[Wiktionary :]
1. (governs the ablative) in, at, on (space)  [quotations ▼]
2. (governs the dative) within (time)
3. (governs the accusative) into, to  [quotations ▼]
4. (governs the accusative) about
5. (governs the accusative) according to
6. (governs the accusative) against

Though prepositions are Functional Morphemes, the semantics of prepositions have been scrutinised, studied, and successfully explained (in English and French, at least). This question focuses on 6 above:
what underlying semantic notions connect 'against' to 'in'?

To wit, 'against' (with its notion of conflict and opposition) superficially appears to contradict 'in' (with its notions of coherence and inclusion). So what (in the semantic field of 'in') would conciliate, mediate, and unite this superficial contradiction? Or what have I neglected (in the semantic field of 'in') that causes me to judge 6 as a contradiction?

  • 2
    If I’m running towards you, brandishing a sword in my hand, would you think I’m being friendly? :-)
    – chirlu
    Feb 23, 2016 at 20:01
  • 1
    What Chirlu says. Cf. also English leaning against the wall / fighting against the city.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 23, 2016 at 20:05
  • @Cerberus Thanks. Were you referencing the English ['without'](etymonline.com/index.php?term=without& allowed_in_frame=0) ? Otherwise, how does 'in' connect to 'against' in leaning against the wall / fighting against the city?
    – user37
    Feb 23, 2016 at 20:14
  • @LePressentiment: I was talking about against. It was just another example of how a neutral physical position can somehow become connected with a battle attitude.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 23, 2016 at 20:25
  • @chirlu On a second reading, I do not understand your analogy, sorry. Why did you italicise towards; how does it connect with the Latin in-?
    – user37
    Feb 27, 2016 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


What you've neglected (an easy thing to neglect) is the case that "in" governs with each meaning. "In" plus the ablative connotes coherence and inclusion, and it's roughly equivalent to English "in." "In" plus the accusative, however, means something far closer to English "toward," which, if you think militarily (as the Romans often did), is fairly easy to convert into "against." So when Cicero was orating in Catilinam, he was rushing toward Catiline in the process of making an attack on him.

  • "Cicero's Preemptive Strike on Catiline". Feb 23, 2016 at 20:27

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