The National Archives
Search our website
  • Search our website
  • Search our records

Lesson 7: Participles - present, past and future - part 4 | 1 2 3 4

Ablative absolute

Sometimes participles in the present, perfect or future are linked with nouns or pronounsView the definition of this term - this link opens in a new window in the ablative case. This is called the ablative absolute because, firstly, this type of phrase is always in the ablative case, and secondly, the phrase stands alone and is completely independent of any grammatical constraints of the main sentence it is linked to.

For example:

Debitis meis prius solutis, residuum meorum bonorum lego…
My debts having first been paid, I leave the rest of my goods…

Such a clause can be translated in various ways, for example with the words ‘because’, ‘when’, ‘after’, ‘although’ or ‘if’. In this example the ablative absolute phrase could be perhaps translated most naturally as ‘after my debts have been paid’.

Handy hint

The verb ‘to be’ does not have a participle and therefore such a participle does not appear in sentences where you would expect it.

For example:

Concessi terram, hiis testibus Johanne Smith, Simone Nele, et multis aliis
I granted the land, with these being witnesses, John Smith, Simon Nele and many others.


Are you confident with:

  • How to recognise an ablative absolute?
  • How to translate an ablative absolute?
Try again
The National Archives Newsletter Icon

Send me The National Archives’ newsletter

A monthly round-up of news, blogs, offers and events.