The involved entity

William Bull and LaMadrid in their books on Spanish use the term ‘the involved entity’ for what winds up being the old Latin dative case. This is very important in Spanish and other Romance languages when English learners are studying them because it results in structures dissimilar to English e.g. Elle se cache le visage, le requin lui mord la jambe or se esconde la cara or el tiburon le mordio la pierna. Or il s’est met les main dans la poche / se puse la mano en el bolsillo where no “his” or “her” appears, the sense of it happening to the subject being expressed by either the reflexive verbs (in ‘se’) or the indirect object pronoun referring to the object of the verb, and the objects being designated by the definite article, so ‘she hid herself the face’, ‘the shark bit him the leg’, etc.

But does this appear in English? Yes, in frozen expressions reflecting the old dative case in English, e.g. ‘Look me in the eye’ or ‘He looked her directly in the face.’ Think about those for a moment and see if they make sense in terms of normal, current English. “Look at me in my eye” would be the normal way but sounds weird because we know the frozen expression. “He looked at her face directly” or some such. So this is an excellent example of grammatical survivals into the modern language due to being “frozen” in special expressions.

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