Syntax: dative Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in Latin Language

Dative is the case of the indirect object. It  is used to designate the person or thing concerned by the verbal action. From this overall view we will explain the specific uses that we can find in Latin: dative of interest, dative of purpose and double dative. The dative does not only work as a  verbal complement, but it also can be adnominal dative, accompanying nouns or adjectives, with the same meaning as verbal complements.

Dative of interest

It is the basic and general notion of the dative case, and expresses the person interested in the verbal action, either because of receiving a benefit (dativus commodi) or suffering damage (dativus incommodi):

          Tibi aras, tibi seris, tibi metes
          Tibi, nōn mihi, errās

All other dative cases are derived from this dative of interest, herewe will briefly review some of these specific uses:

  • Possessive dative: it complements the verb sum (to be).

Liber est mihi = I have a book

  • Agent dative: the dative case expresses the agent complement with passive periphrastic conjugation.

Liber legendus est mihi

  • Dativus iudicantis or relation dative: expresses the person for whom it is true what it is being stated

Cynthia formōsa est multīs

  • Ethical dative: it is the dative of personal pronouns which express a special sentimental value.

                    Quid tibi vīs?


Dative of purpose

Usually referred to things (not to people), the purpose dative expresses the target of the verbal action, ie. the concept that is particularly involved or ‘interested’ in the verbal action:

Auxiliō currere = run in aid

The dative expressing purpose has the same meaning of complement quo, and therefore coexists with other ways to express the same complement: ad aetatem agundam/aetati agundae. And in the same way, in some contexts it can have a local meaning (direction dative):

It clamor caelō


Double dative

The double dative is the simultaneous occurrence of of a dative of interest and a dative of purpose as complements of the same verb. This is common with verbs like mittere (to send), venire (to come, to arrive), relinquere (to leave) and with the verb sum (to be):

  Caesar quinque cohortēs castrīs praesidiō relinquit.
          Caesaris adventus militibus gaudiō fuit.



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