(old misleading title: The difference between ablative absolute and present participle)
On participles A&G notes:
- The present and perfect participles are often used as a predicate, where in English a phrase or a subordinate clause would be more natural. In this use the participles express time, cause, occasion, condition, concession, characteristic (or description), manner, means, attendant circumstances.
,which sounds quite close to ablative absolute (AA). If we take the first example of AA in A&G:
Caesar, acceptīs litterīs, nūntium mittit. (B. G. 5.46)
and change it to use present participle:
accipiens litteras, Caesar nuntium mittit.
What's the difference? It seems indeed that AA might occur just before the action, and not simultaneously, but I'm unsure how consistent is that. The first example of the participle:
Volventēs hostīlia cadāvera amīcum reperiēbant.
Is switching to AA (not sure how to technically do this in this case) would change something in the tone/stress?
A&G also says "A substantive in the Ablative Absolute very seldom denotes a person or thing elsewhere mentioned in the same clause." (hence it named absolute as being somewhat independent), but judging from the examples, there are not so few (even in the first, as Caesar is implied to accept the letters), where this is not exactly the case or I misread things.