(A tangent off this speculative answer to a question about a sentence containing the words eidem suae.)

Does the apparently redundant phrase eidem suae ("to his/her/its own same") provide a way to indicate that the antecedent of suae is not the subject of the verb, as is normal for the reflexive pronoun in the dative case, but something else having a (different) reflexive relation to whatever follows suae?

A possible example, from the Apostolic Letter "Quod De Beatissima" by Pope Pius XII (1957):

Venerabilis Frater Constantinus Christianus Luna, Episcopus Zacapensis, a Nobis enixe postulavit, ut eidem suae dioecesi, noviter conditae nulloque Patrono adhuc concreditae, eandem Virginem a Fatima caelestem Patronam benigne eligere dignaremus.

This is a little beyond my current skill with Latin, but here's my attempt at a translation:

The venerable Brother Constantine Christian Luna, Bishop of Zacapa, has strenuously asked us, for his own newly founded diocese, as yet entrusted with no Patron, that we deem worthy to kindly choose Our Lady of Fatima as Patroness.

The subject of the relevant clause is the author, that is, the Pope. It would be silly if Luna asked the Pope to choose a Patroness for his own—the Pope's own—diocese, but that's what suae dioecesi would literally mean. So, I'm wondering if eidem suae is a way to relocate the antecedent of suae to where it makes sense and thus avoid a very clumsy circumlocution. And is this a common idiom?

If the same thing commonly occurs in another grammatical case, that would answer the question, too.

  • The same thing is going on here with eidem suae as in the Bede example: eidem means "the one just mentioned", in this case the diocese, in that case the nation.
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:29
  • And likewise with eandem virginem: "the same/aforementioned Virgin of Fatima" (who is mentioned in the preceding sentence of the epistle).
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


To reiterate @Cerberus's answer, the reflexive usually refers to the subject of the main/independent clause. In this case, this is especially clear, since the Pope is using the "royal we" to refer to himself, and thus would use noster instead of suus to refer to himself.

I am writing this answer, though, to address the actual question in your title. The answer is yes, there are certainly examples of reflexive pronouns referring to someone other than the subject.

In Oxford Latin Syntax: Volume I, the Simple Clause, Pinkster says the following:

In complex sentences a constitutent of the subordinate clause may be coreferential with a constituent of its own clause (normally the subject) or with a constituent of the governing clause, not necessarily the subject. (pg. 1124)

(emphasis mine)

As an example of this, he quotes Cicero:

Vos ex M. Favonio audistis Clodium sibi dixisse, et audistis vivo Clodio, periturum Milonem triduo. (Cic. Mil. 44)

This sentence is perhaps easier to parse because "ex aliquo audio" can be transposed without difficulty to aliquis dicit. Still, I believe this is an enlightening example from an authoritative source of a reflexive not referring to a subject.

  • 1
    Good example! As in the example Ben gave, it is easy to parse here because the subject of the main close is not in the third person; sibi could not in any sentence refer to vos, so one is easily forced into the correct reference (M. Favonio). P.S. Are we 100% sure that Clodius had not been overheard talking to himself?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 23:26

This eidem suae sounds unclassical to me. But Church Latin is full of Mediaevalisms.

The subject of the sentence is Venerabilis Frater Constantinus Christianus Luna, Episcopus Zacapensis, so I would take suae to refer to him. If it should refer to nobis, I would expect nostrae. I believe suus/se/sibi normally refers to the subject of the main clause, not the subject of the subordinate clause, but that exceptions are not uncommon. The subject of the subordinate clause would still have to be the third person, though.

As to eidem: I believe that can be used to mean "aforementioned" in later Latin (cf. English he who takes out a book from the library must return same within the space of two weeks).

  • It may be worth pointing out explicitly that suae refers to the subject of the independent clause (predicate postulavit), not the subject of the subordinate clause (predicate dignaremus), although the word itself is in the subordinate clause.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 6:23
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Is that a general rule? What about in, say, Quintum postulavi suo fratri librum dare? Whose brother am I referring to, mine or Quintus's?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 6:58
  • @BenKovitz, it's not a general rule. In a subordinate clause suus can refer to either subject as far as I know. But suus is only used for the third person; for other persons (as in your example and in your question) one expects meus, tuus, noster or vester instead. If both clauses have third person subjects, this may leave ambiguity.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 7:03
  • @JoonasIlmavirta OK, I'd previously thought that when both subjects are in the 3rd person, se is ambiguous. I'll see if I can find an example where both are in the 3rd person and update the question.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 7:07
  • @JoonasIlmavirta: Good point, I have added that. I believe se normally refers to the subject of the main clause, but can sometimes refer to that of the subordinate clause, but I would have to look it up for the detailed rules...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 14:53

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