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4.4: Prepositional Phrases


Cases by themselves do not suffice, obviously, to express the innumerable meanings a language involves, such as adverbial complements of place (at home), time (after dinner), circumstances (against him, without respite), and many more.  To represent these nuances English resorts almost always to combinations like those given as examples above; Greek does so less often but also continually.  We will not call these combinations "prepositional phrases," even though that would be correct.   We will instead define them  more specifically.

In the combination of a preposition + a noun, adjective, or pronoun, i.e. any declinable part of speech, the preposition imposes a specific case.  So, e.g.,  ἐν must be accompanied by the Dative.  We will mark such a prepositional phrase as  ἐν + dat. A few prepositions may take more than one case, but the meanings of the combinations vary.  In other words, the case deserves greater attention than the preposition, especially with reference to space. 

A simple representation of the spatial values of Accusative, Genitive, and Dative is this:

Click here for a graphic that illustrates a few prepositional phrases relative to space, and here for a list of their translations.

Note:  These are adverbial connotations of the cases.  Of the multiple functions of the genitive, you have learned that of a complement equivalent to English "of"; yet the genitive, in a number of other usages (including the prepositional phrases in this lesson) suggests separation, motion from or away from a place. While the dative may mark the I O (to or for someone or something) it may also refer to a place where someone or something is located, standing, sitting, etc. and so it is equivalent to English in or at.  This function is often called a locative dative. In turn, the accusative, in addition to marking the D O, may be adverbial, denoting direction, sometimes even by itself.  Prepositions with the accusative denote "motion towards."  Knowing this you will understand why someone walking   ὑπό + accusative is going "toward the foot, or the base," of a mountain, a tree, a monument, etc., whereas  ὑπό + dative describes the situation of someone at rest "at the foot" of a vertical object.




1) καλὰ δένδρα ἐστὶν1 ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ.

         ......    S  ........      V                  ἐν   + dat

There are beautiful trees in the garden.


2) αἱ κόραι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ βαίνουσι(ν) ἐς τὸ ἱερόν.

        ................. S ....................              V                ἐς   + acc

The girls and //their// brothers walk to (i.e. towards) the temple.


3) βαῖνε ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, ὦ δοῦλε κακέ.

        V            ἐκ   + gen               .....  voc ....   

Bad slave, walk out of the temple!


4) ἆρα διὰ τῆς ὕλης ἀεὶ βαίνεις;  χαλεπόν2 ἐστιν.

                 διὰ   + gen       adv       V                   PN           V

Do you (sg) always walk through the forest?   //It// is hard.

Note 1 When it is accompanied by an adverbial modifier denoting place, the verb to be is not a linking verb; normally in this case it does not take a predicate nominative.  This is always the case when  ἐστίν  means “there is.”
Note 2 
While in English we need the subject it, this sentence has no explicit subject in Greek.  Because it means “it is difficult,” the PN must be neuter.  You could translate “It is a difficult thing.”