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In my Oxford Latin Course 2 chapter 21 there is a sentence 'paucis post diebus ubi Orbilius pueros dimisit'. Why is it not 'paucos post dies'? I remember that the preposition 'post' + accusative, doesnt it?

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In this case, post is being used as an adverb, not a preposition; essentially, it's being treated as a comparative adverb*, and the ablative paucis diebus is expressing the 'degree of difference,' as it can do also with other comparative adverbs and adjectives**. So literally, the phrase means 'after by a few days.'

That said, paucos post dies, where post is a preposition patterning with an accusative, also works and has equivalent meaning.

* Just as the English word 'after' is, in origin, a comparative.

** For example, multo felicior, 'much happier' (literally, 'happier by much').

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Confusion between accusative/ ablative can occur with other expressions of time. The duration of a period of time, i.e. "how long" it lasted, requires the accusative. Occasionally the preposition, per, is used:

for two years = duos annos;

for many days = (per) multos dies.

But for "how long ago" something happened, you use the adverb, abhinc, normally with the accusative; but, it can also be used with the ablative, though this is less common:

two years ago = abhinc duos annos;

three days ago = tribus abhinc diebus.

Perhaps you are already aware that the adverb comes after at least one of the relevant words, in the ablative?

  • The information here is, in the main, correct; but this doesn't actually answer the question, does it? Unless you mean to suggest that paucis post diebus is an example of 'confusion between accusative/ ablative' and therefore somehow incorrect, which is simply not the case: paucis post diebus is a legitimate alternative construction to paucos post dies. – cnread Aug 5 at 20:27
  • @cnread: it's an adjunct to the Q, hence "with other expressions of time". The OP seemed to be concerned about the circumstances dictating the use of the acc./ abl. cases. – tony Aug 5 at 22:10

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