The tool by means of which the action of a verb is done is expressed by the ablative case without a preposition. This use of the ablative case is called Ablative of Means. The tool expressed by the ablative of means is nearly always some kind of physical object:
  • The lieutenant signaled the army with a trumpet.
  • The farmers will carry the grain in wagons.
  • The women traveled by boat.
It rarely can be something abstract:
  • We won the race with our speed.
It is almost never a person—people are not tools!

Ablative of means does not have an expressed preposition in the Latin. English translations of the ablative of means usually employ one of the following prepositions: with, by, in, on.

  • Latin: Lēgātus tubā signum dat.
  • English: The lieutenant is giving a signal with a trumpet.
  • English: The lieutenant is giving a sign on a trumpet.
  • English: The lieutenant gives a signal by trumpet.

  • Latin: Deōs multīs linguīs laudābunt.
  • English: They will praise the gods with many languages.
  • English: They will praise the gods in many tongues.

RECAP: Ablative of means expresses the tool used to accomplish the action of a verb, uses no preposition in Latin, and uses the prepositions with, by, in or on in English translations.