Deuteronomy 28:38 reads:

Sementem multam jacies in terram, et modicum congregabis: quia locustæ devorabunt omnia.

I think the first phrase before the comma has the following structure (but reordered; e.g. accusatives come before the verb, and subject is implicit in the verb):

[subject/nominative] [verb] [object/accusative] preposition [ablative]

However, terram is in accusative, instead of in ablative (terrā). The object of the phrase is clearly sementis (hence the accusative mode sementem), whereas in is indicating an ablative of place. Why is then terram in accusative?

Quaestio brevis. Quid "terram" est accusativum in Deuteronomium 28:38? Non debet sit ablativum?


1 Answer 1


Not all prepositions are created equal.

Some prepositions need to be followed by ablative as you say. Examples are cum (e.g. cum Ipso), sine (sine Deo nihil), de (de hoc mundo).

Yet most prepositions need to be followed by accusative, like ante (ante constitutionem mundi), per (per Ipsum), post (post mortem).

A number of prepositions may be followed by both acc. and abl., with different meanings, as in, sub, super. The rule of thumb with these three is that accusative adds movement to the meaning of the preposition:

  • in+[abl]in, on, at;
  • in+[acc]to, into, towards.

In the quote from Deuteronomy, the seed is to be thrown to the ground.

See also: i) L&S entry for in, and ii) this list (and also this one) of prepositions and the cases they are followed by (none of both is exhaustive, and the exact content of a complete list is disputed).

In the lists you can see that some are said to be followed by genitive, like ope, and tenus. These are listed by some as prepositions, but not universally agreed as such. My perception in this issue is they are nouns in the process of mutating from/to prepositions by gaining/losing cases (either created by generalization or falling out of use). Note that ope is said by L&S to be the ablative of ops, which itself is not attested, being another example of a defective paradigm. Other cases of ops are also rare.

  • 1
    Oh no, more exceptions to learn! Thanks. I just realised the wikipedia entry on the ablative makes similar comments about the use of prepositions, distinguishing the case of in.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 14:20
  • 1
    @luchonacho hahaha, ánimo. Back in the day it helped me a lot to learn a handful of texts that were already familiar to me in Spanish by memory, and make sense of them afterwards. E.g. Pater Noster qui es in caelis... et ne nos inducas in tentationem...
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 14:30
  • 2
    That's a great example of both uses of in. ¡Gracias!
    – luchonacho
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 14:38

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.