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Dative: possessor as predicate NP


καὶ ἴσαι αἱ ψῆφοι αὐτῷ ἐγένοντο

‘He received the same number of votes.’ (Aeschin. 3.252)

The dative signals a possessor as a predicate NP with copular verbs.

Lexical usage

Some examples of copular verbs include εἰμί ‘to be’, γίγνομαι 'to become' and ὑπάρχω ‘to be’. In poetry words such as ἔφυν ‘to be (by nature)’ also occur.

Translation tips

The Greek dative is translated as the subject of a sentence. If the verb is εἰμί or ὑπάρχω ‘to be’, translate with ‘to have’; if the verb is γίγνομαι ‘to become’ the translation ‘to receive/acquire’ is preferable.

Syntactic usage

In this construction the possessor is invariably animate and usually a pronoun. The possessor is the topic and thus already known to the speakers. The subject, which indicates the entity which is being 'possessed', is invariably inanimate and usually indefinite. This subject is the focus and thus represents new information for the listener.
The construction εἰμί + dative is distinguished from ἔχω + accusative by the fact that the relationship of possession does not necessarily imply physical ownership.

Historical background

The frequency of the construction involving a dative and a copula gradually decreases: in Homer it occurs very frequently, but in a later period much less so. Its functions are gradually taken over by ἔχω with an accusative.

Example Sentences: 

τοῖς πλουσίοις πολλὰ παραμύθιά φασιν εἶναι

It is said that the rich have much comfort. ֍

Εἰκότως · καὶ γὰρ ὄνομ’ αὐτῷ 'στὶ φοινικόπτερος.

So it seems; for that is why its name is flamingo (purple-wing).

τί σφίσιν ἔσται, ἐὰν κρατήσωσιν

What will be given them in the case of victory? ֍

σοῦ μὲν γὰρ κρατοῦντος δουλεία ὑπάρχει αὐτοῖς, κρατουμένου δέ σου ἐλευθερία.

If you are in charge, slavery is their lot, but freedom if you are overpowered. ֍