In Latin, a common way of expressing when an action is happening relative to another action is to use an ablative absolute, consisting of an ablative noun and an ablative participle. As an example, servo laborante could be translated as 'with the slave working'. In the English translation, we use the word 'with' to show the ablative, which makes it seem as if we are dealing with an ablative instrument. But nobody is physically using the slave as an instrument to do something, so this does not make sense. It seems almost like an ablative agent, because we are trying to say that the slave is working, or that work is being done by the slave. But this doesn't quite make sense either, as we have no main passive verb as is typical of sentences using the ablative agent. So my question is this: how exactly is the ablative being used in an ablative absolute? Is it a unique use of the ablative case?

  • There are, indeed, many uses of Ablative case. Notice that Instrumental Ablative, or, more specifically, Ablative of accompaniment is only one of many possible uses. Other uses are Ablative of quality (as in "bird of prey"). No, it is not unique at all. – bytebuster Feb 16 '16 at 23:10
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    By the way, you might be interested in the Latin Language stack exchange once it goes online: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/75409/latin-language – sumelic Feb 17 '16 at 4:59
  • I was wondering why the ablative is so used. Is it because Latin [or its ancestors] had more cases, and some of them collapsed into the remaining six? – David Garner Feb 19 '16 at 15:52

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