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In linguistics, ablative case (abbreviated abl) is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ. The name "ablative" is derived from the Latin ablatus, the (irregular) perfect passive participle of auferre "to carry away".


Indo-European languages



1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Singular -e / -ī
Plural -īs (-ābus) -īs (-ōbus) -ibus -ibus -ēbus

The Latin ablative case (ablativus) has at least fifteen documented uses; although some classicists have stated that there are additional unique uses. Generalizing their function, however, ablatives modify or limit nouns by ideas of where (place), when (time), how (manner), etc. Hence, the case is sometimes also called the adverbial case; this can be quite literal, as phrases in the ablative can be translated as adverbs. E.g. magnā (cum) celeritāte, literally "with great speed", may also be translated "very quickly."

Ablative of place

Active motion away from a place is only one particular use of the ablative case and is called the ablative of place from which. Nouns, either proper or common, are almost always used in this sense with accompanying prepositions of ab/ā/abs, "from"; ex/ē, "out of"; or , "down from". E.g. ex agrīs, "from the fields"; ex Graeciā ad Italiam navigāvērunt, "They sailed from Greece to Italy."

Ablative of separation

A closely related construction is called the ablative of separation. This usage of the ablative implies that some person or thing is separated from another. No active movement from one location to the next occurs; furthermore, ablatives of separation sometimes lack a preposition, particularly with certain verbs like cáreō or līberō. E.g. Cicerō hostēs ab urbe prohibuit, "Cicero kept the enemy away from the city"; Eōs timōre līberāvit, "He freed them from fear."

The Latin ablative may also be used to indicate:

Ablative of instrument

  • the means by which an action was carried out. E.g. oculīs vidēre, "to see with the eyes". This is known as the ablative of means or of instrument, and is equivalent to the instrumental case found in some other languages. Special deponent verbs in Latin sometimes use the ablative of means idiomatically. E.g. Ūtitur stilō literally says "he is benefiting himself by means of a pencil"; however, the phrase is more aptly translated "he is using a pencil."

Ablative of manner

  • the manner in which an action was carried out. The preposition cum (meaning "with") is used when (i) no adjective describes the noun E.g. cum cūrā, "with care," or (ii) optionally after the adjective(s) and before the noun E.g. magnā (cum) celeritāte, "with great speed." This is known as the ablative of manner.

Ablative of time

  • the time when or within which an action occurred. E.g. aestāte, "in summer"; eō tempore, "at that time"; Paucīs hōrīs id faciet, "within a few hours he will do it." This is known as the ablative of time when or within which.

Ablative absolute

  • the circumstances surrounding an action. E.g. Urbe captā, Aenēas fugit, "With the city having been captured, Aeneas fled." This is known as the ablative absolute.

Ablative of attendant circumstances

Of kindred nature to this is the ablative of attendant circumstances "magno cum clamore civium ad urbem perveniunt" ("they reach the city to the great clamours of the populace")

Ablative of accompaniment

  • with whom something was done. Nouns in this construction are always accompanied by the preposition cum. E.g. cum eīs, "with them"; Cum amīcīs vēnērunt, "They came with friends." This is known as the ablative of accompaniment.
  • the whole to which a certain number belongs or is a part. E.g. centum ex virīs, "one hundred of the men"; quīnque ex eīs, "five of them."

Ablative of personal agent

  • agent by whom the action of a passive verb is performed. The agent is always preceded by ab/ā/abs. E.g. Caesar ā dīs admonētur, "Caesar is warned by the gods." This is known as the ablative of personal agent.

Ablative of agent

This can, however, be more generalized when the agent is an inanimate object. In this case, the preposition ab/ā/abs is not used. E.g. rex a militibus interfectus est "the king was killed by the soldiers" with personal agents, but impersonally it reads rex armis militum interfectus erat "the king was killed by the weapons of the soldiers." This is known as simply the ablative of agent, and also as the ablative of means or instrument.

Other known uses of the ablative include the ablatives of cause, of comparison, of degree of difference, of description, of place where, and of specification. Important: Not all ablatives can be categorized into the classes mentioned above!

Some Latin prepositions, like pro, take a noun in the ablative. A few prepositions may take either an accusative or an ablative, in which case the accusative indicates motion towards, and the ablative indicates no motion. E.g. in casā, "in the cottage"; in casam, "into the cottage".[1]


The ablative case is found in Albanian where it is the fifth case and is called "mënyra rrjedhore."


The ablative case in Sanskrit is the fifth case (panchami) in the grammar, and has similar function to that of Latin.

Sanskrit nouns in this case often refer to a subject "out of" which or "from" whom something (an action, an object) has arisen or occurred.

E.g. parnam vrikshaat patati "the leaf falls from the tree".

This case is also used for nouns in several other senses, eg, where the action occurs "because of" or "without" a certain noun; nouns indicating distance or direction.


In the Western Armenian language, the ablative case is rendered by the suffix -e (indefinite) or -en (definite).

Mart - man
Marten - from the man
Marte - from (a) man
Doon - house
D'nen - from the house
D'ne - from (a) house

In Eastern Armenian, the suffix -its is used for both definite and indefinite nouns.

Mard- man Mardits- from man

Toon- house T'nits- from house

Both suffixes are derived from Classical Armenian. The Western suffix -e is from the Classical singular and the Eastern suffix -its is from the Classical plural; both have been generalized for singular and plural in the dialects that use them.

In Armenian, the ablative case has several uses.

  • Its principal function is to show motion away from a point in space or time.
    • KAGHAKEN katsi. - I came FROM THE CITY. (Eastern Armenian; KAGHAKITS gnets)
    • ASTEGHEN heroo g'abrei. - I used to live far FROM HERE. (Ea. ASTEGHITS heroo ei b'nakoom)
  • The case also shows the agent when used with the passive voice of the verb.
    • INE misht g' sirveis. - You were always loved BY ME. (Ea. INDZITS misht eis sirvoom)
    • AZAD'CHNEREN azadetsank. - We were freed BY THE LIBERATORS. (Ea. AZATOGHNERITS azatfetsink)
  • The ablative case is also important to comparative statements in colloquial Armenian.
    • Inch MEGHREN anoosh eh? - "What is sweeter THAN HONEY?" (proverb) (Ea. Inch MEGHRITS e anoosh?)
    • Mariam EKHPEREN b'zdig eh. - Mary is smaller (younger) THAN HER BROTHER. (Ea. Maro AKHBERITS e bakas)
    • In this use, the ablative can also be used with infinitives and participles.
      • Tooz hamdesel e lav DESNALE. - Figs are better to taste THAN TO SEE. (Ea. T'zner hamtesel e laf TESNELITS)
  • The ablative case is also important to case government with postpositions.
    • INE var - Below ME (Ea. INDZITS var)
    • KEZME ver - Above YOU (Ea. KEZITS ver)
    • ANONTSME verch - After THEM (Ea. N'RANITS verj)
    • MEZME arach - Before US (Ea. MEZNITS araj)

Uralic languages


In Finnish, the ablative case is the sixth of the locative cases with the meaning "from, off, of", e.g. pöytä – pöydältä "table – off from the table". It is an outer locative case, used just as the adessive and allative cases to denote both being on top of something and "being around the place" (as opposed to the inner locative case, the elative, which means "from out of" or "from the inside of").

The Finnish ablative is also used in time expressions to indicate start times as well as with verbs expressing feelings or emotions.

The Finnish ablative has the ending -lta or -ltä according to the regular rules of vocal harmony.


  • away from a place
Off the roof
Off the table
From the beach
From the land
From the sea
  • to stop some activity with the verb lähteä
lähteä tupakalta
stop smoking (in the sense of putting out the cigarette one is smoking now; literally 'leave from the tobacco')
lähteä hippasilta
stop playing the game of tag (hippa=tag, olla hippasilla=playing tag)
  • to smell/taste/feel/look/sound like something
haisee pahalta
smells bad
maistuu hyvältä
tastes good
tuntuu kamalalta
feels awful
näyttää tyhmältä
looks stupid
kuulostaa mukavalta
sounds nice


The ablative case in Hungarian is used to describe movement away from a solid object. For example, if one is walking away from a friend one could say: a barátomtól jövök - I am coming (away from) my friend.

Note that this case in this example implies that the user was next to the solid object, and not inside it. This means that if one said a postától jövök it would mean one is coming from being stood next to the post office, and that you were not inside the building.

The application of vowel harmony gives two different suffixes: -tól and -től. These are applied to back- and front-vowel words respectively.

Its partners for movement towards a solid object and for being next to that solid object are the allative case and the adessive case respectively. Its partners that correspond to movement away from, or out of, something are the delative case (for movement from a surface or from a Hungarian city) and the elative case (for movement out of a container or from out of an international city).

Altaic languages


The ablative in Azeri (çıxışlıq hal) is expressed through the suffixes -dan or -dən. Examples:

Ev - evdən
House - from/off the house

Aparmaq - aparmaqdan
To carry - from/off carrying


The ablative in Turkish (-den hali or uzaklaşma hali) is expressed through the suffixes -den, -dan, -ten, or -tan. Examples:

Ev - evden
House - from/off the house

At - attan
Horse - from/off the horse

Taşımak - taşımaktan
To carry - from/off carrying

External links


  1. ^ Wheelock, Frederic M. Wheelock's Latin, HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-078371-0


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