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32.233 Some Special Uses of the Cases

Make sure you study Croy section 233 carefully. He provides information here about the different functions the genitive, dative, and accusative cases can play in a Greek sentence. Once you get a "feel" for the genitive, dative and accusative in Greek, none of these usages will cause you any trouble! The real problem is simply translating them into English, since English usually relies on prepositions rather than cases to express these kinds of meanings. Croy provides many specific hints for how to translate these different uses of the cases into English.

Note that all three cases can be used with reference to time:

Genitive of Time. The genitive case can be used to express the time within which some event takes place.

Dative of Time. The dative is used to indicate the time at which some event takes place. Very often in English you will translate this with the prepositional phrase "in" or "on" (τῇ νυκτί, "in the night").

Accusative of Extent of Time/Space. The accusative can be used for the extent of time that an event lasts (this is also called the "accusative of the duration of time"). Likewise, the accusative can be used for the extent of space. (In general, adverbs and other phrases used for time can also be used for space, just as in English: "a long time" is about the extent of time, and "a long river" is about the extent of space.)

Here are the other uses outlined by Croy:

Subjective and Objective Genitive. As in English, in Greek it can be hard to distinguish between the subjective and objective genitive, since their forms are identical! To understand this, think about an English example. Does "the love of God" refer to the way that God loves somebody (God is the "subject" of the loving action) or does it refer to the way that somebody loves God (God is the "object" of the loving action). There is no way in English to tell the difference between the subjective and objective genitive in a phrase like "the love of God," and the same ambiguity exists in Greek. You have to depend on the context in order to know whether the genitive is a subjective genitive or objective genitive.

Genitive of Apposition. Apposition is when two words are used to refer to the same thing. For example, in the English sentence, "I know David, Carol's husband" the phrases "David" and "Carol's husband" are in apposition to each other. in Greek, the genitive can be used as a form of apposition, as in the expression "land of Egypt" - this does not mean Egypt's land, or the land belonging to Egypt. Instead, it means the land that is Egypt; the land and Egypt refer to one and the same thing.

Dative of Reference (Dative of Respect). As in the example which Croy provides here, the dative can be used in a way that is best translated with a prepositional phrase in English, such as ἀληθεῖς καρδίᾳ, "they are true in heart" or "they are true with respect to their hearts."

Dative of Advantage or Disadvantage. The dative of advantage or disadvantage is often best translated in English with the preposition "for" (ἀνοίξω τὴν θύραν τῷ τέκνῳ, "I will open the door for the child").

Accusative of Reference or Respect. If you have studied Latin, you may have seen this referred to in Latin grammar as "the Greek accusative." This use of the dative is often best translated in English with the preposition "with respect to" or "in reference to" (πιστὸς τὰ ἄγια, "faithful in reference to the holy things").


Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: December 4, 2005 8:24 PM

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