Ablative of Agent (1/2)

The ablative of agent is expressed with ā or ab, and denotes an agent associated with a passive verb. In basic cases, this means the [ab + ablative] unit would be the nominative subject in an active construction.

  • Hats are worn by these men, but scorned by those men: capellī ab hīs gestantur, sed ab illīs spernantur.
  • made active
  • These men wear hats, but those men scorn hats: hī capellōs gestant, sed illī spernant.
  • He was brought to trial by his sons: ā fīliīs in iūdicium vocātus est.
  • made active
  • His sons brought him to trial: eum fīliī in iūdicium vocāvērunt.

According to AG, this construction is developed from the ablative of source. “The agent is conceived as the source or author of the action.” -AG, 405n2

  • How is this not a chicken/egg scenario? They don’t work to justify their claim, but it might be that claiming a ‘source’ is a perceived ‘agent’ offers agency to all things, whereas claiming an ‘agent’ is a ‘source’ merely relates a relationship between two things.

The ablative agent may appear with active verbs, but only where they are intransitive and allude to a passive meaning.

  • She was killed by the elephants: periit ab elephantīs

The Essential AG: 405, 405a

Objects Direct and Indirect

Pardon the vacation, everyone. I’ve spent the last week cramming for and completing the GRE.

Direct Objects are “immediately affected by the action of a verb” within a standard sentence.

  • Direct objects always follow transitive verbs

Indirect Objects are less than immediately affected by the action of the verb

  • This definition captures the indirect sensibility of genitive and ablative indirect objects, which are not your standard ‘recipient of gift’ phenomena
  • Indirect objects are immediately affected by the milieu of a subject-verb-direct object ‘unit’, regardless of whether this ‘unit’ states all parts explicitly
  • Indirect objects may therefore follow transitive or intransitive verbs

The accusative is the case proper to direct objects, yet an English sentence containing a direct object, where translated to Latin, may feature the other cases as well.
Direct and Indirect in Latin

The following sentences, in English, all feature ‘girl’ as direct object, yet in Latin receive either direct or indirect variations, dependent on the particular syntax of the Latin verb:

  • puellam videō: I see the girl.
  • puellae serviō: I serve the girl. (dative, indirect)
  • puellae misereor: I pity the girl. (genitive, indirect)
  • puellā ūtor: I make use of the girl. (ablative, indirect)

Note that the dative usage holds the regular ‘recipient of gift’ formula that we’d imagine in English, yet the genitive and ablative examples feature non-active verbs, which couldn’t take any object in English without a preposition.

Indeed, the conservative structure of Latin syntax allows Latin to omit many English prepositions when constructing subject-verb-direct object units:

  • petit aprum: he aims at the boar.
  • laudem affectat: he strives for praise.

Where the direct object/subject transition, in English, requires a preposition, Latin merely requires a shift in case:

  • pater fīlium vocat: the father calls his son
  • fīlius patre vocātur: the son is called by his father

The Essential AG: 274-5