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In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives.[1] It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices (periphrasis), or as a modifier. A phrase composed of a participle and other words is a participle phrase.


The word comes from Latin participium,[2] a calque of Greek <tr><td style="background: #F8F8F8; font-size: small;">U+metochḗx</td><td title="U+metochḗ0: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ1: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ2: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ3: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ4: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ5: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ6: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ7: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ8: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗ9: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗA: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗB: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗC: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗD: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗE: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td><td title="U+metochḗF: (This position shall not be used)" style="background-color: #777;"> </td></tr> "partaking" or "sharing",[3] because the Ancient Greek and Latin participles share in the properties of the adjective or noun (gender, number, and case) and of the verb (tense and voice).


Adverbial and adjectival

In some languages, a distinction between adverbial participle and adjectival participle can be made. See причастие and деепричастие in Russian grammar, határozói igenév and melléknévi igenév in Hungarian grammar, or imiesłów in Polish grammar. Also many Inuit languages make such a distinction, see for details e.g. the sophisticated participle system of the Sireniki Eskimo.

Perfect passive

The perfect passive participle is the past participle expressed in the passive voice, for example

  • The dog, having been praised by its master, was happy, or more commonly, The dog, praised by its master, was happy.

Perfect passive of deponent

Deponent verbs are typically passive in form but active in meaning and their participles thus take the form but not the meaning of the perfect passive participle. In Latin:

  • precatus "having prayed" (from the verb precor, precari, precatus sum)

Compare with a non-deponent equivalent:

  • laudatus "having been praised" (from the verb laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatus)

Indo-European languages

Germanic languages


Modern English

English verbs have two participles:

  1. called variously the present, active, imperfect, or progressive participle, it is identical in form to the gerund; the term present participle is sometimes used to include the gerund. The term gerund-participle is also used.
  2. called variously the past, passive, or perfect participle, it is usually identical to the verb's preterite (past tense) form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ.

Examples of participle formation include:

to hire hired hiring regular
to do did done doing irregular
to say said saying
to eat ate eaten eating
to write wrote written writing
to beat beat beaten beating
to sing sang sung singing
to see saw seen seeing

While English past participles, like past tense forms, are sometimes irregular, all English present participles are regular, being formed with the suffix -ing. The present participle in English is used for:

  • forming the progressive aspect: Jim was sleeping.
  • modifying a noun as an adjective: Let sleeping dogs lie. (= Let dogs that are sleeping lie.)
  • modifying a verb or sentence in clauses: Broadly speaking, the project was successful.

The present participle in English has the same form as the gerund, but the gerund acts as a noun rather than a verb or a modifier. The word sleeping in Your job description does not include sleeping is a gerund and not a present participle.

The past participle may be used in both active and passive voices:

  • forming the perfect: The chicken has eaten.
  • forming the passive voice: The chicken was eaten.
  • modifying a noun, with active sense: our fallen comrades (= our comrades who have fallen)
  • modifying a noun, with passive sense: the attached files (= the files that have been attached)
  • modifying a verb or sentence, with passive sense: Seen from this perspective, the problem presents no easy solution. (= When it is seen from this perspective,....)

As noun-modifiers, participles usually precede the noun (like adjectives), but in many cases they can or must follow it:

  • The visiting dignitaries devoured the baked apples.
  • Please bring all the documents required. (= Please bring all the documents that are required.)
  • The difficulties encountered were nearly insurmountable. (= The difficulties that were encountered were nearly insurmountable.)

Even irregular past participle verbs often follow the format -en or -ne, as may be seen from above. For examples:

to beat beaten
to do done
to eat eaten
to fall fallen
to give given
to help holpen[4]
to show shown
to see seen
to write written
Old English
  • In Old English, weak present participles ended in -ende or -iende depending on verb class. In Middle English, various forms were used in different regions: -ende (SW, SE, Midlands), -inde (SW, SE), -and (N), -inge (SE). This latter form eventually fell together with the suffix -ing, used to form verbal nouns.
  • Strong past participles were marked with a ge- prefix, as are most strong and weak past participles in Dutch and High German today.

Romance languages


Main article: Latin conjugation#Participles

Latin has three participles:

  • present active participle: present stem + -ns (gen. –ntis); e.g. educāns "teaching"
  • perfect passive participle: participial stem + -us, -a, -um; e.g. educātus "(having been) taught"
  • future active participle: participial stem + -ūrus, -ūra, -ūrum; e.g. educātūrus "about to teach"

The gerundive is sometimes considered the future passive participle, although it is more of the jussive mood than the future tense. It is formed from the present stem + (e)ndus, -a, -um; e.g. educandus "needing to be taught".

"I educate"
active passive
present ēdūcāns
perfect ēdūcātus
future ēdūcātūrus (ēdūcandus)


There are two basic participles:

  • Present active participle: formed by dropping the -ons of the nous form of a verb (except with être) and then adding ant: marchant "walking", étant "being"
  • Past participle: formation varies according to verb group: vendu "sold", mis "placed", marché "walked", été "been", and fait "done". The sense of the past participle is passive as an adjective and in most verbal constructions with "être", but active in verbal constructions with "avoir", in reflexive constructions, and with some intransitive verbs.[5]

Compound participles are possible:

  • Present perfect participle: ayant appelé "having called", étant mort "being dead"
  • Passive perfect participle: étant vendu "being sold, having been sold"


  • Present participles are used as qualifiers as in "un insecte volant" (a flying insect) and some other contexts. They are never used in forming tenses. The present participle is used in subordinate clauses, usually with en; "Je marche, en parlant".
  • Past participles are used as qualifiers for nouns "la table cassée" (the broken table), to form compound tenses such as the perfect "Vous avez dit" (you have said) and to for the passive voice "il a été tué" (he/ it has been killed).


In Spanish, the present or active participle (participio activo or participio de presente) of a verb is traditionally formed with one of the suffixes -ante, -ente or -iente, but modern grammar does not consider it a verbal form any longer, as they become adjectives or nouns on their own: e.g. amante "loving" or "lover", viviente "living" or "live".

The continuous is constructed much as in English, using a conjugated form of estar (to be) plus the gerundio (sometimes called a verbal adverb or adverbial participle as it does not decline) with the suffixes -ando (for -ar verbos) or -iendo (for both -ir and -er verbs): for example, estar haciendo means to be doing (haciendo being the gerundio of hacer, to do), and there are related constructions such as seguir haciendo meaning to keep doing (seguir being to continue).

The past participle (participio pasado or pasivo) is regularly formed with one of the suffixes -ado, -ido, but several verbs have an irregular form ending in -to (e.g. escrito, visto), or -cho (e.g. dicho, hecho). The past participle is used generally as an adjective meaning a finished action, or to form the passive voice, and it is variable in gender and number in these uses; and also it is used to form the compound tenses (as in English) in which it has only one form, the singular male one. Some examples:

As an adjective
  • las cartas escritas "the written letters"
In the passive voice, accompanied by the verb "ser" (to be) and "por" (by)
  • Los ladrones fueron capturados por la policia "The thieves were caught by the police."
To form compound tenses
  • Ella ha escrito una carta. "She has written a letter."

Hellenic languages

Ancient Greek

Main article: Ancient Greek grammar#Participle

The Ancient Greek participle shares in the properties of adjectives and verbs. Like an adjective, it changes form for gender, case, and number. Like a verb, it has tense and voice, is modified by adverbs, and can take verb arguments, including an object.[6]

There is a form of the participle for every combination of tense (present, aorist, perfect, future) and voice (active, middle, passive). Here are the masculine nominative singular forms:

"I release"
active middle passive
present λύων λυόμενος
aorist λύσας λυσάμενος λυθείς
future λύσων λυσόμενος λυθησόμενος
perfect λελυκώς λελυμένος

Like an adjective, it can modify a noun, and can be used to embed one thought into another.

  • πολλὰ καὶ φύσει καὶ ἐπιστήμῃ δεῖ τὸν εὖ στρατηγήσοντα ἔχειν
    "he who intends to be a good general must have a great deal of ability and knowledge,"

In the example, the participial phrase τὸν εὖ στρατηγήσοντα, literally "the one going to be a good general," is used to embed the idea εὖ στρατηγήσει "he will be a good general" within the main verb.

The participle is very widely used in ancient Greek, especially in prose.

Slavic languages


The Polish word for participle is imiesłów (pl.: imiesłowy). There are four types of imiesłowy in two classes:

Adjectival participle (imiesłów przymiotnikowy)

  • active adjectival participle (imiesłów przymiotnikowy czynny): robiący - "doing", "one who does"
  • passive adjectival participle (imiesłów przymiotnikowy bierny): robiony - "being done" (can only be formed off transitive verbs)

Adverbial participle (imiesłów przysłówkowy)

  • present adverbial participle (imiesłów przysłówkowy współczesny): robiąc - "doing", "while doing"
  • perfect adverbial participle (imiesłów przysłówkowy uprzedni): zrobiwszy - "having done" (formed in virtually all cases off verbs in their perfective forms, here denoted by the prefix z-)

Dangling participle

Due to the distinction between adjectival and adverbial participles, in Polish it is practically impossible to make a dangling participle mistake in the classical English meaning of the term. For instance, in the sentence:

"I have found them hiding in the closet."

it is unclear, whether "I" or "them" is hiding in the closet. In Polish there is a clear distinction:

  • "Znalazłem ich, chowając się w szafie." - chowając is a present adverbial participle regarding the subject ("I")
  • "Znalazłem ich chowających się w szafie" - chowających is an active adjectival participle regarding the object ("them")

However, participles may cause confusion if used in sentences like this one:

  • "Mając 8 lat, rodzice posłali mnie do szkoły" - "Being 8 years old my parents sent me to school"

which does not make it clear - in grammatical terms - whether "me" or "my parents" were 8 at the time of "me" being sent to school. The use of the present adverbial participle mając (corresponding to the participle being in the English translation) is considered incorrect, and thus a different structure should be used.


Verb: слышать [ˈslɨ.ʂɐtʲ] (to hear, imperfective aspect)

Present active: слышащий [ˈslɨ.ʂɐ.ɕɕɪj] "hearing", "who hears"
Present passive: слышимый [ˈslɨ.ʂᵻ.məj] "being heard", "that is heard", "audible"
Past active: слышавший [ˈslɨ.ʂɐf.ʂəj] "who heard", "who was hearing"
Past passive: слышанный [ˈslɨ.ʂɐn.nəj] "that was heard", "that was being heard"
Adverbial present active: слыша [ˈslɨ.ʂɐ] "(while) hearing"
Adverbial past active: слышав [ˈslɨ.ʂɐf] "having been hearing"

Verb: услышать [ʊˈslɨ.ʂɐtʲ] (to hear, perfective aspect)

Past active: услышавший [ʊˈslɨ.ʂɐf.ʂəj] "who has heard"
Past passive: услышанный [ʊˈslɨ.ʂɐn.nəj] "that has been heard"
Adverbial past active: услышав [ʊˈslɨ.ʂɐf] "having heard"


Verb: правя pravja (to do, imperfective aspect)

Present active: правещ pravešt
Past active aorist: правил pravil
Past active imperfect: правел pravel (only used in verbal constructions)
Past passive: правен praven
Adverbial present active: правейки pravejki

Verb: направя napravja (to do, perfective aspect)
Past active aorist: направил napravil
Past active imperfect: направел napravel (only used in verbal constructions)
Past passive: направен napraven

Participles are adjectives formed as verbs

Baltic languages


Among Indo-European languages, the Lithuanian language is unique for having thirteen different participial forms of the verb, that can be grouped into five when accounting for inflection by tense. Some of these are also inflected by gender and case. For example, the verb eiti ("to go, to walk") has the active participle forms einąs/einantis ("going, walking", present tense), ėjęs (past tense), eisiąs (future tense), eidavęs (past frequentative tense), the passive participle forms einamas ("being walked", present tense), eitas (“walked“ past tense), eisimas (future tense), the adverbial participles einant ("while [he, different subject] is walking" present tense), ėjus (past tense), eisiant (future tense), eidavus (past frequentative tense), the semi-participle eidamas ("while [he, the same subject] is going, walking") and the participle of necessity eitinas ("that which needs to be walked"). The active, passive and the semi- participles are inflected by gender and the active, passive and necessity ones are inflected by case.

Semitic languages


Main article: Arabic grammar#Participle

The Arabic verb has two participles: an active participle (اسم الفاعل) and a passive participle (اسم المفعول ), and the form of the participle is predictable by inspection of the dictionary form of the verb. These participles are inflected for gender, number and case, but not person. Arabic participles are employed syntactically in a variety of ways: as nouns, as adjectives or even as verbs. Their uses vary across varieties of Arabic. In general the active participle describes a property of the syntactic subject of the verb from which it is derived, whilst the passive participles describes the object. For example, from the verb كتب kataba, the active participle is kaatibun كاتب and the passive participle is maktuubun مكتوب. Roughly these translate to writing and written respectively. However, they have different, derived lexical uses. كاتب kaatibun is further lexicalized as writer, author and مكتوب maktuubun as letter.

In Classical Arabic these participles do not participate in verbal constructions with auxiliaries the same way as their English counterparts do, and rarely take on a verbal meaning in a sentence (a notable exception being participles derived from motion verbs as well as participles in Qur'anic Arabic). In certain dialects of Arabic however, it is much more common for the participles, especially the active participle, to have verbal force in the sentence. For example, in dialects of the Levant, the active participle is a structure which describes the state of the syntactic subject after the action of the verb from which it is derived has taken place. Aakel, the active participle of akal (to eat), describes one's state after having eaten something. Therefore it can be used in analogous way to the English present perfect (i.e.,Ana aakel انا آكل meaning I have eaten, I have just eaten or I have already eaten). Other verbs, such as raaH راح (to go) give a participle (raayeH رايح) which has a progressive (is going...) meaning. The exact tense or continuity of these participles is therefore determined by the nature of the specific verb (especially its lexical aspect and its transitivity) and the syntactic/semantic context of the utterance. What ties them all together is that they describe the subject of the verb from which they are derived. The passive participles in certain dialects can be used as a sort of passive voice, but more often than not, are used in their various lexicalized senses as adjectives or nouns.

Finno-Ugric languages


Verb: tehdä (to do)

Present active: teke(doing)
Present passive: tehtävä(doable)
Past active: tehnyt (has done)
Past passive: tehty(been done)
Agent participle (passive): teke (done by...)

Negative participle: tekemätön (undone)

Other languages

Sireniki Eskimo

Sireniki Eskimo language, an extinct Eskimo–Aleut language, has separate sets of adverbial participles and adjectival participles. Interestingly, adverbial participles are conjugated to reflect the person and number of their implicit subjects; hence, while in English a sentence like "If I were a marksman, I would kill walruses" requires two full clauses (in order to distinguish the two verbs' different subjects), in Sireniki Eskimo one of these may be replaced with an adverbial participle (since its conjugation will indicate the subject).


Main article: Esperanto grammar#Participles

Esperanto has 6 different participle conjugations; active and passive for past, present and future. The participles are formed as follows:

Past Present Future
Active -int- -ant- -ont-
Passive -it- -at- -ot-

For example, a falonta botelo is a bottle which will fall. A falanta botelo is one that is falling through the air. After it hits the floor, it is a falinta botelo. These examples use the active participles, but the usage of the passive participles is similar. A cake that is going to be divided is a dividota kuko. When it is in the process of being divided, it is a dividata kuko. Having been cut, it is now a dividita kuko.

These participles can be used in conjunction with the verb to be, esti, forming 18 compound tenses (9 active and 9 passive). However, this soon becomes complicated and often unnecessary, and is only frequently used when rigorous translation of English is required. An example of this would be la knabo estos instruita, or, the boy will have been taught. This example sentence is then in the future anterior.

When the suffix -o is used, instead of -a, then the participle refers to a person. A manĝanto is someone who is eating. A manĝinto is someone who ate. A manĝonto is someone who will eat. Also, a manĝito is someone who was eaten, a manĝato is someone who is being eaten, and a manĝoto is someone who will be eaten.

These rules hold true to all verbs, and there are no exceptions.

See also

Template:Lexical categories

External links


  1. What is a participle? in Glossary of linguistic terms at SIL International.
  2. Template:L&S
  3. Template:LSJ
  4. Archaic form in early Modern English, used in the Book of Common Prayer version of the Magnificat, see e.g., King James Bible online. Accessed September 27, 2010.
  5. Maurice Grevisse, Le Bon Usage, 10th edition, § 776.
  6. Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, section 2039.


  • Participles from the American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996).

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