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"Pueri patris sorori panem dant" translations 2nd Form Latin Latin Final Review

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    "Pueri patris sorori panem dant" translations 2nd Form Latin Latin Final Review

    Hi there--in the final review section of the Second Form Latin workbook, there's a translation exercise on Worksheet 8 (p188) for "Peuri patris sorori panem dant." The answer key gives this translation:
    The boys give bread to father's sister.

    The answer also says "patris could modify pueri", which gives:
    The father's boys give bread to (the/their) sister.

    Now, our son observed that "dant" can translate to "they give," in which case "they" is the subject and pueri and patris can modify each other while modifying sorori, or they may also modify each other while modifying panem. As such, there are six other possible translations (not counting the/their variants and word order variants):
    They give bread to (the/their) boy's father's sister.
    They give bread to (the/their) father's boy's sister.

    They give (the/their) boy's bread to (the) father's sister.
    They give (the/their) father's bread to the boy's sister.

    They give (the/their) father's boy's bread to (the/their) sister.
    They give (the/their) boy's father's bread to (the/their) sister.

    What are your thoughts? Any issues with these possibilities?

    Holy smokes, that's a lot of choices!

    If we ignore word order conventions, then theoretically all of these could work. That's the strange magic of the genitive case.

    However, as much as Latin word order can be mixed around, there are conventions. Not following these conventions doesn't make a sentence wrong, but it sure can make it weird - and weird is often enough to count as wrong. As genitive nouns modify other nouns, they can be thought of as quasi-adjectives, and since adjectives of quality (as opposed to quantity) typically follow the noun they modify, treating both pueri and patris as genitive when they precede the other nouns in the sentence would be quite awkward. Treating pueri as nominative is the much less awkward option; it avoids this weird word order, and typically, if you have a word at the start of a clause that can be nominative and agrees with the number of the verb, it should be the subject.

    In other words, there are enough pointers indicating pueri should be nominative and not genitive to ignore any less natural alternatives.

    - Jon


      Thanks, that makes perfect sense. As noted in my other question to which you responded, we'll certainly learn more of the conventions with greater exposure to classical literature.

      Would I be right in assuming if I really did want to say "They give their boy's father's bread to their sister" that Latin would use an explicit third-person pronoun to clearly identify the subject? (Looking forward to those in Third Form....)


        The personal pronoun would work; Latin avoids them if it can help it, but they come in handy in ambiguous situations. You can also accomplish it with word order: Sorori panem patris pueri dant.

        In the above, pueri following patris suggests it's a genitive modifying patris, with patris as a genitive modifying panem. There's no risk of treating sorori, the first word, as a subject because it is dative. Dant, therefore, has to have an implicit "they" as the subject.

        - Jon


          Excellent! That gives us new things to think about!