What Participles Are/ What They Can Do
Participles are the switch hitters of the grammatical world.
They are adjectives formed from verbal stems and as a consequence they:
- like adjectives, can modify nouns and will agree with those nouns in gender,
number and case. Because participles are adjectives, they may also be used
substantively (i.e., as nouns).
- e.g. "The driving passion of Quincy's life is the
pursuit of squirrels."
- driving: is a present active participle formed from the verb "to
- driving: is an adjective modifying the noun "passion"
- e.g. "Those paying the piper call the tunes."
- The participle (nom, plural form) is being used as a noun (the subject
of the verb "call"). Because it is a participle, it can
also take an object (the piper).
- like verbs
- have tense and voice
- can take objects (direct, indirect) and other verbal constructions
- e.g.: Listening to their professor, the Latin 101 students
were struck with awe.
- Listening is a a present active participle which modifies the noun,
"students" and takes the noun "professor" as its
The tense of a participle is used to describe the time during which the verbal
action of the participle takes place relative to the main verb of the sentence.
- Present participles indicate actions which take place at the same time
as the main verb
- e.g., Hearing their professor's explanation, the Latin
101 students immediately understood the grammatical function
- the understanding (main verb - note it's in the past) and the hearing
(participle, adjective modifying the noun students, taking the noun
"explanation" as its object) are simultaneous.
- Perfect participles indicate actions that take place before the action
of the main verb
- e.g., The homework, having been assigned, was promptly
completed by the students.
- The assigning was done before the completing (note completed is
in the past tense which means the assigning occured even further in
- Future participles indicate actions that will take place after the action
of the main verb is completed.
- e.g. The students, who are about to take a test, wish
that they had studied more.
- The students will take the test after they are done wishing
they had studied more.
- NB: English doesn't really have a future participle and as a consequence,
when you translate these constructions you will use phrases like, "about
to x," "going to x" [ about to be x'ed, going to be x'd
in the passive voice].
The voice of participles works just like the voice of verbs.
The participial system, however, is not complete. There is no present passive
participle or perfect active participle. As a consequence, [particularly with
perfect passive participles] there are some limitations in what you can express
When you translate participles, you should feel free to use
subordinate (relative, temporal, causal) clauses as well as the literal translation
of the participle. For example,
pressï ab ducibus, petïverunt mïlitem.
- The priests, having been pursued by the generals, beseeched the soldier.
- The priests, who had been pursued by the generals, beseeched the soldier.
- After they were pursued by the generals, the priests beseeched the soldier.
- Although they were pursued by the generals, the priets beseeched the soldier.