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Ablative Case


Ablative Types:

The Ablative is generally translated into English with a preposition in a prepositional phrase. It is used in many ways in Latin, both with and without prepositions. It can be tricky to figure out the best way to translate a given Latin ablative.

(Examples below.)

Bennett's New Latin Grammar says there are 3 basic forms of the ablative case:

  1. The ablative proper
  2. The instrumental
  3. The locative.

The word ablative comes from the Latin verb aufero, which comes from ab 'away' + fero 'take, carry', so the ablative proper refers to 'taking away'. The other two uses, locative and instrumental ablatives, were later additions.

Ablative Proper:

The genuine uses of the ablative are divided into 4 types of ablatives proper:
  1. ablative of separation,
  2. ablative of source,
  3. ablative of agent, and
  4. ablative of comparison.


Summa cum laude is a well-known use of the Latin ablative. It happens to be an instrumental ablative, and more specifically, an ablative of manner. The instrumental uses of the ablative are divided into ablatives of:
  1. means,
  2. cause,
  3. manner,
  4. attendant circumstances,
  5. accompaniment,
  6. association,
  7. degree of difference,
  8. quality,
  9. price,
  10. specification, and
  11. the ablative absolute.

Locative Ablative:

The locative uses of the ablative are divided into ablatives of:
  1. place and
  2. time.
Ablatives of place are divided into ablatives of:
  1. place where and
  2. place from which;
ablatives of time are divided into ablatives of:
  1. time at which and
  2. time within which.

Manner, Accompaniment, Place, Time, Separation, Etc.:

Some verbs require ablatives with a preposition, and some require ablatives without prepositions:
  • Ablatives of manner and accompaniment often take the prepostion "cum".
  • Ablatives of place may take the prepositions in, ab, or ex (or no prepostion).
  • Ablatives of time may also take the preposition in and
  • the ablative of separation may take the preposition ab.
This is not an exhaustive list.

Prepositions With Ablative Complements:

Some prepositions in Latin take the accusative case as a complement; others take the ablative. The following are prepositions that take the ablative:

"From" prepositions
a, ab = from, away from
e, ex = from, out of
de = from, down from, concerning, about

"With" prepositions
cum = with, together with
sine = without

"Place" prepositions
in = in, on
sub = under
pro = for

Ablative Absolute:

The Ablative Absolute is often translated into English by means of a subordinate clause because the subject of the Ablative Absolute is separate from the rest of the sentence. It generally consists of a noun or pronoun modified by a participle. Sometimes there is a noun or adjective instead of a participle. Sometimes an Ablative Absolute includes an infinitive.

Some Ablatives in "Res Gestae Divi Augusti" 12:

Cum [ex Hispania Galliaque (1)], [rebus in iis provincis prospere gestis (2)], Romam redi, [Ti. Nerone P. Qintilio consulibus (3)], aram Pacis Augustae senatus [pro reditu meo (4)] consacrandam censuit ad campum Martium, [in qua (5)] magistratus et sacerdotes virginesque Vestales anniversarium sacrificium facere iussit. English Translation

My reading; there are other possibilities:
  1. prepositional place from which (from Spain and Gaul)
  2. ablative absolute (when matters in those provinces had been carried out well)
  3. ablative absolute (when Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius were consuls)
  4. prepositional place (for my return)
  5. prepositional place where (on which)

If you have other suggestions, please email them to me.

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