When is a preposition required with nouns in the ablative?

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
I am wondering which cases govern inclusion of the preposition with nouns in the ablative. I can only think of one situation which recommends this: when the ablative form of the noun, in the absence of diacritical marks, is identical to another case form of the noun (for instance, abstract nouns in -ia, where the ablative -iā is identical to the nominative -ia if the macron is not used), but I am sure that there are more formal instances, and I am wondering what they might be.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
When the preposition is constructed with the ablative.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Ablatives of means, ablative absolutes, ablatives of quality, ablatives of comparison and ablatives of time at and within which (I think I've got most of them but I could be forgetting something) typically don't take prepositions. Other sorts of ablatives — those denoting accompaniment or lack thereof ("with" or "without"), location ("in"), separation ("from" or "out of") and other things that typically involve prepositions in English — usually take prepositions in Latin too.

Now, the above is a generalization and there are exceptions and particulars.
 

Dantius

Homo Sapiens
Staff member
I can only think of one situation which recommends this: when the ablative form of the noun, in the absence of diacritical marks, is identical to another case form of the noun (for instance, abstract nouns in -ia, where the ablative -iā is identical to the nominative -ia if the macron is not used),
As far as I'm aware this is not a thing. First-declension nouns are just as likely to have abl. without prepositions as any other declension, and it's clear from the context.
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
Ablatives of means...typically don't take prepositions. Other sorts of ablatives...things that typically involve prepositions in English — usually take prepositions in Latin too.
But, means is always indicated by a preposition in English: "by", "through", or even more overtly, the prepositional phrase "by means of". In addition, I have just read that the ablative of agent, which would seem to be very closely related to means, is always accompanied by ā/ab. I'm curious: why does means go without the preposition, and does it ever represent one of the exceptions that you noted?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I didn't mean to say that prepositions were used in Latin everywhere they are used in English. What I meant is that they tend to be except in the constructions that I listed in the first sentence of my post.
 

Dantius

Homo Sapiens
Staff member
Agent and means are definitely similar, but in most cases there's a very clear distinction. Means is the thing you use to do something, and agent is the person who does it. In a sentence like Sychaeus magna cum crudelitate a Pygmalione ferro interficitur, the 3 ablative phrases are clearly doing different things in the sentence.
There's a couple instances where they can become harder to distinguish, like "haec eadem noctu excubitoribus ac firmis praesidiis tenebantur" (from Caesar), where excubitoribus is an ablative of means even though it's technically a personal agent, but those are rare and in that circumstance I think it's fairly intuitive why Caesar would conceive of them as a means of holding whatever haec refers to rather than the agent that held them.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
Sychaeus magna cum crudelitate a Pygmalione ferro interficitur, the 3 ablative phrases are clearly doing different things in the sentence.
I read somewhere that the ablative is like "the black hole" of Latin grammar, sucking in all kinds of purposes. Now I can see why!
..."haec eadem noctu excubitoribus ac firmis praesidiis tenebantur" (from Caesar)
Well, who was it that wrote that Caesar was easy?
 
Top