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as in the phrase "you want to Call upon my skill". There seem to be lots of prepositions that translate as "on" (which upon is a more formal and abstract form of), but I'm not sure which one to use with a verb or participle.

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    To tack on to Sebastian's answer, you can't really translate prepositions from language to language. The Latin in can mean "in, on, into, onto, against, at, etc" depending on context and the form of the noun following it. Instead, you need to translate from idiom to idiom, i.e. "what preposition should I use in this instance." You won't get a one size that fits all.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 0:43

2 Answers 2

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“Call upon” is a phrasal verb, which you cannot translate by translating its constituents. The Latin translation will usually not be the same sort of verb+preposition pair as in English. You can look up the phrasal verb in a good dictionary, though. Here are a few suggested translations by Messrs. Smith & Hall, although frankly I think none of them fit your use case very well. As I understand it, you essentially mean “you want to avail yourself of my skill,” and I would simply translate this with uti, e.g. mea peritia uti vis.

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The word "invoco" means I call upon. Perhaps the Latin translation would be

Tu vis invocare meam artem.

Now, here is a question. What is the difference in meaning between "voco" and "invoco"? It might be that "invoco" has some religious uses that "voco" does not have. For example, the phrase "Tu vis invocare deos", which means, "You want to call upon the gods."

We see this happen with the word "call". We can add prepositions after "call" to modify the meaning of the verb. "You want to call out the dragon. Call forth the knight. Please call upon the gods so that there is enough rain for growing crops."

To answer your question, I think there is no need for an additional preposition. The preposition present in the word "invoco" suffices to convey the meaning.

I have given one Latin translation of your English sentence. There are others, but the word "invoco" is a natural choice for translating the phrase "I call upon."

I think that it is typical to use the word "invoco" when we are calling upon a god, an idea, or something abstract. I think it also signifies that someone is asking for help. This is similar to the English phrase "call upon". We use "call upon" when we are asking someone for help. For example, "He called upon the gods to make it rain so that there would be a plentiful harvest."

That said, let's try to answer the question that we asked: What is the difference in meaning between voco and invoco? I think the answer is that the prefix in- changes the meaning of the word "voco". The word "voco" means I call. The word "invoco" has the following meanings:

Meanings of invocare:

  1. To call upon
  2. To ask for help
  3. To summon
  4. To bring here (equivalent to summon)

Thus the phrase "Invoca eum" means "bring him here" or "summon him". And the phrase "Invoco deos" means "I call upon the gods".

To summarize, we have translated your English sentence into Latin. Tu vis invocare meam artem. You want to call upon my skill. We have also spent some time discussing the nuances of the word invoco, invocare.

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  • I agree it's the right choice of verb, but I question your word order and explicit pronoun.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 5:15
  • The Latin language has been spoken and written for over two thousand years, and many styles have been employed in that time. We can look at texts from Ovid, St. Augustine, and the Vulgate Bible, and see that many different word orders are used. In these texts we can find examples of the SOV, SVO, VSO, VOS word orders, where S stands for subject, O stands for object, and V stands for verb. I think it is safe to say that word order in Latin is very flexible, and that Latin authors have used many word orders and styles over time.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 8:12
  • You can find all kinds of word orders in the corpus, but they're not all unmarked and equivalent in meaning. You can't just mindlessly copy the English word order and think you've written idiomatic Latin.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 16:06

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