Consider 2 Kings, 16:1 in the Vulgate (2 Samuel in modern bibles):

Cumque David transisset paululum montis verticem, apparuit Siba puer Miphiboseth in occursum ejus, cum duobus asinis, qui onerati erant ducentis panibus, et centum alligaturis uvae passae, et centum massis palatharum, et utre vini.

The first bold phrase does include the cum, whereas the second does not, albeit, both are in the ablative. Is there any a priori reason why cum is omitted in the second phrase? More generally, are other prepositions omitted sometimes? If so, when are prepositions omitted?

1 Answer 1


I would not read that as an omitted preposition. The plain ablative also has its uses, and here it is used in the instrumental sense: the donkeys were loaded with breads. Notice that here the English "with" indicates an instrument, whereas in cum asinis ("with donkeys") it indicates a companion. Companions are typically expressed with cum and ablative in Latin, instruments with a plain ablative. The breads are not companions with whom someone loaded the donkeys, nor are donkeys instruments. (The preposition cum is possible with instruments, at least in some situations.)

I would say that in general prepositions are not omitted in Latin, but there are a number of uses for plain cases without prepositions. The dative and genitive cannot even be used with prepositions, although similar functions are expressed by prepositions in English and Romance languages. Prepositions go with ablative or accusative (with perhaps a very rare exception), but both cases can be used as such.

See this question for more on repeating prepositions with et.

  • Thanks! The companion v. instrument is a distinction I was not aware of. Your phrase "The dative and genitive cannot even be used with prepositions" is interesting. So prepositions must be used with either accusative or ablative. (This page has one example of genitive, but it's probably an exception that confirms the rule. The answer you just mention regarding cum is also expressed at the bottom of the page!)
    – luchonacho
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 12:18
  • @luchonacho I've never seen the preposition "tenus", much less with the genitive. So I'd take that with a grain of salt.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 21:09
  • (I should clarify: tenus is absolutely a word, but I haven't seen it behave like a preposition, syntactically.)
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 21:10

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