How to Use and Recognize Partitive Genitive Case in Latin

This is about a quantity that is part of a whole

Portrait of mature woman driving a school bus.
'Driver of the bus'.

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The genitive case is most familiar to English speakers as the case in which nouns, pronouns and adjective express possession, says the clear-thinking Classics Department at the Ohio State University. "In Latin, it is used to indicate relationships that are most frequently and easily translated into English by the preposition 'of': 'love of god,' 'the driver of the bus,' the 'state of the union,' 'the son of God.' In all these instances, the prepositional phrase modifies a noun; that is, the prepositional phrase acts like an adjective: 'love of God' equals 'God's love' equals 'divine love.'"

Genitive = Genetic Relationship

"The last example shows the 'genetic' relationship that gives the genitive case its name. Linguists who have studied this case have concluded that it is a convenient way of indicating relationships between nouns, or, put in more grammatical terms, the genitive case turns any noun into an adjective."

There are several categories of the genitive, depending mainly on their function. The partitive genitive is one of these categories.

Partitive Genitive: How It Works

The partitive genitive case, or "the genitive of the whole," shows the relationship of a part to the whole of which it is part. It starts with a quantity, such as a numeral, nothing (nihil), something (aliquid), enough (satis) and the like. This quantity is part of a whole, which is expressed by a noun in the genitive case.

"The simplest example is pars civitatis > 'part of the state.' Here, of course, the state (civitas) is the whole, and this 'party' is the part (pars). This [is] a useful reminder that the English expression 'all of the state' is not partitive, since 'all' is not a 'part'; consequently, you cannot use the genitive in Latin here, only an adjective: omnis civitas," says OSU.

If you have a part of something, the thing that's the whole is in the genitive case. The fractional part can be a pronoun, adjective, noun or numeral designating quantity, with a noun or pronoun showing the whole to which the "some" (or "many", etc.) belongs. Most of the following examples show the "part" in the nominative case. The "whole" is in the genitive since it signifies "of the whole." The English translation may or may not have a word like "of" marking the genitive case.

Partitive Genitive: Examples

  • satis temporis > "enough of time" or "enough time."
  • nihil clamoris > "none of the shouting" or "no shouting"
  • nihil strepitus > "none of the noise" or "no noise"
  • tertia pars solis > "the third part of the sun"
  • quorum primus ego sum > "of whom I am chief"
  • quinque millia hominum > "five thousand [of the] men"
  • primus omnium > 'first of all' (with omnium in the genitive plural)
  • quis mortalium > 'who of mortals' (with mortalium in the genitive plural)
  • nihil odii > 'nothing of hatred' (with odii in the genitive singular)
  • tantum laboris > 'so much work' (with laboris in the genitive singular) vs. tantus labor 'so great a labor' which has no genitive and therefore is not the partitive genitive
  • quantum voluptatis > 'how much delight' (with voluptatis in the genitive singular)
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Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "How to Use and Recognize Partitive Genitive Case in Latin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Gill, N.S. (2020, August 28). How to Use and Recognize Partitive Genitive Case in Latin. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "How to Use and Recognize Partitive Genitive Case in Latin." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).