Re: Distinguishing Genitive from Ablative

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 15:30:26 EST

At 11:18 AM -0800 2/9/00, Christian Cryder wrote:
>Hi folks,
>Apologies in advance if this question is too simple. This is my first
>post, and while I had several years of greek in college, that was 9 years
>ago and I'm quite rusty. I'm currently working on rectifying this
>situation by working through my old grammars. If my questions are beneath
>the level of this list, please feel free to redirect me to a more
>appropriate forum.
>My specific question is this: How does one distinguish between ablative
>and genitive forms? I know that in some cases it's obvious based on the
>context. But in other's it seems like it's harder to tell. For instance:

Well, it's more likely PROS TON POTAMON--the dative meaning "to" is
normally the name of a person to or for whom something is done (indirect
object), while "to" with a verb of motion is PROS or EIS or PARA or the
like with an accusative.
>It seems to me this could be taken several ways:
>1. The teacher sends the servants from the house to the river (abl)
>2. The teacher sends the servants of the house to the river (gen)
>In other words, if I specifically wanted to convey the idea that these
>were "household servants" being sent to the river, how would I do so?

You would write as it is written in the verse you cite. Ordinarily when you
have an ablatival genitive that clearly has the sense of "from" it will
have one of the prepositions regularly used with an ablatival genitive: EK,
APO, PARA. Technically speaking the genitive with hUPO is also ablatival
but it makes more sense to speak that way of earlier Attic Greek. The
"ablatival" genitive will also be used with prepositions meaning "without"
(ANEU). There are other uses of the genitive with prepositions but they
aren't necessarily ablatival. Frankly you'd probably do better thinking of
the meaning attaching to the prepositional phrases APO TOU PLOIOU, EK THS
OIKIAS, PARA TOU BASILEWS, ANEU ARGURIOU, etc. rather than trying to
distinguish ablatival, partitive, and what I call pertinentive functions of
the genitive case-ending.

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

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