I'm looking for examples of having 2 or more nouns in the same case but with the different semantic roles given by the differing referents of the nouns, not entirely by one of morphological case, syntax nor context. For example, the double accusative in Ancient Greek: "τὸν λόγον φῐ́λον διδάσκω" only differs in emphasis from "φῐ́λον τὸν λόγον διδάσκω" etc even though "λόγον" and "φῐ́λον" are classed as being in the same case, that is *something other than the case markers ('-ον') or the word order says that a friend is the person being taught and the reason is the thing being taught, rather it's the things themselves. Canst thou imagine a friend being taught to the abstract thing logic?*. Examples within Greek but using a different word welcomed.

  • On this site it is expected that examples in other scripts be given in those scripts. Transliterations are nice but optional, whereas the original language script is essential.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 12:37
  • How about examples where the nouns aren't direct arguments of the verb? For instance Latin putō ACC [esse] ACC "I think X is Y"
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 17:38
  • @Draconis doesn't syntax differentiate in those cases? Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 20:30
  • Sometimes, but Latin word order (especially in poetry) can be treated as entirely free. Subjects usually precede predicates but even that isn't a hard rule.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:07
  • ...as I now see Eleshar's answer demonstrates. There are plenty of other examples if you want 'em.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:09

3 Answers 3


Latin is full of these:

Illum meum amicum appelo. (I call him my friend)

Romulum regem romanum fecerun. (They made Romulus into a king)

This is with verbs of change (somebody changed/made into something), verbs of appelation (somebody being called something but also nominated to be something, similarly to the previous example) and verbs of considering/belief (somebody considered to be something).

  • This might be more what I'm asking for than what Artemij said because 'to make a king into Romulus's doesn't make sense (because 'Romulus' is a proper noun not something that denotes a category) and neither does 'I call my friend him'. How do 'meum amicum Illum appelo' and 'regem romanum Romulum fecerun' sound? Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:26
  • Look at my original question again. I've tried to clarify myself. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:31
  • @Jacob Stewart But it is the same thing. You asked for double accusative distinguished only by the things themselves. So you can't make a king into Romulus the same way as you can't teach a friend to a language. But you can make king into a soldier or soldier into a king (Militem regem fecerunt).
    – Eleshar
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 19:06
  • I could be the same thing, I realise that. But I wanted to ask to make sure: How would 'meum amicum Illum appelo' and 'regem romanum Romulum fecerun' sound to the best of thy knowledge? Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 20:06
  • @Jacob Stewart I probably did not understand what you meant. Regarding the word order, I do not believe it would have any impact on the meaning. It would probably modify just the topicality but the semantic restrictions remain the same. WIth the other one (Militem regem fecerunt / Regem militem fecerunt), I would say that the first one is typically object and the second one the attribute but again, you could put focus on either by intonation to change the meaning.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 22:45

The first example that comes to my mind is the dative shift in English, i.e. the construction found in the following sentence:

I gave John a book.

Both arguments are NPs (rather than PPs), so formally you can consider it a sort of "same case" situation. Both arguments can become Subjects of a passive sentence (The book has been given to John by me vs. John has been given a book by me), which makes them equally good Direct Objects.

Dative shift is a very debated construction: some scholars consider it derived from the canonical transfer construction (such as I gave a book to John), while others think that the difference in meaning between the two is relevant enough to view them as two independent constructions (see more on Wikipedia).

Another interesting construction is to be found in Russian, in a particular type of sentences with a dative Subject governed by an infinitive, with a deontic meaning. In case the predicate has also a recipient semantic argument, then the dative-marked syntactic arguments become two:

Не мне тебе объяснять

Ne mne tebe ob"jasnjat'

not I-DAT you-DAT explain-INF

"It is not up to me to explain it to you" (notice also the two PPs headed by to in the English translation)

Although frequently used, this construction can be still considered ungrammatical by some speakers.

  • While interesting, neither of thy two examples are what I'm looking for. In thy English example syntax disambiguates. Also it's worth noting that in the Russian example 'мне' and 'тебе' refer to similar enough things that it can't be the 'role-agnostic meanings' / referents that distinguish the different sentences. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 20:23
  • @JacobStewart I could have misunderstood your question from the beginning. Anyways, note that Greek διδάσκω can also be translated in English with two "accusatives": I teach you Math Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:31
  • But "I teach Maths you" doesn't work so it's syntax that disambiguates (but possibly as well as reference. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 20:02
  • I've always figured that this 'dative shift' was probably the result of VIO being the default word order and so it stuck that way when the dative case was lost. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 11:11
  • How much truth is there to this? Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 11:11

Possibly this Hebrew case (with verbs of teaching and asking): https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/double-accusative.327943/

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