Cornēliō, virō magnae sapientiae, dabō pulchrum librum novum is rendered into English as "To Cornelius, a man of great wisdom, I will give this fine new book" on this page of Latin translation flashcards.

Everything is clear in this translation of the Latin sentence except for the noun virō. In Latin, vir is used here in the Dative case, virō, to be in keeping with the Dative form of Cornēlius, which is Cornēliō, presumably because of the apposition required by dābō.

If so, why is virō rendered into English in the Nominative case, as "a man"? Shouldn't it have been "To Cornelius, to a man [...]"?

1 Answer 1


You are understanding the Latin phrase correctly. The issue is all about English: the preposition is not repeated in such cases. I don't know if repeating the "to" is strictly ungrammatical, but it does sound clumsy to me.

In fact, Latin wouldn't repeat the preposition either. But in this case, there is no preposition at all. The grammatical case is not dropped the way a preposition is — after all, every noun needs to be in a case, but having a preposition is not necessary.

If you replace the dative with ad and accusative, the two languages get closer together:

Ad Cornēlium, virum magnae sapientiae…
To Cornelius, a man of great wisdom…

Notice how virum is still in accusative just like Cornelius, even though the preposition is not repeated. Words (prepositions in this case) can be left out in an ellipsis, but inflection cannot.

Conclusion: Adding the "to" would be correct reading of the Latin sentence, but that's less idiomatic English. Prepositions don't have to be repeated in either language, but case has to be repeated in Latin.

  • The good thing is that I did understand the whole thing correctly, as you were so kind to point out. Latina facilis est! Jun 11, 2017 at 16:48
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    @User26328 I'm glad I could be of help! This is one of those cases where a mere translation does not convey the structure of the original, and an additional commentary would be useful for learning Latin. Et consentio; quandoquidem multo Anglica facilior est lingua Latina, quippe quae tanta verba declinabilia habeat.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 11, 2017 at 16:54
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    If it helps, this sort of phrase is called an "appositive". Jun 12, 2017 at 2:07
  • @SamuelEdwinWard That is indeed useful, but I had forgotten the name. Thanks!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 12, 2017 at 10:35

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