Consider the sentence, "prope virum summae virtutis sto." What case is virtutis and why?

I'm pretty sure that it is genitive due to description, but I'm not sure. In case it helps, I translated it as, "I stood near the man with the most courage."

  • I have no answer. I am attempting to put into English the definition on my family crest, " Virtutis Amore ". I have found everything very interesting. Thank you.
    – user14800
    Commented Feb 26 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


It is indeed genitive. First, no other form of virtus looks like virtutis. For that reason alone, it has to be genitive.

But what is the genitive doing in the sentence? The virtus comes with the adjective summa. Virtus can have many meanings, and "courage" is indeed a possible translation. Together summa virtus means "highest courage". Therefore vir summae virtutis means "a man of the highest courage".

While this translation is possible in English, it often most natural to translate with an adjective: "a very courageous man". Your translation "with the most courage" is possible as well. It should be noted that the superlative here is probably absolute; it does not express comparison ("most courageous of all") but just extent ("very courageous").

This Latin construction of using the genitive to express quality is known as genetivus qualitatis (the qualitative genitive). The ablative can be used similarly.

Finally, let me remark that sto is present tense. I would translate the sentence to English as "I stand near a very courageous man". However, this is not the correct translation — there are several ways to go about this translation task.

  • @Zanolon I'm glad to be able to help! I hope you'll stick around and ask more questions (and take a look at our tour if you haven't yet).
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 1:47
  • 1
    Thanks so much. I'm really not great at latin so I assume I'll be making frequent stops by. ^_^ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 1:50

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