The accusative signals the characteristic or entity which restricts the scope of the state of affairs, as a satellite.
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’.
The predicate with which an accusative of reference stands is always intransitive.
According to Bornemann-Risch (§ 172.2) the accusative with passive participles was originally a direct object, at a time when these participles were still felt to be middle. He gives the example ἐξεκόπην (or ἐκκεκομμένος) τὸν ὀφθαλμόν ‘I have knocked his eye out’. In a later phase the translation would be: ‘I got a knock on the eye’.
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.
ἔστιν οὖν ὅπως οὐ πάμπολυ διαφέρει γυνὴ ἀνδρὸς τὴν φύσιν;
Is het soms mogelijk dat een vrouw niet helemaal verschilt van een man in haar aard?
ἓν γάρ τι τοῖς δούλοισιν αἰσχύνην φέρει, | τοὔνομα· τὰ δ' ἄλλα πάντα τῶν ἐλευθέρων | οὐδὲν κακίων δοῦλος, ὅστις ἐσθλὸς ᾖ
Eén iets brengt schaamte aan slaven: de naam. Wat alle andere dingen betreft, is elke slaaf die edel is, in niets slechter dan vrije mensen.