The following sentence appears in lines 12-14 of chapter XX of Lingua latina per se illustrata. Familia Romana:

Sī māter īnfantem suum ipsa alere nōn potest sīve non vult, īnfāns ab aliā muliere alitur, quae ēi in locō mātris est.

I'm trying to understand why the dative pronoun , which I think refers to the little child (īnfāns), is used. Can this be interpreted as a dative of possession? The idea would more or less be that the nurse (this alia mulier) is in the role of his or her mother (in place of his or her mother) to the child. I believe there probably is a better way to interpret this usage of dative. Can anyone explain it?

2 Answers 2


I was just reading this chapter a couple of weeks ago. I thought the dative here when I read it worked like it does in English … “ in the place of a mother to the baby”- in English we would use “to…”, and likewise in Latin they use the dative

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    Welcome to Latin.SE! Thanks for your answer, but I would prefer an explanation that does not refers to English.
    – Charo
    Oct 16, 2023 at 20:38

I believe it's supposed to be Dative of Advantage.

So the alternate mother is of advantage ei to the baby.

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    What is "dative of advantage"? Can you elaborate on this?
    – Charo
    Oct 17, 2023 at 5:50
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    That is the name for the most common use of the Dative. It expresses the person (or thing) for whose benefit or disadvantage an action is performed. It indicates the person or thing for whom or to whom something is done or a situation exists. In essence it answers the question "To whose benefit is this?" For example: mihi est librum (literally "there is a book to me", ie I have a book.) Oct 17, 2023 at 12:53

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