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Latin/Latin Prepositions


Hi, I was wondering if you could explain a little about the rules used in the translation of the following statement:

I have seen that "Coram Deo" is translated as "in the presence of God"
Now, my question is, what case and why is "Deo"? I know it is either Dative or Ablative, so which one is it and why?

I thought that is is "in the presence OF GOD" it should've been Gen case wouldn't it? Why is Coram Deo = to "in the presence of God" rather than "Coram Dei"?

"Coram" is a preposition.  In Latin, objects of prepositions take the accusative and/or the ablative case.  Prepositions never take the dative case.

(1) Some prepositions, often describing place where or place from which, take the ablative.
EXAMPLES:  de monte (down from the mountain), ab oriente (from the East).

(2) Other prepositions, often describing place to which, take the accusative.  
EXAMPLES:  ad montem (to the mountain), trans flumen (across the river).

(3) Other prepositions take either case, depending upon the meaning.
EXAMPLES:  in terra (on the earth) with the ablative (place where), but in flumen (into the river) with the accusative (place to which).

"Coram" is a preposition of class (1).  It means "in the presence of" or "before" (in the sense of position).

It is the English that is confusing you, not the Latin.  When thinking in Latin, do not consider the various ways in which English may try to represent a concept.  They are two different languages with two different ways of expressing things.  The very notion of "translation" is flawed.  One language cannot ever truly be "translated" into another language.  Any two languages reflect two different mindsets, two different was of looking at the world.  That is why you cannot render one language "word for word" into another language.

"In-the-presence-of" is a phrase in English that could just as well be rendered by "before."  So, if the verbosity of the English phrase confuses you, just substitute the English word "before."  Thus, one genuflects BEFORE God (coram Deo), which is the same as saying that one genuflects IN-THE-PRESENCE-OF God (coram Deo).

How you render the concept in English, whether by the phrase (taken as a whole) "in-the-presence-of" or by the single word "before" or by some other similar word or phrase, makes no difference in the Latin.  Latin always gets directly to the heart of the matter, whereas often English bumbles along in confused verbosity!


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Ph.D. Cand. in Classical Languages. Conversant with all forms of the language: classical, mediaeval, and modern.


I have 50 years of teaching at all levels of Latin from high school through university postgraduate. I read, write, and speak Latin daily.

American Classical League, American Philological Association

A.B., M.A., Ph.D. Cand. in Classics.

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