To mean something that is not owned legally, not owned with the meaning of "being the owner", like when I say "We have a pope", could I use "habere" or only the dative or genitive of possession?

Is the meaning the same between those 2 structures? When to use the one and when to use the other one?

With something I really own, unlike the pope, but like a dog or a house, is this different?

Doesn't "habere" mean to own, with the meaning of "to be the master"?


1 Answer 1


This answer only considers the nuances of habere, not a comparison between it and the possessive dative. The possessive genitive is different; it functions mostly like the English genitive and is used to express things like "my dog" rather than "I have a dog".

The example of the pope actually makes a good example for habere. The canonical announcement upon the selection of a new pope begins:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam.

We have a pope, but we do not own him or rule him in any reasonable sense. One could try to argue that this is post-classical, but no.

Please take a look at the entry for habere in Lewis & Short for a classical view. It has a wide variety of uses, including clear ownership (having money) and clear lack thereof (having a brother).

The verb habere is very broad, and only rarely does it have the nuance of "to be the master [of]". Assigning this meaning to it in general is not justified at all.

  • It's already very interesting.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:33
  • It was exactly why I asked this question, a Latin teacher told me it was post-classical, but I had some doubts.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:34
  • 1
    @Quidam It's always good to doubt your teacher, be it Latin or otherwise. (But don't be too vocal about your doubts in front of them!)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:47
  • 1
    I am my own teacher, I teach myself latin using the internet and books (I didn't have the chance to attend Latin classes at school), but I debate a lot about Latin words, in order to learn. Anyway, I'm a bit a St Thomas, if someone tells me it's the rule, I need to see this rule.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 15:04

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