Suppose I want to say "this house is mine" in Latin. The straightforward translation, dōmus haec est mea, sounds odd to me—perhaps just because English changes its possessive pronouns in predicate position. Dōmus haec est mihi also sounds odd.

Which of these constructions—or which other construction—is favored in Classical Latin?


It usually depends on where you want the emphasis to lie.

If you simply need to make a general assertion that you are the owner of the house, then you might say haec est domus mea — 'this is my house', or 'this house belongs to me'.

If you intend to emphasise that 'this house [viz. not any other] is mine', or 'this house is the one that is mine', and so on, then you should use the dative of possession — haec domus est mihi.

  • What if I want to emphasize that this house is **mine**—i.e. have the emphasis on the possessor? – Draconis Sep 19 '18 at 15:50
  • @Draconis If you don't use the dative, but write as you did haec est domus mea, you are saying simply that the house belongs to you, or that the house is in your ownership as opposed to that of anyone else. To reverse the order (i.e. mea domus) is perhaps a little more emphatic. – Tom Cotton Sep 19 '18 at 16:23

Parva mihi domus est sed ianua aperta;

'My house is small but the door is open.' (lit. doors)

This is the first line of Mus ariddle found in Symphosii Scholastici Ænigmata given in full on Gianni A. Sarcone's site

For 1st person, mihi est, and 2nd person, tibi est, this is by far the commonest way to say "my" "your," for possession (but not invariably ownership).

In Philip Baldi & Andrea Nuti p314 (Constituent Syntax: Quantification, Numerals, Possession, Anaphora (sadly, £90; but tasteable)) four forms are discussed, which I have oversimplified here:

Genitive Marci est domus (limited to 3rd person)
Adjective meus (tuus/ eius) implies possession and ownership and physical presence.
Dative mihi est, tibi est (but not 3rd person) more widely used than meus,
Habeo habeo is most widely used of all because it includes non-possessive (Ihave a cold); immaterial (I have a bad feeling about this); momentary ( Let us have lunch).

  • Not too sure about those four forms. The first is usually construed as dative, and thus no different from the third. The fourth, using habere, doesn't strike me as always appropriate to strict classical form : I believe that 'let us have lunch', for instance, is better rendered as prandeamus. – Tom Cotton Sep 19 '18 at 14:20

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