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Genitive: possessor as predicate NP


Βοιωτῶν ἡ πόλις ἔσται

‘The city will fall into the hands of the Boeotians.’ (Lys. 12.58)

The genitive signals a possessor as a predicate NP.

Lexical usage

The genitive of the possessor as a predicate NP with εἰμί may indicate a person whose nature, duty, habit etc. it is to do that which is expressed by the infinitive which is the subject of the verb.

Translation tips

It is often preferable to use a more specific verb than 'to be' when translating: 'to belong to' 'to be suitable for' etc.

Syntactic usage

In this construction the possessor is generally human and definite. The possessor is the focus and thus represents new information for the listener. The subject is the topic and is already known.
A possessive pronoun may stand in the place of the genitive.
The construction εἰμί + genitive is distinguished from εἰμί + dative by the fact that the possessive relationship is always granted by nature or by a social convention (through legal ownership, for instance, or moral duty).

Historical background

The genitive with a copula is the least frequent of the predicative constructions which indicate possession. However, as a consequence of its specialised semantic force it remains stable throughout the history of the language (Benvenuto 2014).

Example Sentences: 

κλεπτῶν γὰρ ἡ νύξ, τῆς δ᾽ ἀληθείας τὸ φῶς.

The night is the domain of thieves, but the light that of the truth. ֍

τῆς γὰρ ἀρετῆς μᾶλλον τὸ εὖ ποιεῖν ἢ τὸ εὖ πάσχειν, καὶ τὰ καλὰ πράττειν μᾶλλον ἢ τὰ αἰσχρὰ μὴ πράττειν.

It is in the nature of the virtue to do good rather than to undergo it, and to do good rather than not to do evil. ֍

τῶν θεῶν ἐστι πάντα· φίλοι δὲ οἱ σοφοὶ τοῖς θεοῖς· κοινὰ δὲ τὰ τῶν φίλων. πάντ’ ἄρα ἐστὶ τῶν σοφῶν

Everything belongs to the gods. The wise are friends of the gods; the possessions of friends are held in common. Therefore, everything belongs to the wise.

οὐ γὰρ τὸ παίειν καὶ τιτρώσκεσθαι ἀνδρείαν ἐνόμιζεν, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν εἶναι μὴ δυναμένων πονεῖν καὶ ἀπηλλάχθαι βουλομένων

For he did not consider it courageous to get hit and to be wounded; he regarded that as typical of people who have no perseverence and want to get things over and done with.

τί δ’ οὐκ ἐμὸν ἔσσεται αἶσχος;

Which disgrace will not be mine?