Consider the phrase

I met in Rome with a friend

As far as I know, "in Rome" and "with a friend" both represent the ablative case in Latin. Thus, the above could be translated as

convēnī Rōmā amīcō

(there is probably a more precise verb than convenio but cannot find it; suggestions?)

My core question is: is consecutive ablatives (i.e. an ablative noun followed by another ablative noun) a good practice, if ever a correct one?

I guess you might ask, well why would it not be? My guess is that in some cases there could be ambiguity. For instance, from the context we can more or less safely deduce (?) that Roma refers to the city, and thus is an ablative of place, whereas we could safely deduce (?) that amico is an ablative of accompaniment (given the verb used). However, if I say instead

convēnī Annā Casinā

the ambiguity is more evident, because both are names in Latin (here and here), and yet, both are also name of places (here and here). Thus, in this case, it might be safer to use one noun in nominative, e.g.

convēnī Annā cum Casina

(so I met with Casina in [the town of] Anna)

Surely, it could be argued that the cases in which the above confusion happens are so few that still consecutive ablatives is perfectly fine.

  • 5
    Such cases are fewer that you think, indeed. In the case of Roma (and cities ending in -a, and some islands) you would use the rare locative case: Romae. I think the remaining ambiguities can be solved with prepositions, but let's see if someone can give a more formal answer
    – Rafael
    Aug 2, 2018 at 12:26
  • 1
    "Ablative of place where" seems misleading to me. The article is just referring to prepositions (like in) that take the ablative, and only mentions one exception: loco with an adjective.
    – brianpck
    Aug 2, 2018 at 13:13
  • @brianpck Sorry. Did not read the sentence well. Fixed.
    – luchonacho
    Aug 2, 2018 at 13:35
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    @luchonacho My point was actually that "ablative of place" just doesn't work (except in a few cases) alone: it requires a preposition. In fact, ablative Roma alone would only be place whence.
    – brianpck
    Aug 2, 2018 at 13:38
  • @brianpck Oh I see. How general is that rule?
    – luchonacho
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


It seems to me this was not very common.

For instance, Pinkster 2015 postulates the following observation, based on his corpus research:

"The arguments of three-place verbs are always distinctly marked (with some exceptions, Chapter 12.4).

He gives the following data:

  • the second argument: ACC (81%), PREP (9%), DAT (6%), ABL (4%), GEN (no data);
  • the third argument: DAT (69%), ABL (18%), PREP (13%), GEN or ACC (marginally, no data);
  • the adjunct: PREP (52%), ABL (40%), DAT (7%) ACC (no data);
  • the disjunct: rarely marked by a case or preposition.

Graphically, Pinskter represents it as follows (Fig. 12.3 and 12.4):

enter image description here

enter image description here I skipped the first argument (SUBJ) because it is obviously marked by NOM (91%) or ACC (9%).

That being said, constructions of two ablatives positioned very close to each other in the same clause are attested in Latin (the examples below are from Szantyr 1965 Syntax und Stilistik):

"nimis sermone huius ira incendor" (Pl. Ps. 201)

"hominem ... falsa opinione errore hominum ... commendatum" (Cic. Sest 22)

"qui secundo vento vectus est tranquillo mari"

"dextera digitis rationem computat" (Pl. Mil. 204)

Szantyr specifically says, in the section "Zwei Akkusativ des äußeren Objekts (des Ganzen und des Teils)," that

"Selten ist der doppelte Abl., unbelegt der doppelte Gen., dagegen reich vertreten der doppelte Nom" (§48c) [English translation: "Double ablative is rare, double genitive is unattested, compared to the numerous cases of double nominative"].

  • Thanks! But how do you reach that conclusion from Figure 12.3? isn't that graph showing "unconditional" frequencies, whereas we are more interested in "conditional" ones? (i.e. given an ablative, with what frequency another one follows?)
    – luchonacho
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:13
  • @luchonacho I can only see one possible common case of "ablative stacking" - a chain of adjuncts?
    – Alex B.
    Aug 2, 2018 at 18:15
  • Can you give an example of that please?
    – luchonacho
    Aug 3, 2018 at 9:20
  • @luchonacho I wish I could. Finding such examples is a very time-consuming task.
    – Alex B.
    Aug 3, 2018 at 15:10

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