In our last lesson, we discussed the genitive case. We learned that there is a preposition inside the genitive case. It isn’t completely evident, but it’s implied, and it comes out during translation into English. The dative case also has this going on! Though Latin has a lot of prepositions, some of the ones we use most often in English are right there inside the cases.
The Flexible Indirect Object
In English, we have two ways of denoting that something receives the direct object, but in Latin they are the same thing:
Both of these would be translated into Latin the same way. (No I do not know the word for prize, or if there even is a word for prize. This is a grammar lesson, not a vocabulary lesson!) But out of Latin, there are two options for translating it into English, which is what you see above.
More than an Indirect Object
In English, there is an idea implied in the indirect object that also comes across in Latin and will be something you have to watch for when you are practicing translation. There is a sense in which the prize is for John. John did something awesome — let’s say he saved a child from drowning. Mrs. Smith gives him a prize. John is, to some extent, the purpose of the prize. There would be no prize-giving were it not for John’s valiant actions.
Latin takes this one step further than English. On occasion, the dative case can also be translated as a “for” prepositional phrase. If I was translating the sentence “The prize was for John” into Latin, “for John” would be in the dative case.
In addition to this (yes, it’s a little complicated, but stay with me) sometimes there are English prepositional phrases which function as an indirect object, but we would only translate them into prepositional phrases. Here is an example:
The reason for this is that, in this case, there is a nuance in what I mean by “indirect object.” Typically, we think of an indirect object as the object receiving the direct object. In this case, the phrase “to the passengers” receives the verb. The direct object is “flight.” The indirect object is “passengers.” This is similar to the idea the prize was for John. Here, the announcement benefits the passengers.
Notice that the “to” here does not convey motion. If you see a “to” prepositional phrase and are asked to translate it into Latin, one way you can test whether you’ll put it in the dative or not is to ask yourself whether or not it conveys motion. If it does, it isn’t in the dative case. The “to” prepositions you find in the dative will all convey purpose or benefit — they’ll be more abstract rather than concrete.
Let’s Update the Chart
In our very first lesson, there was a simple chart to explain the cases to us. I’ve updated the chart to show what we’ve learned lately about the genitive and dative cases.
See all the prepositions in the ablative case down there at the bottom? We’ll talk about that … someday.
Read More in this Series:
Lesson 1: Understanding the Five Basic Cases
Lesson 2: What Does Declining Mean?
Lesson 3: A Preposition Inside the Genitive Case
Lesson 4: A Preposition Inside the Dative Case ←you are here
Lesson 5: How to Determine the Gender of a 3rd Declension Noun (A Flow Chart)
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