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Accusative: reference as satellite

Syntactical Level

βέλτιόν ἐστι σῶμά γ’ ἢ ψυχὴν νοσεῖν

‘It is better to be physically than mentally ill.’ (Men. Mon. 75)

The accusative signals the characteristic or entity which restricts the scope of the state of affairs, as a satellite.

Lexical usage

Mainly the following are used as accusatives of reference:

  • parts of the body (e.g. hand);
  • human characteristics (e.g. appearance);
  • words denoting circumstances (e.g. in battle, in thought).

The following accusatives, usually without the article, are often used as accusatives of reference: ὄνομα ‘by name’, γένος ‘by descent’, ἀριθμόν ‘in number’, μέγεθος ‘in size’, εὖρος ‘in width’, ὕψος ‘in height’, μῆκος ‘in weight’, τέλος ‘finally’. We also find expressions such as τὸ ἐμὸν μέρος ‘as far as I'm concerned’.

Syntactic usage

The predicate with which an accusative of reference stands is always intransitive.

Historical background

In post-classical and poetic Latin the accusative of reference also occurs, especially with passive participles: nudatus bracchia 'with bare arms' (literally: 'bare where the arms are concerned'). Grammars speak of an accusativus Graecus.

Example Sentences: 

ἓν γάρ τι τοῖς δούλοισιν αἰσχύνην φέρει,

τοὔνομα· τὰ δ' ἄλλα πάντα τῶν ἐλευθέρων

οὐδὲν κακίων δοῦλος, ὅστις ἐσθλὸς ᾖ

ὅτε Φίλιππος τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν ἐξεκόπη συμπροῆλθεν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ Κλείσοφος τελαμωνισθεὶς τὸν αὐτὸν ὀφθαλμόν

After Philip lost an eye in a fight, Cleisophus accompanied him with a bandage over the same eye.

παιδεραστής εἰμι καὶ σοφὸς τὰ ἐρωτικά.

I am a lover, and wise in the advice of love. ֍

ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ ἰσθμοῦ τούτου ἡ Χερσόνησος ἔσω πᾶσα ἐστὶ σταδίων εἴκοσι καὶ τετρακοσίων τὸ μῆκος.

From that isthmus the whole Chersonessus is 420 stadia in its length.