You are here

Genitive: subject

Syntactical Level

ἐν χώρᾳ ἔπιπτον ἑκατέρων

‘On the battlefield, men were killed on both sides.’ (Xen. Hell. 4.2.20)

The genitive signals the whole of which the subject is a part (with a personal or impersonal predicate). In addition the genitive usually signals the role of patient.

Lexical usage

The word in the genitive:

  • indicates an undefined number of units which form part of a whole;
  • agrees with the predicate in number and person.

Syntactic usage

This genitive could be interpreted as an elliptical construction: ‘(Some) of the men died.’ The fact that any potential predicate NP is put in the nominative, rather than the genitive, also points to this conclusion. However, the predicate does agree with the genitive in number and person (and gender).

Personal construction: syntactic properties

The (usually negated) predicate agrees with the subject in the genitive in number and person. Any predicate PN or modifier with the subject is put in the nominative.

Impersonal construction: syntactic properties

Usually an object in the dative accompanies the impersonal verbs in question, to signal the experiencer.

Pragmatic properties

Subjects in the genitive invariably add new information; this means that they constitute the rheme or comment of their sentence. For the same reason they usually follow the predicate.

Historical background

The use of the genitive as subject goes back to Proto-Indo-European. It is also found in Slavic languages and Lithuanian, among others. Partitive subjects also occur outside Proto-Indo-European (Finnish, Basque).

Example Sentences: 

ὁπότε μέντοι πρὸς τὸν σατράπην τὸν ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ σπείσαιντο, καὶ [ἔφασαν] ἐπιμιγνύναι σφῶν τε πρὸς ἐκείνους καὶ ἐκείνων πρὸς ἑαυτούς

However, each time [the Carduchians] made a treaty with the satrap in the plain, some of them [allegedly] had contacts with the [Carduchians], and some of those [Carduchians] contacts with them. [provisional translation]

ἐμοὶ οὐδαμόθεν προσήκει τούτου τοῦ πρᾱ́γματος

This case doesn't suit me at all. [provisional translation] ֍

τῆς διαιτητικῆς ἐστι μέγιστον παρατηρέειν καὶ φυλάσσειν

Certain parts of the diet are the most important ones to follow and observe. ֍

... ὥστε οὐκ ἀπέθανον αὐτῶν πλὴν εἴ τις ἐν τῇ συμβολῇ ὑπὸ Τεγεατῶν

… so that none of them would die, except those who died in battle at the hand of the Tegeans.