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The Greek accusative or the accusative of respect (accusativus Graecus or accusativus respectus) is used like the ablative of respect (ablativus respectus). This construction is a loan from Greek, where there is no ablative and respect is expressed via the accusative. I have understood that the use of the Greek version is much narrower in Latin, but I do not exactly know how.

Can I use the Greek accusative whenever I would use the ablative of respect, both grammatically and stylistically? Are there situations where accusative is preferred to ablative?

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Among Bennett (§180), Allen & Greenough (§397b), and Gildersleeve & Lodge (§338), the last provides the most detail on this construction.

Two varieties are identified:

  1. Definite: The Accusative of the part affected
  2. Indefinite: cētera, alia, reliqua, omnia, plēraque, cūncta; in other respects, in all respects, in most respects.

The first is "very rare" in early Latin, but is present Sallust's and Livy's prose, and "in both is applied usually to wounds." It's also used in poetry. Of the second type cētera "is found here and there at all periods" but the others are rare.

Most valuable perhaps is the usage guidance that G&L provide:

Good prose uses the Ablative for the first variety, and for the second, ad cētera, in cēterīs, per cētera, etc.

As an aside, however, the use of the accusative of respect increased in Late and Medieval Latin (cf. Medieval Latin, ed. Harrington, 2nd edition, 20).

  • I've come across 'aetatem.' i.e. the accusative form of AETAS. In the dictionaries it is described as an 'adverb,' with the meaning 'over a long period of time,' -as it were 'ages and ages.' Is that the same construction under another name? [Stellas] aetatem mensuro – Hugh Jun 28 '16 at 19:27
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    @Hugh, that is a different use of the accusative, unrelated to the accusative of respect (as far as I know). Accusative is used to indicate length of time. In comparison, ablative is used to indicate when something happened or how much time was used. (You can ask that as a separate question if you want. New questions like that are always welcome. It's up to you.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 28 '16 at 20:07
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    I seem to recall something about accusative of respect being more common in poetry... did you come across that while researching an answer? – brianpck Nov 25 '16 at 13:42

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