Dative: possessor as predicate NP

Syntactical Level

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 behaviour

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 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: 

τί σφίσιν ἔσται, ἐὰν κρατήσωσιν

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

If you hold sway, their lot is slavery; but if you are conquered, they have freedom.