In linguistics, a participle (PTCP) (from Latin participium a "sharing, partaking") is a nonfinite verb form that has some of the characteristics and functions of both verbs and adjectives. More narrowly, participle has been defined as "a word derived from a verb and used as an adjective, as in a laughing face".
Cross-linguistically, participles may have a range of functions apart from adjectival modification. In European and Indian languages, the past participle is used to form the passive voice. In English, participles are also associated with periphrastic verb forms (continuous and perfect) and are widely used in adverbial clauses. In non-Indo-European languages, ‘participle’ has been applied to forms that are alternatively regarded as converbs (see Sireniki Eskimo below), gerunds, gerundives, transgressives, and nominalised verbs in complement clauses. As a result, ‘participles’ have come to be associated with a broad variety of syntactic constructions.
The word participle comes from classical Latin participium, from particeps 'sharing, participation', because it shares certain properties of verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The Latin grammatical term is a calque of the Greek grammatical term μετοχή 'participation, participle'.
In particular, Greek and Latin participles agree with the nouns that they modify in gender, number and case, but are also conjugated for tense and voice and can take prepositional and adverbial modifiers.
The linguistic term, past participle, was coined circa 1798 based on its participial form, whose morphology equates to the regular form of preterite verbs. The term, present participle, was first used circa 1864 to facilitate grammatical distinctions. Despite the taxonomical use of "past" and "present" as associated with the aforementioned participles, their respective semantic use can entail any tense, regardless of aspect, depending on how they are structurally combined.
Some languages have extensive participial systems but English has only two participial forms, most commonly termed:
Some grammars further distinguish passive participles as often associated with passive voice versus active participles as often associated with e.g. the present progressive tense, but such linguistic distinctions are neither recognized nor employed on a universal basis.
Participles can be used adjectivally (i.e. without characteristics of canonical verbs) as attributive adjectives. They then take neither object complements nor modifiers that are typical of canonical verbs, but they are capable of being modified by adverbs such as very or slightly. The difference is illustrated by the following examples:
In the first sentence interesting functions transitively as a nonfinite verb that takes the object him, thereby forming the phrase interesting him, which constitutes an adjectival phrase modifying subject. In the second sentence interesting functions non-transitively; it instead acts as a prepositive adjective that can be modified by typical adverbs such as very or quite (or a prefix such as un-). Similar examples are "interested people", "a frightened rabbit", "fallen leaves", "meat-eating animals".
Participles are often used to form certain grammatical tenses or grammatical aspects. The two types of participle in Modern English are termed present participle and past participle, respectively (often also referred to as the -ing form and -ed/-en form). The traditional terms are misleading because the participles do not necessarily correspond to tense: the present participle is often associated with the progressive (continuous) aspect, while the past participle is linked with the perfect aspect or passive voice. See the examples below:
The first sentence is in the past tense (were) , but a present participle expresses the progressive aspect (be standing). The second sentence is in the future tense (will), but a past participle is used for the perfect aspect (have cleaned).
Participles may also be identified with a particular voice: active or passive. Some languages (such as Latin and Russian) have distinct participles for active and passive uses. In English, the present participle is essentially an active participle, while the past participle has both active and passive uses.
Some languages differentiate adjectival participles and adverbial participles. An adverbial participle (or a participial phrase/clause based on such a participle) plays the role of an adverbial (adverb phrase) in the sentence in which it appears, whereas an adjectival participle (or a participial phrase/clause based on one) plays the role of an adjective phrase. Such languages include Russian and other Slavic languages, Hungarian, and many Eskimo languages, such as Sireniki, which has a sophisticated participle system. Details can be found in the sections below or in the articles on the grammars of specific languages.
Grammatical descriptions vary in the way these are treated. Some descriptive grammars treat such adverbial and adjectival participles as distinct lexical categories, while others include them both in a single category of participles. Adverbial participles in certain languages may be called converbs, gerunds, or gerundives (though this is not consistent with the meanings of the terms gerund or gerundive as normally applied to English or Latin), or transgressives.
In Old English, past participles of Germanic strong verbs were marked with a ge- prefix, as are most strong and weak past participles in Dutch and German today, and often by a vowel change in the stem. Those of weak verbs were marked by the ending -d, with or without an epenthetic vowel before it. Modern English past participles derive from these forms (although the ge- prefix, which became y- in Middle English, has now been lost — except in some rare dialects such as the Dorset dialect, where it takes the form of a-).
Old English present participles were marked with an ending in -ende (or -iende for verbs whose infinitives ended in -ian).
In Middle English, the form of the present participle varied across regions: -ende (southwest, southeast, Midlands), -inde (southwest, southeast), -and (north), -inge (southeast). The last is the one that became standard, falling together with the suffix -ing used to form verbal nouns. See -ing (etymology).
In addition, various compound participles can be formed, such as having done, being done, having been doing, having been done.
Participles, or participial phrases (clauses) formed from them, are used as follows:
Additionally, participles that express an adjectivally attributive meaning can be affixed to form adverbs, such as interestingly and excitedly.
2. In postpositive phrases. These are often regarded as functioning as a reduced relative clause:
The present participle forms the progressive aspect with the auxiliary verb be:
The past participle forms the perfect aspect with the auxiliary verb have:
6. As a gerund. The gerund is traditionally regarded as distinct from the present participle. A gerund can function transitively (e.g., "I like eating ice cream") or intransitively (e.g., "I like swimming"). In both instances, a gerund functions nominatively rather than adjectivally or adverbially—whether as an object (e.g., "I like sleeping") or as a subject (e.g., "Sleeping is not allowed"). Although gerunds and present participles are morphologically identical, their grammatical functions differ substantially.
When the meaning is "The practice of flying a plane is dangerous," flying functions as a gerund; when the danger concerns "Planes that fly" or "Planes when they are flying" (i.e., in contrast to grounded planes), flying is being used adjectivally as a participle. For more on the distinctions between these uses of the -ing verb form, see -ing: uses.
The following table summarises some of the uses of participles in English:
In all of the Scandinavian languages the past participle has to agree with the noun to some degree. All of the Scandinavian languages have mandatory agreement with the noun in number. Nynorsk and Swedish have mandatory agreement in both number and gender. Icelandic and Faroese have agreement in number, gender and case. For the present participle there is no agreement.
The participles are marked in bold. The first example involves a present participle and the two latter examples involves a past participle. All present participles end with an -ande suffix.
Latin grammar was studied in Europe for hundreds of years, especially the handbook written by the 4th-century teacher Aelius Donatus, and it is from Latin that the name and concept of the participle derives. According to Donatus there are four participles in Latin, as follows:
However, many modern Latin grammars treat the gerundive as a separate part of speech.
The perfect participle is usually passive in meaning, and thus mainly formed from transitive verbs, for example frāctus "broken", missus "sent (by someone)". However, certain verbs (called deponent verbs) have a perfect participle in an active sense, e.g. profectus "having set out", hortātus "having encouraged", etc. The present and future participles are always active, the gerundive usually passive.
Because a participle is an adjective as well as a verb, just like any other Latin adjective its ending changes according to the noun it describes. So when the noun is masculine, the participle must be masculine; when the noun is in the accusative (object) case, the participle is also in the accusative case; when the noun has plural endings, the participle also has plural endings. Thus a simple participle such as frāctus "broken" can change to frācta, frāctum, frāctī, frāctō and so on, according to its gender, number, and case.
A participle can have a descriptive meaning like an adjective, or a more dynamic meaning like a verb. Thus in the following sentence the participle strīctō "drawn" is better taken as describing an action ("he drew his sword" or "after drawing his sword") rather than as describing the sword ("with a drawn sword"):
The dynamic, verbal meaning is more common, and Latin often uses a participle where English might use a simple verb.
The present participle often describes the circumstances attending the main verb. A typical example is:
Both the future and the perfect participle (but not the present participle) can be used with various tenses of the verb esse "to be" to make a compound tense such as the future-in-the-past or the perfect passive:
The perfect and future participles can also be used, with or without the verb esse "to be", in indirect speech clauses:
In Spanish, the so-called 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 true participle, as such forms usually have the meaning of simple adjectives or nouns: e.g. amante "loving" or "lover", viviente "living" or "live".
Another participial form is known as the gerundio, which ends in an (unchanging) suffix -ando or -iendo. The gerundio is used in combination with the verb estar ("to be") to make continuous tenses: 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"). Another use is in phrases such as vino corriendo ("he/she came running") and lo vi corriendo ("I saw him running").
The past participle (participio pasado or participio pasivo) is regularly formed with one of the suffixes -ado or -ido (-ado for verbs ending in "-ar" and -ido for verbs ending in "-er" or "-ir"; but some verbs have an irregular form ending in -to (e.g. escrito, visto, puesto), or -cho (e.g. dicho, hecho). The past participle is used generally as an adjective referring to a finished action, in which case its ending changes according to gender and number. At other times is used to form compound tenses: the present perfect, past perfect (sometimes referred to as the pluscuamperfecto), and the future perfect, in which case it is indeclinable. Some examples:
As an adjective (note how "escritas" agrees in gender with the noun, "las cartas"):
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. Participles are quite numerous in Ancient Greek: a non-defective verb has as many as ten participles.
There is a form of the participle for every combination of aspect (present, aorist, perfect, future) and voice (active, middle, passive). All participles are based on their finite forms. Here are the masculine nominative singular forms for a thematic and an athematic verb:
Like an adjective, it can modify a noun, and can be used to embed one thought into another.
"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 tòn eû stratēgḗsonta, literally "the one going to be a good general," is used to embed the idea εὖ στρατηγήσει eû stratēgḗsei "he will be a good general" within the main verb.
The participle is very widely used in Ancient Greek, especially in prose.
There are two types of participles in Hindi & Urdu (called together Hindustani), aspectual participles which mark the aspect and non-aspectual participles which do not mark verbal aspect. The table below mentions the different participles present in Hindustani, ɸ denotes the verb root. The aspectual participles can take a few other copulas after them besides the verb honā "to be". Those copular verbs are rêhna "to stay", ānā "to come", jānā "to go".
In Cornish, an equivalent present participle construction to English is formed by using ow (owth before vowels) with a verbal noun, e.g. Yma an den ow hwerthin ("The man is laughing"), and den ow hwerthin ("a laughing man"). Like Breton but unlike Welsh, Cornish also has verbal adjectives which are used similarly to English past participles, e.g. dehen molys ("clotted cream"), from the verbal noun mola "to clot".
In Welsh, the effect of a participle in the active voice is constructed by yn followed by the verb-noun (for the present participle) and wedi followed by the verb-noun (for the past participle). There is no mutation in either case. In the passive voice, participles are usually replaced by a compound phrase such as wedi cael ei/eu ("having got his/her/their ...ing") in contemporary Welsh and by the impersonal form in classical Welsh.
The Polish word for participle is imiesłów (pl.: imiesłowy). There are four types of imiesłowy in two classes:
Due to the distinction between adjectival and adverbial participles, in Polish it is practically impossible to make a dangling participle in the classical English meaning of the term. For instance, in the sentence:
it is unclear whether "I" or "they" were hiding in the closet. In Polish there is a clear distinction:
Future participles formed from perfective verbs are not considered a part of standard language.
Participles are adjectives formed from verbs. There are various kinds:
Macedonian has completely lost or transformed the participles of Common Slavic, unlike the other Slavic languages. The following points may be noted:
Among Indo-European languages, the Lithuanian language is unique for having fourteen different participial forms of the verb, which 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.
The Arabic verb has two participles: an active participle (’ism al-fā‘il اسم الفاعل) and a passive participle (’ism al-maf‘ūl 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 derives, whilst the passive participles describes the object. For example, from the verb كتب kataba, the active participle is kātib كاتب and the passive participle is maktūb مكتوب. Roughly these translate to "writing" and "written" respectively. However, they have different, derived lexical uses. كاتب kātib is further lexicalized as "writer", "author" and مكتوب maktūb 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 that describes the state of the syntactic subject after the action of the verb from which it derives has taken place. ʼĀkil, the active participle of ʼakala ("to eat"), describes one's state after having eaten something. Therefore, it can be used in analogous way to the English present perfect (for example, ʼAnā ʼākil انا آكل meaning "I have eaten", "I have just eaten" or "I have already eaten"). Other verbs, such as rāḥa راح ("to go") give a participle (rāyiḥ 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 derive. 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.
Like Arabic, Hebrew has two types of participles (בינוני bênônî): an active participle (בינוני פועל bênônî pô‘ēl) and a passive participle (בינוני פעול bênônî pā‘ûl). These participles are inflected for gender and number, but not case, unlike Arabic. The active participle takes a variety of syntactic roles, such as a verb in present tense, a noun, and an adjective.
Hebrew has a syntactic construction of the verb "to be" (הָיָה) hayá in the past tense, and the active participle that cognates to the past progressive tense in English. For example, the word עבדתי avádti means "I worked", and הייתי עובד hayíti ovéd means "I was working". Unlike English, Hebrew does not differentiate between a perfect verb and an imperfect verb on a regular basis, so the word עבדתי avádti can mean "I was working". Another use of this syntactic structure is equivalent to "used to" in English. For example, דויד בילדותו היה גר בארצות הברית davíd b'yaldutó hayá gar b'arcót habrít (David in his childhood used to live in the United States).
Finnish uses six participles (partisiippi) to convey different meanings. Below is a table displaying the declension of the participles of the verb tappaa (to kill).
Each and every one of these participles can be used as adjectives, which means that some of them can be turned into nouns.
Adjectival participles (melléknévi igenév) can be one of these three types:
In Hungarian grammar the infinitive is also considered a kind of participle, namely the noun participle (főnévi igenév).
Participles are called sıfat-fiil (lit. adjective-verb) or ortaç in Turkish.
Turkish participles consist of a verb stem and a suffix. Some participles may be conjugated, but some may not. Participles always precede the noun they are defining, as in English.
Sireniki Eskimo language, an extinct Eskimo–Aleut language, has separate sets of adverbial participles and adjectival participles. Different from in English, 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 (to distinguish the two verbs' different subjects), in Sireniki Eskimo one of these may be replaced with an adverbial participle (since its conjugation indicates the subject).
Esperanto has six different participle conjugations; active and passive for past, present and future. The participles are formed as follows:
For example, a falonta botelo is a bottle that will fall or is about to 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 for all transitive verbs. Since copular and intransitive verbs do not have passive voice, their participle forms can only be active.
An informal and unofficial addition to these six are the participles for conditional forms, which use -unt- and -ut-. For example, parolunto refers to someone who would speak (or would have spoken), and a leguta libro is a book that would be read (or have been read). These unofficial participle forms are however very rarely used in practice, and more often as a linguistic joke than in a serious way.