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Translating from Latin to English with prepositional phrases

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    Translating from Latin to English with prepositional phrases

    I am having difficulty translating from Latin to English with prepositional phrases. How do you know which word they are modifying. In English, we use word order. How is it done in Latin.

    Example:

    The man shot the horse in the house
    The man, in the house, shot the horse.

    #2
    Prepositional phrases in Latin are usually coherent, like in

    Hi Anne --
    Prepositional phrases in Latin are usually coherent, like in English. The preposition and its object(s) will not be far separated.
    The first thing to keep in mind is that every proposition governs a particular case -- either the ablative or the accusative. So the object of the preposition will be in one of these cases. Any good Latin grammar will list prepositions according to the case they govern. A few prepositions can take either the ablative or the accusative, depending on the meaning. These are prepositions such as in or sub that can indicate motion. If the meaning is "motion toward", the object is accusative. If the meaning is "place where", the object is ablative. In other words, in + ablative means "in, on" and in + accusative means "into, onto".

    The structure of a prepositional phrase in Latin is somewhat different from English. A preposition may be separated from its object by a variety of modifiers, such as adjectives, genitive case nouns and so on. A modifying adjective will, of course, have the same case and number as the object of the preposition. Usually there are not too many of these modifiers, although sometimes a whole subordinate clause used as a modifier, can intervene, but this is rare.

    The main structural difference is that if there is more than a single noun object, the preposition tends to be nestled inside the phrase. This is very typical of the logic of Latin, which is all about packets of words, whereas the logic of English is linear, with strings of words. For example

    in urbe = in a city

    but modify "urbe" and you get

    magna in urbe = in a great city

    You are undoubtedly familiar with the phrase "magna cum laude". This is the typical structure of a prepositional phrase in Latin -- words grouped around the preposition rather than a string of words beginning with the preposition.

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