The ablative case performs many functions. Fundamentally, it signifies ‘separation’ (its name comes from the Latin ab “from” + latum “carried”), but in Classical Latin it does much more than this.
There are three other other common uses of the ablative case at GCSE level:
Ablative of Instrument
This is used for the (physical) item used to perform an action. No preposition is used.
|e.g.||Caesar gladio necatus est.|
|Caesar was killed by/with a sword.|
|dux magno exercitu oppidum petivit.|
|The general attacked the town with a large army.|
Ablative of Manner
This is used to express the manner in which something is done. It is similar to the ablative of instrument, but the noun is abstract, not concrete. It is usually found with an adjective and without a preposition, although the preposition cum (“with”) may be used (see notes).
|e.g.||amicis magna voce locutus est.|
|He spoke to his friends with/in a loud voice.|
|epistulam summa cura scripsit.|
|He wrote the letter with the greatest care.|
Ablative of Agent
This is used to express the person (or god) “by whom” the action of a passive verb was done. It is preceded by the preposition a/ab.
|e.g.||Caesar a Bruto necatus est.|
|Caesar was killed by Brutus.|
|terra a deis facta est.|
|The land was made by the gods.|
The ablative is almost always translated using “by,” “with,” “from” or “in.” Run through these if you suspect a noun is in the ablative case but are unsure why.
Singular ablative nouns end in a vowel, plural ones end in -is or -bus.
The ablative plural form is identical to the dative plural form for each noun – look at the rest of the sentence to see which one you are dealing with.
nomine, “called” or “by name” (technically an ablative of respect), is worth learning in isolation.
The preposition cum (“with”) is used with the ablative of manner when there is no adjective. It can sometimes be used when there is an adjective (when it is sandwiched between the adjective and noun, e.g. magna cum virtute pugnaverunt).
Identify the ablative noun(s) in each sentence and what type of ablative is being used. Then translate.
- frater magna voce sororem domum revocavit.
- tota gens hastis gladiisque castra nostra oppugnavit.
- hoc modo femina maritum legere potuit.
- illa puella ab omnibus amatur.
- nonne haec verba heri a magistro dicta sunt?
- cur canis a sene emptus est?
- princeps cives vultu diro spectavit.
- exercitus hostium montibus marique superatus est.
- haec signis in caelo nuntiata sunt.
- boni paucis curis vivunt, mali paucis spebus.