Do you already feel comfortable with Latin transitive and intransitive verbs, but you want to go deeper? Then this post is for you.
Here we will discuss advanced vocabulary related to transitivity. So if “transitive” and “intransitive” are still a bit fuzzy in your mind, I advise you to read my introduction to Latin transitive and intransitive verbs first.
In this post I will also highlight what terminology you actually need to know vs. what terminology you can safely ignore. You can label and classify all day, but none of that matters if you can’t understand a Latin sentence.
Now let’s dive right into the crazy world of verb types and usage.
Latin Transitive Verbs with Two Accusatives
First on the agenda are transitive verbs that are followed by more than one object. Remember that a transitive verb is a verb that has a direct object. In Latin, that direct object will always be in the accusative.
Some Latin transitive verbs can take two accusative objects. So if you see two accusatives floating around, don’t panic! Instead, examine the verb and see if it fits into one of the following two categories:
- Factitive verbs (of making, appointing, etc.)
- Verbs of teaching and asking
First we have factitive verbs. The term “factitive” comes from the Latin verb faciō (make, do). This is appropriate, since factitive verbs involve making someone something else.
Here are some examples. The two objects are in bold.
Claudiam rēgīnam fēcērunt. = They made Claudia queen.
Mē inimīcum vocāvistī. = You called me an enemy.
In the first sentence, Claudia is the direct object. She receives the action of the verb made.
But we need to know what Claudia is made into, what she becomes. We need “queen” to complete the meaning of the verb, which is why we call “queen” an object complement.
In Latin both these nouns are in the accusative. This makes sense, given that Claudia = the queen. Since Claudiam is in the accusative, logically rēgīnam should be, too. (For this reason, the object complement is sometimes called a predicate accusative.)
In the second sentence, “me” is the direct object. It is I who receive the action of the verb called. “Enemy” completes the meaning of the verb, so once again we have an object complement.
Factitive verbs are verbs of making, appointing, naming, considering, etc. Here are a few Latin verbs that can be factitive:
- appellō, 1 – call
- creō, 1 – elect, create
- faciō, facere, fēcī, factus – make, do
- habeō, 2 – consider
- nōminō, 1 – name, nominate
- putō, 1 – think
Note that a verb can sometimes be factitive and sometimes simply transitive. For instance, you can make cookies (transitive) or make someone queen (factitive). You can name your child (transitive) or name your child Marcus (factitive).
The most important thing is for you to be able to recognize and understand factitive verbs, but the term “factitive” is also useful to know.
Verbs of Teaching and Asking
The next group of verbs that take two accusative objects are verbs of teaching and asking.
In the case of teaching, the first object is the person taught, while the second is the thing taught.
The teacher teaches the boys Greek literature. = Magister puerōs litterās graecās docet.
Puerōs is a direct object since the boys receive the action of the verb. But litterās graecās is also a direct object; the Greek literature receives the action of the verb, too, just in a different way.
In Latin some verbs of asking take this same construction. The first accusative is the person asked, while the second is the thing asked for.
Rēx amīcum nāvēs rogāvit. = The king asked (his) friend for ships.
In English, we have to insert “for” before “ships”. In Latin, we can simply put nāvēs in the accusative.
Here are some verbs that commonly take two accusatives:
- doceō, 2 – teach, show
- ōrō, 1 – ask for, pray for
- postulō, 1 – demand
- rogō, 1 – ask for
Monotransitive vs. Bitransitive/Ditransitive
To be perfectly frank, the terms “monotransitive” and “bitransitive/ditransitive” are not important. Sometimes classification can cause more confusion for students, and this is one of those cases. So feel free to skip this section and jump down to the special intransitive.
But if you have seen these terms somewhere and need to know what they mean, here’s a quick explanation. Or if you are a grammar nerd, you may enjoy the additional info!
All transitive verbs will have at least one object, the direct object in the accusative. Some verbs can take a second object in the dative (the indirect object). And up above we saw how factitive verbs and verbs of teaching/asking can govern two accusatives.
Verbs that can have two objects are called bitransitive or ditransitive, whether that second object is another accusative or whether it is a dative. Verbs that cannot have a second object are called monotransitive.
Special Intransitive Verbs in Latin
True story: when we got to the chapter on the special intransitive in our textbook, my students at Harvard decided that Latin was fake.
I sympathize with this viewpoint. I don’t think Latin is fake (obviously!), but sometimes the terminology becomes a bit ridiculous. In my opinion, the special intransitive is one of those times.
The term does appear, though, so I want to cover it here. Furthermore, the phenomenon that it describes is important, even if I think the label confuses students more than it helps them.
Since they don’t govern accusative direct objects, these verbs aren’t transitive. But they aren’t fully intransitive, either.
Hence . . . the special intransitive.
The most confusing part about these verbs is that often their English counterpart is transitive.
Take, for example, the verb ūtor “use”. This verb must be followed by the ablative case in Latin.
Gladiō ūsus est. = He used a sword.
Gladiō is in the ablative, so it is not a direct object. This means that ūtor is intransitive. But the English verb “use” is transitive. “Sword” is a direct object. In this instance, English and Latin use slightly different grammatical structures to convey the same idea.
The important thing is to be aware that some Latin verbs take objects in cases other than the accusative. Your textbook or dictionary will signal these verbs and then you can memorize the information.
Here is a quick list of verbs that take the dative case.
- ignōscō, ignōscere, ignōvī, ignōtus = forgive
- invideō, invidēre, invīdī, invīsus = envy, look askance at
- parcō, parcere, pepercī, parsus = spare, be lenient to
- persuādeō, persuādēre, persuāsī, persuāsus = persuade
- placeō, placēre, placuī, placitus = please, be pleasing to
- serviō, servīre, servīvī, servītus = serve, be a slave to
And here are a few verbs that take the ablative (including several deponent verbs):
- careō, carēre, caruī, caritus = lack, be deprived of
- fruor, fruī, frūctus / fruitus sum = enjoy, delight in
- fungor, fungī, fūnctus sum = perform, execute
- potior, potīrī, potītus sum = acquire, take possession of
- ūtor, ūtī, ūsus sum = use, make use of
- vescor, vescī = eat
Now you are familiar with the ins and outs of Latin transitive and intransitive verbs. Remember: your objective should always be to understand the principles. If you forget some of the terminology, that’s okay.
Ultimately, your goal is to understand Latin!
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