Consider the word domus. Standard cases are domi, domo, domum, domo, domis.

I wonder whether we could replace the above (and perhaps every single noun), with the "equivalent" preposition + nominative. For example, I can think of:

  • domi -> de domus
  • domo (dat) -> ad domus, or pro domus, ...
  • domo (abl) -> apud domus, or e domus, ...

Here I'm stuck though. I don't see how the accusative can be easily replaced though, as in many cases it is the type of object which represents rather than a preposition which distinguish it from the nominative. As far as I know, this is solved in other languages by strict word ordering, which Latin does not have. No idea how one would replace the vocative either.

So, is it ever possible to translate a phrase from fully declined into one not declined at all?

Why do I think this could be possible? This is probably my bias of native Spanish speaker, were we say "la casa" (nom), "de la casa" (gen), "a la casa" (dat), thus by being explicit on the preposition, there is no need for cases in the noun. Same in English ("the house", "of the house", "to the house"). Thus, I wonder if one could do the same in Latin.

(The wider context of this inquiry is with the treatment of indeclinable words, e.g. decem. It's unclear to me whether one is to simply use decem for every case, or add a preposition (when possible) to specify the case meant. Hence, my question on whether every mode is translatable into a preposition+nom.)

  • I could be wrong, but typically the dative cannot be replaced by ad. ad indicates a motion toward something whereas the dative is used in the sense of the indirect object or reference, among other things.
    – Sam K
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:17
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    No prepositions have the nominative case after them, so the basic premise of your question is flawed.
    – cnread
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:35
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    Yeah, I think you have to add further details about the premise of the question. de + noun is not "equivalent" to the genitive. If your question is whether we can come up with a "calque that an English speaker would understand," then I don't see why word order is off limits.
    – brianpck
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 16:53
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    ... but that was barely Latin already, and the meaning changes took different directions depending on regions
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:33
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    This is not really a Latin question, but a Constructed Language question. Latino Sine Flexione did indeed do what you suggest, using word order for the accusative. Esperanto has had the neologism na proposed as a preposition indicating direct object. To me an Esperanto with na is no longer Esperanto. But then again, a Latin without the ablative is no longer Latin, either. Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 2:49

1 Answer 1


The answer in Classical Latin is, not at all. No preposition can be followed by the nominative, and no preposition has quite the same meaning as one of the other cases. Something like *ex domus is simply ungrammatical; apud domus is grammatical but doesn't mean what you intend (the second word would have to be domūs, accusative plural).


Much later, as Vulgar Latin was developing into Romance, this is exactly what happened. Sound changes were causing most of the cases to merge together: for example, -m and -s at the end of words disappeared, and -u and merged together, which made most of the second-declension singular endings indistinguishable.

Romance-speakers compensated for this by using word order to indicate nominative versus accusative (the nominative comes before the verb, the accusative comes after) and prepositions to indicate all the other cases. While the meaning of wasn't at all equivalent to the genitive in Classical times, it was close enough that by the third century it shifted to replace it entirely. This is where your Spanish de la casa comes from. Similarly, ad had started replacing the dative in certain uses in the Vulgar Latin of Plautus, so it wasn't much of a stretch for it to encompass the rest of the meanings too. The ablative was most often used with prepositions anyway, so there wasn't much to change there.

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