not all objects are created equal / by Anthony Gibbins

Last week a student is First Year Latin (we call it Form I) raised his hand to indicate he had a question. I wandered over to find him flicking through the dictionary at the back of the Oxford Latin Course. Why, he wanted to know, did some Verbs have +dat written after them? The conversation went something like this:

m: Well, you know what an Object is, yes?

d: Yes.

m: bene. What Case is the Object written in?

d: The Accusative Case.

m: Correct. Now, some Verbs have an Object not in the Accusative Case, but in the Dative Case.

d: Oh.

m: And the textbook shows this by writing +dat after them.

d: Okay.

m: (just showing off now) There are even a few - very few - Verbs that have an Object in the Ablative Case.

d: (just being polite) That’s nice.

That explanation is clear, easy and - as far as I can see - doesn’t cause too much trouble down the line. The only problem is, it may also be wrong. Take ei credo I trust her from today’s page. Is ei an Object, written in the Dative Case, because that is just how credere likes its Objects? That is certainly how I think about it, but that doesn’t make it right. ‘Bradley’s Arnold’ Latin Prose Composition, for example, clearly states that credere is - here - Intransitive, that is - it doesn’t take an object! And that ei is something else entirely.

Things are not made any easier by the fact that credere CAN take an Object in the Accusative Case. vitam ei credo means I trust my life to her, where vitam life is an Accusative Object. And then there is that handful of synonyms, where one (seemingly) has its Object in the Accusative, the other in the Dative. Are we to say that only one of them is truely an Object?

ei succurro                 eam iuvo                    I help her

ei placeo                     eam delecto               I please her

ei impero                    eam iubeo                  I order her

ei medeor                   eam curo                    I heal her

ei suadeo                    eam hortor                 I urge her

I do not have a definitive answer to this, although I know how I prefer to think of it. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts if you feel like sharing them.

‘You meanwhile,’ Claudia says, ‘seem busy.’ Claudia briefly pauses speaking. ‘Jessica seems honourable. Do you trust her, Miranda?’ ‘I trust her,’ Miranda replies uncertainly.