How the Dative Case got its Name / by Anthony Gibbins

Today’s page contains a clear and straightforward example of the Dative Case - doing the very thing that gives it its name. Let’s take the opportunity to have a closer look.

Imagine an alternate Legonium universe in which Marcellus did NOT misplace his envelope on the way to see the bank manager. He reaches into his pocket and pulls it out. Marcellus, in this alternative tale, is now holding (tenet) the envelope. Marcellus involucrum tenet. Marcellus is the Subject of the Verb (he is holding), and so Marcellus is written in the Nominative Case. The envelope is the Object of the Verb (it is being held), and so involucrum is written in the Accusative Case. All good.

Now he wants to give the envelope to the bank manager. Marcellus gives the envelope to Augustus. The Verb he gives is dat. Marcellus is the Subject of dat (he is giving) and involucrum is the Object (it is being given). Marcellus involucrum dat. But where does Augustus fit into this sentence? Marcellus is giving the envelope to Augustus. Latin has a special Case for just this circumstance, and it takes its very name from the verb dat. It is the Dative Case. Augustus in the Dative Case is written Augusto. And so our final sentence would be Marcellus involucrum Augusto dat Marcellus gives the envelope to Augustus.

tradit hands over is a Verb closely related to dat. Read the final sentence of today’s page; The postman hands over a letter to Miranda tabellarius epistulam Mirandae tradit.  tabellarius is in the Nominative Case, epistulam in the Accusative, and Mirandae in the Dative. Too easy.

Now the Dative Case would be of limited use if that was all it was good for. Luckily it has spread its domain; it can be also be used to tell something to someone, show something to someone and do something for someone. Let’s imagine what might happen when Claudia returns from Pompeii.

Claudia donum Mirandae dat. Claudia gives a present to Miranda.

Claudia fabulam Mirandae narrat. Claudia tells a story to Miranda.

Claudia picturam Mirandae ostendit. Claudia shows a picture to Miranda.

Miranda cenam Claudiae parat. Miranda prepares dinner for Claudia.

Soon someone knocks on the door. Miranda hurries to the door and opens it. The postman is here! The postman hands over a letter to Miranda.