Vīta est spīrandī mūnere fruī, mors prīvārī. Hoc autem spīrandī mūnus apud plērōsque in bonīs dicitur.

Livet er å nyte Guds* åndingsgave; døden å berøves [den]. Denne pustingas gave anses dermed i de flestes øyne for et gode.)

Life is to enjoy God’s gift of breath; death is to be robbed [of it]. This gift of breathing is by most people considered a good.

― Ambrosius, Dē bonō mortis 1.2.

Now why is it in bonīs instead of simply an accusative? (And why the plural? Other places in the text, he does not seem to have a need for the plural.) I have not been able to find any reasonable explanations for the usage of ablative in such a case in my grammar, nor have I been able to find any relevant examples in my dictionary.

* In classical times, this was to be understood as ‘the gifts from nature and the gods’ (Latinsk ordbok: «mūnus»).

1 Answer 1


In bonis means "among (the) good things": that is, the gift of breath is considered to be among / in the category of things that are good.

Bonum could have been used and would be grammatically correct, but gives a slightly different meaning, simply "considered good / a good thing" without any added sense that there is a definable class of "good things" which it is a member of.

  • 1
    Excellent answer! As so often, the native Latin speakers feel no need to express a noun in conjunction with the adjective, making it all the more difficult to reinterpret it for me (us?) poor non-native speakers. The usage of in as among I hadn’t considered at all. Checking my grammar is of not much help, and my dictionary (browsing through the different meanings) does not seem to include this. How common is this usage and meaning of in?
    – Canned Man
    Aug 13, 2021 at 6:59
  • 2
    @CannedMan It's very common, see section I.A.2 of the L&S entry: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – TKR
    Aug 13, 2021 at 18:21

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