From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Aug 29 1998 - 22:56:53 EDT

At 9:16 PM -0500 8/29/98, Paul F. Evans wrote:
>George or Carl,
>Though the idea of a partitive genitive (if I have even expressed that
>properly) has been discussed before in this forum, please give me a run down
>once more so that I can get it in my mind! I think that we can add the
>genitive to Carl's comment about the complexity of the accusative in most

In Indo-European languages there is a "partitive" conception that generally
has some distinct mode of expression; in Greek and Latin it uses the
genitive case endings but is really different from the true genitive, which
is essentially an adjectival case, and also different from the ablative
which fused with the Greek genitive at an early date, the ablative
expressing the fundamental notion of separation or apartness. The idea of
the partitive is "some of X (whatever the word)" or "a part of X." In older
Greek the "partitive genitive" might be used as the subject or object of a
verb (as, for instance in French: "Des amis sont venus"--'Some friends
came'). In classical and Koiné Greek one of the more common partitive
usages is with verbs of perception like AISQANOMAI or AKOUW or even
hAPTOMAI, which normally take a partitive genitive object. A partitive
genitive may express time when it is vague: NUKTOS "during the night" = "at
some time in the night" or with a preposition it may express general
position, EPI THS QALATTHS "somewhere on the sea" or EPI TOU OROUS
"somewhere on the mountain." I think what makes the genitive case difficult
is precisely the fact that the same case ending has come to serve what were
originally quite distinct grammatical functions of three different cases, a
pertinentive ("belonging to"), an ablative ("apart from," "away from") and
a partitive ("some/a part of").

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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