A Reader’s Diēgest

Here are a few notes on the Latin for day—diēs.

1. Diēs is a fifth-declension noun.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 4.34.41 PM(photo credit: Wiktionary)

2. Diēs is typically masculine (like most fifth declension nouns), but is occasionally feminine, especially in fixed phrases and general reference to time or dates.

  • cōnstitūtā diē : on a fixed day
  • longa diēs intervēnit : a long time had passed

3. Diēs is one of only two nouns in the fifth declension that is entirely declined. Rēs is  the other such noun—all other fifth declension nouns are wanting in the plural (or at least the plural genitive, dative and ablative) in extant Latin literature.

The Essential AG: 96, 97, 98a

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Dative of Agent (2/2)

This post considers places where the Dative of Agent invades what would normally be constructions suitable to the Ablative of Agent.

With Passive Perfect Participles

With passive verbs, the Dative of Agent is most common with perfect passive participles, especially when these are virtually adjectival.

  • It has been deliberated and established by me: mihi dēlīberātum et cōnstitūtum est.
  • This has been provided for by you: tibi haec prōvīsa est.
  • The lights have made me dizzy: lūcibus cālīgātus sum.

Note that, with the final expression, lūcibus may be either Dative or an Ablative of Instrument (but not an Ablative of Agent, since there is no ā/ab). In this case, assume it’s an Ablative of Instrument, which is altogether more common, especially with something inanimate like ‘lights.’


With Passive Verb

The Dative of Agent is not unheard of with standard passive verbs, especially with the poets.

  • He is not seen by anyone: nōn cernitur ūllī.
  • He was favored by the nymph: Nymphō fovēbātur.

With Videor

The construction ‘it seems to x‘ is expressed with videor, vidērī, visus + Dative of Agent.

  • He seemed to me a horse with wings: mihi equis cum ālīs vidēbātur.
  • It seemed otherwise to the gods: dīs aliter vīsum est.
  • It seems to me that you are a slob: sordidus mihi vidēris.

With Probō

According to AG, probāre takes a Dative of Reference, but it’s so regularly attached that it seems like a Dative of Agent. I’m not sure I buy this, but here’s what they mean:

  • This view was approved by both him and me: haec sententia et illī et mihi probābātur.
  • This plan was not approved by the majority: hōc cōnsilium plēris nōn probābātur.

The Essential AG: 375

Ethical Dative

I’ve always found the ‘Ethical Dative’ to be a very silly classification, and it turns out A&G agree.

“It is really a faded variety of the Dative of Reference.” -AG 380.

How it Works

The Ethical Dative shows a “certain interest” felt by the subject of the dative. I gather that it’s more or less a Dative of Reference restricted to particular idiomatic moments in the Latin language.

  • He serves his own father: suō sibi servit patrī.
  • What do you want: quid tibī vīs?
  • What is Celsus doing: quid mihi Celsus agit?

Note how, in the last example, the Dative is more or less beneath the threshold of translation. It has a certain sense where reading it in Latin, but it’s not a critical measure of the sentence’s meaning.


I feel I’ve always struggled to gather this Dative together, because I’ve attempted to associate it with ‘ethics’ in the ‘what is the Good?’ sense, when it’s really meant to express ‘ethics’ in the ‘ἐθικός‘ (habitual) sense. Any thoughts on this?

The Essential AG: 380

The Latin Supine

Formation of the Supine

It’s a rare bit of grammar, but we’re lucky, because it’s simple. It takes one of only four forms:

  • The supine is always a fourth-declension (the -us, -ūs declension) noun, and always appears in the accusative or ablative
  • Moreover, these forms will always have an initial t- or s-, leaving four possible endings: -tum, -sum, -tū, and -sū

The accusatives move with verbs; the ablatives move with adjectives: vēnit spectātum [he came to see]; mirabile dictū [marvelous to tell]

You have the endings, now consider the stems:

  • The supine stem is always identical to the perfect passive participle’s stem
  • amātus: amātum, amātū; rectus: rectum, rectū

Uses of the Supine

As I mentioned just above, there are four forms with two endings, and therefore two uses:

The supine accusatives, -tum and -sum are “used after verbs of motion to express purpose” (AG, 509)

  • nam vēnī dē tumultū te admonitum, quem cum abīrēs linquistī: and I’m here to remind you, of the mess you left when you ran away
  • pārentēs abībit inventum postrīdiē: she leaves tomorrow to find her parents

Not that the supine is a singular accusative, even where it follow a plural verb, or takes a plural object

The supine ablatives, -tū and – are used with a handful of adjectives, as a means of reference 

  • iste senex foedus et visū et olfactū est: that geezer is hard on the eyes and the nose
  • nulla optima via catō deglūbū est: there is no best way to skin a cat

The ablatives may also appears with fāsnefās and opus, again as a means of reference 

  • this is unholy to say: hōc nefās dictū est
  • this letter is a burden to write: literra opus scriptū est. 

The supine ablatives are commonly attached to statements about the senses, or statement denoting easy or difficulty.

Essential AG: 94.b; 509-10