the accusative of duration and the ablative of time within which / by Anthony Gibbins

Today’s post is just a short note on an interesting point of grammar concerning time. There are three important time expressions in Latin; one that tells you when something happened, one that tells you how long something lasted, and another that tells you the time within which something occurred. Each one conveniently contain the name of the Case that they use within their title; Ablative of Time When, Accusative of Duration, Ablative of Time Within Which. Today’s post will concern only the final two.

Let us choose four Romans; Julia, Marcus, Antonia and Decimus. omnes Romae nati sunt they were all born in Rome. Note the use of Romae, which is in the seldom seen Locative Case, to mean in or at Rome.

Julia lived in Rome for ten years. Julia Romae decem annos habitavit. Accusative of Duration.

Marcus has lived in Rome for twenty years. Marcus Romae viginti annos habitat. Accusative of Duration. Note the use of the simple Present Tense habitat he lives to means he has lived.

Antonia will return to Rome within five years. Antonia Romam quinque annis reveniet. Ablative of Time Within Which.

Decimus has not lived in Rome for fifteen years. Decimus Romae quindecim annis non habitat. Note that although the English reads for fifteen years, Latin treats this as Time Within Which. There is an example of this on today’s page. nemo plus quam mille annis [librum] viderat Nobody had seen the book for more than one thousand years.

Once, in the library, he made me more certain (ie: he informed me) about an ancient book of great importance, which nobody had seen for more than one thousand years. He said that he knew where a copy of the book had been hidden.