"One of"?

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"One of"?

Post by Mox » Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:14 pm

I've recently begun to slowly learn Latin (and at the same time re-learn the construction blocks of a human language), and I came across a phrase I find funny.
It's "one of". In this case, "one of the saints". It goes "unus ex sanctis", and wiktionary says about 'ex':

ex (+ ablative)
1. out of, from

(there aren't any alternative definitions listed)

Which should make it "one from the saints", which in a way might be a synonym for "one of the saints" , but wouldn't the genitive - "unus sanctorum" - fit better?

I haven't really gotten to numerals yet, maybe that's a prerequisite? Or am I missing something else?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Re: "One of"?

Post by furrykef » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:42 am

I've always seen "ex", never the genitive in this construction. "Dē" can be used as well with no change in meaning. Prepositions are tricky in any language and the distinctions are somewhat arbitrary. For example, in English I would buy a car from you, but in Spanish, I would buy a car to you (which, confusingly, can also mean buying something for you). Weird, huh?

So whenever Latin or any language uses a different preposition or case than we would use in English, just shrug your shoulders and go "OK". It's often the best you can do. :)

In this case, though, the construction can still be related to English: ūnus ex sanctīs = one out of the [group of] saints.

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Re: "One of"?

Post by woodwose » Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:15 pm


I know, for example, that milia (which functions like an i-stem noun) will often be paired with a partitive genitive. Thus milia sanctorum = thousands of saints.

With other cardinal numbers, the idea of the whole is expressed by the number + ex or de + ablative. So, unus ex sanctis, quattuor ex sanctis, etc. = one of the saints, four of the saints, etc.

Good luck!

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Re: "One of"?

Post by Mox » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:42 pm

Thank you both for your replies, I feel a bit enlightened now.

furrykef: I see. Prepositions can indeed be tricky. I've not yet run into anything as seemingly ambiguous as that Spanish example, but there have been one or two instances of 'In Swedish I would use this preposition/other language construct instead of the one used in English, and therefore the Latin resulting from Swedish would be different, how can I be sure this version that the English* textbook teaches me is correct?' I guess the presumed verification will come much later when I happen upon the same phrase in some piece of classical, or at least medieval, latin and for now just trust the book.

And indeed, 'one out of the group of' and 'one from the group of' sound OK, at least : )

woodwose: Aha, there is that general rule + exception.

To summarize: generally ex / de+ablative will be used instead of the genitive when counting parts of a collection. (To be examined more closely at a later stage of understanding : ) )

*Haven't seen a Swedish textbook on Latin, am reading "Beginner's Latin" by G.D.A Sharpley

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Re: "One of"?

Post by adrianus » Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:10 pm

Normally "ex" with numbers but the partitive genitive is also possible.
Cotidianus est usus per "ex" praepositionem; minùs naturalis vel inaequalis per genetivum partitivum.
A&G, §346 a2 & c wrote:unus ex tribunis, one of the tribunes. [But also, unus tribunorum...]
Livy Ab Urbe Condita 2 44 wrote:quattuorque tribunorum aduersus unum moratorem
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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