sall. Cat. 19)
Pompey's power

Ariovistī mors (B. G. 5.29)
the death of Ariovistus

perditōrum temeritās (Mil. 22)
the recklessness of desperate men

Note 1— The possessive genitive may denote (1) the actual owner (as in Alexander's dog) or author (as in Cicero's writings), or (2) the person or thing that possesses some feeling or quality or does some act (as in Cicero's eloquence, the strength of the bridge, Catiline's evil deeds). In the latter use it is sometimes called the Subjective Genitive; but this term properly includes the possessive genitive and several other genitive constructions (nearly all, in fact, except the Objective Genitive, § 347, below).

Note 2— The noun limited is understood in a few expressions.

ad Castoris [aedēs] (Quinct. 17)
at the [temple] of Castor
[Cf. St. Paul's]

Flaccus Claudī
Flaccus [slave] of Claudius.

Hectoris Andromachē (Aen. 3.319)
Hector's [wife] Andromache

a. For the genitive of possession a possessive or derivative adjective is often used—regularly for the possessive genitive of the personal pronouns (§ 302.a).

liber meus
[not liber meī]
my book

aliēna perīcula
[but also aliōrum]
other men's dangers

Sullāna tempora
[oftener Sullae]
the times of Sulla

b. The possessive genitive often stands in the predicate, connected with its noun by a verb (Predicate Genitive).

Haec domus est patris meī.
This house is my father's.

Iam mē Pompêī tōtum esse scīs. (Fam. 2.13)
You know I am now all for Pompey.
(all Pompey's)

Summa laus et tua et Brūtī est. (Fam. 12.4.2)
The highest praise is due both to you and to Brutus.
(is both yours and Brutus's)

compendī facere
to save
(make of saving)

lucrī facere
to get the benefit of
(make of profit)

Note — These genitives bear the same relation to the examples in § 343 that a predicate noun bears to an appositive (§§ 282-283).

c. An infinitive or a clause, when used as a noun, is often limited by a genitive in the predicate.

Neque suī iūdicī [erat] discernere. (B. C. 1.35)
Nor was it for his judgment to decide.
(Nor was it his judgment's to decide)

Cûiusvīs hominis est errāre. (Phil. 12.5)
It is any man's [liability] to err.

Negāvit mōris esse Graecōrum, ut in convīviō virōrum accumberent mulierēs. (Verr. 2.1.66)
He said it was not the custom of the Greeks for women to appear as guests (recline) at the banquets of men.

Sed timidī est optāre necem. (Ov. M. 4.115)
But it's the coward's part to wish for death.

Stultī erat spērāre, suādēre impudentis. (Phil. 2.23)
It was folly (the part of a fool) to hope, effrontery to urge.

Sapientis est pauca loquī
It is wise (the part of a wise man) to say little.
(Not sapiēns [n.] est, etc.)

Note 1— This construction is regular with adjectives of the 3rd declension instead of the neuter nominative (see the last two examples).

Note 2— A derivative or possessive adjective may be used for the genitive in this construction, and must be used for the genitive of a personal pronoun.

Mentīrī nōn est meum [not meī]
It is not for me to lie.

Hūmānum [for hominis] est errāre.
It is man's nature to err.
(To err is human)

d. A limiting genitive is sometimes used instead of a noun in apposition (Appositional Genitive) (§ 282).

nōmen īnsāniae
(for nōmen īnsānia)
the word madness

oppidum Antiochīae
(for oppidum Antiochīa, the regular form)
the city of Antioch


Genitive of Material

344. The genitive may denote the substance or material of which a thing consists (cf. § 403).

talentum aurī
a talent of gold

flūmina lactis
rivers of milk


Genitive of Quality

345. The genitive is used to denote quality, but only when the quality is modified by an adjective.

vir summae virtūtis
a man of the highest courage
[But not vir virtūtis]

Māgnae est dēlīberātiōnis.
It is an affair of great deliberation.

māgnī formīca labōris (Hor. S. 1.1.33)
the ant [a creature] of great toil

ille autem suī iūdicī (Nep. Att. 9)
but he [a man] of independent (his own) judgment

Note— Compare Ablative of Quality (§ 415). In expressions of quality, the genitive or the ablative may often be used indifferently.

praestantī prūdentiā vir
a man of surpassing wisdom

maximī animī homō
a man of the greatest courage

In classic prose, however, the genitive of quality is much less common than the ablative; it is practically confined to expressions of measure or number, to a phrase with êius and to nouns modified by māgnus, maximus, summus, or tantus. In general the genitive is used rather of essential, the ablative of special or incidental characteristics.

a. The genitive of quality is found in the adjective phrases êius modī, cûius modī (equivalent to tālis such; quālis of what sort).

Êius modī sunt tempestātēs cōnsecūtae, utī, etc. (B. G. 3.29)
Such storms followed, that, etc.

b. The Genitive of Quality, with numerals, is used to define measures of length, depth , etc. (Genitive of Measure).

fossa trium pedum
a trench of three feet [in depth]

mūrus sēdecim pedum
a wall of sixteen feet [high]

For the Genitive of Quality used to express indefinite value, see § 417.


Partitive Genitive

346. Words denoting a part are followed by the Genitive of the Whole to which the part belongs.

a. Partitive words, followed by the genitive, are:

1. Nouns or Pronouns (cf. also 3 below).

pars mīlitum
part of the soldiers

Quis nostrum
Which of us?

Nihil erat reliquī
There was nothing left.

nēmō eōrum (B. G. 7.66)
not a man of them

Māgnam partem eōrum interfēcērunt. (id. 2.23)
They killed a large part of them.

2. Numerals, Comparatives, Superlatives, and Pronominal words like alius, alter, nūllus, etc.

ūnus tribūnōrum
one of the tribunes (see c., below).

sapientum octāvus (Hor. S. 2.3.296)
the eighth of the wise men

mīlia passuum sescenta (B. G. 4.3)
six hundred miles (thousands of paces)

mâior frātrum
the elder of the brothers

animālium fortiōra
the stronger [of] animals

Suēbōrum gēns est longē maxima et bellicōsissima Germānōrum omnium. (B. G. 4.1)
The tribe of the Suevi is far the largest and most warlike of all the Germans.

alter cōnsulum
one of the [two] consuls

nūlla eārum (B.G. 4.28)
not one of them (the ships)

3. Neuter Adjectives and Pronouns, used as nouns.

tantum spatī
so much [of] space

aliquid nummōrum
a few coins (something of coins)

id locī (or locōrum)
that spot of ground

id temporis
at that time (§ 397.a).

plāna urbis
the level parts of the town

Quid novī
What news?
(what of new?)

paulum frūmentī (B. C. 1.78)
a little grain

plūs dolōris (B. G. 1.20)
more grief

suī aliquid timōris (B. C. 2.29)
some fear of his own (something of his own fear)

Note 1— In classic prose neuter adjectives (not pronominal) seldom take a partitive genitive, except multum, tantum, quantum, and similar words.

Note 2— The genitive of adjectives of the 3rd declension is rarely used partitively.

nihil novī (gen.)
nothing new

nihil memorābile (nom.)
nothing worth mention (not nihil memorābilis)

4. Adverbs, especially those of Quantity and of Place.

parum ōtī
not much ease (too little of ease)

satis pecūniae
money enough
(enough of money)

plūrimum tōtīus Galliae equitātū valet (B. G. 5.3)
is strongest of all Gaul in cavalry

Ubinam gentium sumus? (Cat. 1.9)
Where in the world are we?
(where of nations?)

ubicumque terrārum et gentium (Verr. 5.143)
wherever in the whole world

Rēs erat eō iam locī ut, etc. (Sest. 68)
The business had now reached such a point that, etc.

miseriārum (Iug. 14.3)
to that [level] of misery

inde locī
next in order (thence of place) [poetical]

b. The poets and later writers often use the partitive genitive after adjectives, instead of a noun in its proper case.

Sequimur tē, sāncte deōrum (Aen. 4.576)
We follow thee, O holy deity.
[For sāncte deus (§ 49.g, Note)]

nigrae lānārum (Plin. H. N. 8.193)
black wools
[For nigrae lānae]

expedītī mīlitum (Liv. 30.9)
light-armed soldiers
[For expedītī mīlitēs]

hominum cūnctōs (Ov. M. 4.631)
all men
[For cūnctōs hominēs cf. e.]

c. Cardinal numerals (except mīlia) regularly take the ablative with ē (ex) or instead of the partitive genitive. So also quīdam (a certain one,) commonly, and other words occasionally.

ūnus ex tribūnīs
one of the tribunes
[But also, ūnus tribūnōrum (cf. a.2)]

minumus ex illīs (Iug. 11)
the youngest of them

medius ex tribus (ib.)
the middle one of the three

quīdam ex mīlitibus
certain of the soldiers

ūnus dē multīs (Fin. 2.66)
one of the many

paucī dē nostrīs cadunt (B. G. 1.15)
a few of our men fall

hominem dē comitibus meīs
a man of my companions

d. Uterque (both; properly each) and quisque (each) with nouns are regularly used as adjectives in agreement, but with pronouns take a partitive genitive.

uterque cōnsul
both the consuls 

uterque nostrum
both of us

ūnus quisque vestrum
each one of you

utraque castra
both camps

e. Numbers and words of quantity including the whole of any thing take a case in agreement, and not the partitive genitive. So also words denoting a part when only that part is thought of.

nōs omnēs
all of us (we all)
[Not omnēs nostrum]

Quot sunt hostēs?
How many of the enemy are there?

Cavē inimīcōs, quī multī sunt.
Beware of your enemies, who are many.

multī mīlitēs
many of the soldiers

nēmō Rōmānus
not one Roman


Objective Genitive

347. The Objective Genitive is used with nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

348. Nouns of action, agency, and feeling govern the Genitive of the Object.

cāritās tuī affection for you dēsīderium ōtī longing for rest
vacātiō mūneris relief from duty grātia beneficī gratitude for kindness
fuga malōrum refuge from disaster precātiō deōrum prayer to the gods
contentiō honōrum struggle for office opīniō virtūtis reputation for valor

Note— This usage is an extension of the idea of belonging to (Possessive Genitive). Thus in the phrase odium Caesaris (hate of Cæsar) the hate in a passive sense belongs to Cæsar, as odium, though in its active sense he is the object of it, as hate (cf. a.). The distinction between the possessive (subjective) and the objective genitive is very unstable and is often lost sight of. It is illustrated by the following example: the phrase amor patris (love of a father) may mean love felt by a father, a father's love (Subjective Genitive), or love towards a father (Objective Genitive).

a. The objective genitive is sometimes replaced by a possessive pronoun or other derivative adjective.

mea invidia
my unpopularity (the dislike of which I am the object).
[Cf. odium meī (Har. Resp. 5) hatred of me]

laudātor meus (Att. 1.16.5)
my eulogist (one who praises me)
[Cf. nostrī laudātor (id. 1.14.6).]

Clōdiānum crīmen (Mil. 72)
the murder of Clodius (the Clodian charge)
[As we say, the Nathan murder]

metus hostīlis (Iug. 41)
fear of the enemy (hostile fear)

Ea quae faciēbat, tuā sē fīdūciā facere dīcēbat. (Verr. 5.176)
What he was doing, he said he did relying on you. (with your reliance)

Neque neglegentiā tuā, neque id odiō fēcit tuō. (Ter. Ph. 1016)
He did this neither from neglect nor from hatred of you.

b. Rarely the objective genitive is used with a noun already limited by another genitive.

animī multārum rērum percursiō (Tusc. 4.31)
the mind's traversing of many things

c. A noun with a preposition is often used instead of the objective genitive.

odium in Antōnium (Fam. 10.5.3)
hate of Antony

merita ergā mē (id. 1.1.1)
services to me

meam in tē pietātem (id. 1.9.1)
my devotion to you

impetus in urbem (Phil. 12.29)
an attack on the city

excessus ē vītā (Fin. 3.60)
departure from life
[Also, excessus vītae (Tusc. 1.27.)]

adoptiō in Domitium (Tac. Ann. 12.25)
the adoption of Domitius
[A late and bold extension of this construction.]

Note — So also in late writers the dative of reference (cf. § 366.b)

longō bellō māteria (Tac. H. 1.89)
resources for a long war

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.