Constructions with Abstineō

Abstaining from an object in Latin can leave you with one of three grammatical constructions, given here in the order of frequency:

  • abstinēre aliquid/sē + ablative of object
  • abstinēre aliquid/sē (absolute)
  • absintēre aliquid/sē + genitive of object (cf. Greek ἀπεχἐσθαι τινός)

Here some examples of how and from what the Romans refrained—

  • virgō nuptā abstinet — virgins abstain from marriage
  • vir sapit quī urbis rēbus abstineat — the wise man holds off from politics
  • mē ostreīs et muraenīs facile abstinēbam — I easily abstained from oysters and eels — Cicero, Ad Familiārēs 7.26 (they make him nauseated)
  • mihi abstinē invidere! — don’t bother pitying me!
  • animum coluit abstinentem pecūniae — she cherished a frugal mind

Genitive of Friendship

Yeah, I made that genitive up, but only to describe a real phenomenon in Latin! Some adjectives of likeness, nearness, and belonging that normally take the dative will occasionally take a possessive genitive. This transition is especially common where the adjective approaches the force of a noun.

  • Fuit hōc quondam proprium populī Rōmānī: this was once peculiar to the Roman people. (~a peculiar trait of)
  • Fuit semper amīcus Cicerōnis: he was always friendly with Cicero. (~a friend of)
  • Adeō patris similis es: you’re just like your master. (~a chip off the old block)

Here’s the full list of adjectives that perform this function—

  • aequālis,  aequāle: of the same age (~a contemporary of)
  • affīnis, affīne: related to by marriage (~kinsman of)
  • aliēnus, -a, -um: belonging to another (~a stranger to)
  • cōgnātus, -a, -um: fellow-born (~kinsman of)
  • commūnis, commūne: common to (~kinsman of)
  • cōnsanguineus, -a, -um: sharing a bloodline (~kinsman of)
  • contrārius, -a, -um: opposite (~the opposite of)
  • dispār: unlike (dispar suī, in philosophical diction)
  • familiāris, familiāre: of close relation (~intimate of)
  • fīnitimus, -a, -um: adjoining (~neighbor of)
  • inimīcus, -a, -um: hostile to (~enemy of)
  • necessārius, -a, -um: connected with (~component of)
  • pār: equal to (~a match)
  • pecūliāris, pecūliāre: personal (~peculiar trait of)
  • propinquus, -a, -um: neighboring (~neighbor of)
  • proprius, -a, -um: personal (~peculiar trait of)
  • sacer, sacra, sacrum: holy (~holy with respect to some deity)
  • similis, simile: alike to (~spitting image of)
  • superstes: surviving (~survivor of)
  • vīcīnus, -a, -um: neighboring (~neighbor of)

Note that this genitive construction is actually more common for proprius, -a, -um than the dative construction.

Similis with the genitive is especially common with personal pronouns (meī, tuī, suī) and within the fixed phrase vērī similis (probable).

Passive Datives Retained

If a verb operates with an indirect dative, this dative is retained even in the passive variation.

  • They announced these misfortunes to Cato: Cātōnī haec miserea nuntiābant.
  • This misfortunes were announced to Cato: Cātonī haec miserea nuntiābantur.
  • She offered the queen the swans: rēgīnae cycnōs obtulit.
  • The swans were offered to the queen: rēgīnae cycnī oblātī sunt.
  • They protected the children from the coming arrows: puerīs aggressās sagittās prohibuērunt.
  • The arrows were prevented from reaching the children: puerīs aggressae sagittae prohibitae sunt.

Looking at the Latin, it’s pretty clear that verbs of protecting, defending and prohibiting prefer active constructions, whereas verbs of announcing, giving, presenting etc. are more flexible.

The Essential AG: 365

Double Constructions with Verbs of Defending, Prohibiting and Protecting

Normally, we can conceive that interclūdō (hold off) and prohibeō (prohibit) would take an accusative Person with an ablative Object (of separation).

  • He blocked their every approach: hōs totō aditū interclūsit.
  • They prohibit our approach: nōs adventū prohibent.

However, verbs of of defending, prohibiting and protecting may also take the accusative Object and dative Person.

  • He blocked their every approach: hīs totum aditum interclūsit.
  • They prohibit our approach: nōbis adventus prohibent.

Verbs with this Construction:

  • dēfendō, dēfendere, dēfensī, dēfensus: to defend
  • prohibeō, prohibēre, prohibuī, prohibitus: to prohibit or defend
  • interclūdo, interclūdere, interclūsī, interclūsus: to hold off
  • dētineō, dētinēre, dētenuī, dētentus: to hold off
  • muniō, munīre, munīvī, munītus: to wall off, defend
  • servō, servāre, servāvī, servātus: to defend

Recall that interdīcō is an exception: taking dative+accusative or dative+ablative.

For more:
The Essential AG: 364n2

A Forbidding Post

interdīco, interdīcere, interdīxī, interdīctus: forbid
Interdīco (forbid) gets a note of it’s own in A&G because it’s case constructions have varied over time.

  • Earlier writers present interdīco + dative Person & ablative Thing Forbidden
  • Later writers use interdīco + dative Person & accusative Thing Forbidden


  • They forbade him fire and water: aquā et īgnī eō interdīxērunt.*
  • Shall we forbid the women from wearing purple: fēminīs purpurae ūsū interdīcēmus?
  • He forbade the actors from appearing on the stage: histriōnibus scaenam accedere interdīxit.

*This was the standard formally for expressing ‘he is banished’

Also, I discovered during the construction of this post that ‘forbid’ is never the past tense of the English ‘forbid.’ It is usually ‘forbade’ and rarely ‘forbad.’ I hope I wasn’t the only person making this mistake… for 21 years…

The Essential AG: 365n1

Verbs with Double Constructions

Many Latin verbs display flexibility of case use. For instance, the following verbs will take either (a) accusative Person + dative Gift; or (b) dative Person + ablative Gift.

  • dōnō, dōnāre, dōnāvī, dōnātus: give
  • impertiō, impertīre, impertīvī, impertītus: bestow
  • induō, induere, induī, indūtus: put on (clothes)
  • exuō, exuere, exuī, exūtus: take off (clothes)
  • adspergō, adspergere, aspersī, adspersus: sprinkle, scatter, splatter (alt. aspergō, aspergere, etc.)
  • īnspergō, īnspergo, īnspergere, īnspersī, īnspersus: sprinkle, scatter ‘into’
  • circumdō, circumdāre, circumdedī, circumdatus: enclose, encircle


  • She gives her daughter a car: Fīliae autoraedam dōnat.
  • She gives her daughter a car: Fīliam autoraedā dōnat.
  • [More formally, we might say ‘she presents her daughter with a car.’]
  • He puts the robe on his son: Nātō vestem induit.
  • He puts the robe on his son: Nātum veste induit.
  • [More formally, we might say ‘he dresses his son with a robe.’]
  • I sprinkled the altar with water: Ārae aquam aspersī.
  • I sprinkled the altar with water: Āram aquā aspersī.
  • [More formally, for the first ‘I sprinkled water on the altar.’]
  • I enclosed the horses with a fence: equīs caevam circumdedī.
  • I enclosed the horses with a fence: equēs caevā circumdedī.
  • [More formally, for the first ‘I placed a fence around the horses.’]

The Essential AG: 364