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Participles!

Latin uses participles extensively. It is essential to understand how to read the various forms, for they appear frequently in Latin literature. The participle is basically a hybrid between a verb and an adjective. As with verbs, the participle will have tense and voice. As with adjectives, the participle will have number, case, and gender and the ability to modify a noun (or even act as a substantive adjective in place of a noun). Because Latin uses participles more frequently than English does, there is a great deal of variety in the way a translator can render the Latin into English. The following is a brief review of the participle forms and their meanings.

 

Please take for an examle the verb edo, edere, edi, esum (to eat).

 A. Present Active Participle, Stem: second principal part + –ns/-nt + third declension endings.

 Exempli gratia:  edens, edentis

             Liberi edentes crustula sunt laeti.

            The children eating the cookies are happy.

            The children who eat cookies are happy.

 

 An ablative noun + an ablative participle create a phrase, independent of the sentence, which may express cause or time. The present participle in an ablative absolute:

 Crustulis edentibus, liberi sunt laeti.      When eating cookies, children are happy.

 

B. Perfect Passive Participle, Stem: fourth principal part + first and second declension endings

Exempli gratia:  esus, esa, esum

             Crustula esa erant gaudium liberis.

            The cookies (having been) eaten were a joy for the children.

            The cookies that were eaten were a joy for the children.

 

 The perfect passive participle in an ablative absolute:

Multis crustulis esis, liberi erant pleni.     

When many cookies had been eaten, the children were full.

 

 C. Future Active Participle, Stem: fourth principal part + –ur + first and second declension endings

Exempli gratia:  esurus, esura, esurum

             Liberi esuri crustula manus lavant.

            The children about to eat the cookies wash their hands.

            The children who are about to eat the cookies wash their hands.

 

The active periphrastic (also called the first periphrastic) uses the future active participle plus a form of esse.

Liberi sunt esuri.        The children are about to eat.

 

D. Future Passive Participle, Stem: second principal part + -nd + first and second declension endings

This form, also known as the gerundive, communicates action that is a necessity or obligation (though occasionally merely a future/present reference). The participle alone:

 

Exempli gratia:  edendus, edenda, edendum

            Mater parat crustula edenda.

            Mother prepares the cookies to be eaten.

 

 The passive periphrastic (also called the second periphrastic) uses the future passive participle plus a form of esse. This construction communicates necessity or obligation. To express agency, this construction must use the dative instead of a, ab with the ablative.

 Crustula liberis edenda sunt.        The cookies must be eaten by the children.

 

 Nota Bene:  It is easy to get the forms of the participles mixed up when first learning them.  Use these derivatives for the model verb agere to help keep them straight.

  • agent (present active participle) – a person “doing something”
  • actuary (future active participle) – someone who computes probabilities, things “about to” happen
  • act (perfect passive participle) – a law passed, a motion made, something already “done”
  • agenda (future passive participle) –  “things to be done”

 

*This review is compiled from excerpts provided in Latin Alive Book 2.   A smiliar review appears in the grammar section of the Latin Alive Reader (coming soon).

 

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