I notice in the following sentence from Cicero, he seems to be using the personal pronoun demonstratively:

De meis scriptis misi ad te Graece perfectum consulatum meum. eum librum L. Cossinio dedi. ("Concerning my writings, I sent you my completed work on the consulship in Greek. I gave this/the book to Lucius Cossinius.")

Here, where it says eum librum, I would have expected hunc librum ("this book"). What is the explanation of the grammar here?

1 Answer 1


It would in fact be more accurate to say that is, ea, id is a demonstrative pronoun that is often used personally, rather than a personal pronoun that is used demonstratively.

Lewis & Short refers to it as a demonstrative pronoun, and this is also how it is introduced in Allen & Greenough § 146:

The Demonstrative Pronouns are used to point out or designate a person or thing for special attention, either with nouns as Adjectives or alone as Pronouns. They are: hīc (this); is, ille, iste (that), with the intensive ipse (self), and īdem (same)1 and are declined below.

On the particular usage of is, ea, id, see Allen & Greenough § 296-97. Here are two particularly relevant parts:

Demonstrative pronouns are used either adjectively or substantively.

  1. As adjectives, they follow the rules for the agreement of adjectives and are called Adjective Pronouns or Pronominal Adjectives. . . .
  2. As substantives, they are equivalent to personal pronouns. This use is regular in the oblique cases, especially of is.

Note: this observation applies to all demonstrative pronouns, not just is, ea, id. "Hic" and "ille" can mean "he" just as much as "is," depending on the context. You are right, though, that is is more commonly used as a personal pronoun by itself.

Regarding the particular usage of is, ea, id:

[§297] d. Is is a weaker demonstrative than the others and is especially common as a personal pronoun. It does not denote any special object, but refers to one just mentioned, or to be afterwards explained by a relative. Often it is merely a correlative to the relative quī.

This explains your Cicero quote. Here's how I would translate:

De meis scriptis misi ad te Graece perfectum consulatum meum. eum librum L. Cossinio dedi.

I have sent you, from my writings, my completed [book on] consulship, in Greek. I gave that book to Lucius Cossinius.

Keep in mind, though, that it's a "weak" demonstrative, so you could also translate with "this" or even "the."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.