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Latin Translation: On the difficult road

by Steve
(San Francisco)

Dear Latin Teacher,


I am attending a Latin course which uses Henle's books. One of his questions is "in via difficil___ ." It seems to me that there are several possible answers. The preposition "in" may be accusative or ablative, so "difficilem" or "difficile" would be acceptable; would "difficilis," the road of difficulty, be acceptable as well?

Thank you, Steve


Dear Steve,

Your adjective must agree with via in gender, number, and case, i.e. feminine, singular, and ablative.

While the preposition in can take an accusative noun to complete its meaning, in this example we have an ablative phrase in via, on the road.

So the best answer is in via difficili, or possibly in via difficile.

I'm not sure what the Henle series teaches for third declension adjectives, but generally they are i-stem and have an -i in the ablative singular. For example, in omni urbe means in every city.

Many beginning grammar books, however, teach only the -e ending for ablative singular, so in omne urbe will often be taught in the early years of study.

In viam difficilem would mean onto the difficult road.

The phrase "on the road of difficulty" would be in via difficultatis, from difficultas, difficultatis (f). Remember that difficult is an adjective, while difficulty is a noun.

Hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.

Sincerely,

John

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