Lesson 19 – Participles – present, past and future

A participle is formed from a verb but looks and behaves like an adjective. This means that it agrees with the noun it modifies in number, case and gender.

In Latin three kinds of participle exist: the present, perfect and future.

Tense Active Passive English
Present audiens, audientis hearing
Perfect auditus, -a, -um heard
Future auditurus, -a, -um intending / about to hear

Handy hint

The present and future participles are active and the perfect participle is passive.

Present participle

Present participles decline in the following way, which is similar to a third declension adjective.

Masculine/Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -ns -ntes -ns -ntia
Accusative -ntem -ntes -ns -ntia
Genitive -ntis -ntium -ntis -ntium
Dative -nti -ntibus -nti -ntibus
Ablative -nti -ntibus -nti -ntibus

To form the present participle for first, second and third conjugation verbs, remove ‘-re’ from the infinitive to get the stem and add the relevant ending above. For fourth conjugation verbs you will need to add an ‘-e’ to the stem before the endings.

Handy hint

Note that for some third conjugation verbs you will need to retain the ‘-i’ of the stem before the relevant ending is added.

For example:

Group Infinitive Present participle English
1 amo, amare, amavi, amatum amans, amantis loving
2 habeo, habere, habui, habitum habens, habentis having
3 duco, ducere, duxi, ductum ducens, ducentis leading
capio, capere, cepi, captum capiens, capientis taking
4 servio, servire, servivi, servitum serviens, servientis serving

A present participle describes an action or a state which is taking place at the same time as the action or state of the main verb. Just like all participles, it must agree with the noun it is describing.

For example:

vidi lacrimantem puellam

puellam is singular, feminine, accusative
lacrimantem is therefore singular, feminine, accusative

It translates as:

I saw the girl crying.
I saw the crying girl.
I saw the girl who was crying.

Past participle

Past participles decline in the following way, which is similar to a first and second declension adjective.

Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Femine Neuter
Nominative -us -a -um -i -e -a
Accusative -um -am -um -os -as -a
Genitive -i -e -i -orum -arum -orum
Dative -o -e -o -is -is -is
Ablative -o -a -o -is -is -is

To form the past participle, remove the ‘-um’ from the end of the supine and decline as above.

Group Supine Perfect participle English
1 amo, amare, amavi, amatum amatus, -a, -um loved
2 habeo, habere, habui, habitum habitus, -a, -um had
3 duco, ducere, duxi, ductum ductus, -a, -um led
capio, capere, cepi, captum captus, -a, -um taken
4 servio, servire, servivi, servitum servitus, -a, -um served

A perfect participle describes an action or a state which took place before the action or state of the main verb. Just like all participles, it must agree with the noun it is describing.
A perfect participle can be translated in a number of ways.

For example:

puella vocata timebat

puella is singular, feminine, nominative
vocata is therefore singular, feminine, nominative

It translates as:

The girl, having been called, was afraid.
Having been called, the girl was afraid.
After being called, the girl was afraid.
After she was called, the girl was afraid.
When she had been called, the girl was afraid.

Handy hint

In this instance the noun associated with the participle is in the nominative case but it can occur in other cases.

Future participle

Future participles decline in the same way as past participles. To form the future participle, remove the ‘-m’ from the end of the supine, add ‘-r’ and decline as above.

Group Infinitive Present participle English
1 amo, amare, amavi, amatum amaturus, -a, -um intending to love
2 habeo, habere, habui, habitum habiturus, -a, -um Intending to have
3 duco, ducere, duxi, ductum ducturus, -a, -um intending to lead
capio, capere, cepi, captum capturus, -a, -um intending to take
4 servio, servire, servivi, servitum serviturus, -a, -um intending to serve

A future participle describes an action or a state which will take place after the action or state of the main verb. Just like all participles, it must agree with the noun it is describing. A future participle can be translated in a number of ways.

For example:

puella ad curiam ivit hanc summonitionem auditura

puella is singular, feminine, nominative
auditura is therefore singular, feminine, nominative

It translates as:

The girl went to the court intending to hear this summons.
The girl went to the court about to hear this summons.
The girl went to the court determined to hear this summons.

Ablative absolute

Sometimes participles in the present, perfect or future are linked with nouns or pronouns 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.

Checklist

Are you confident with

  • the meaning of a present participle?
  • how to form a present participle?
  • the meaning of a past participle?
  • how to form a past participle?
  • the meaning of a future participle?
  • how to form a future participle?
  • how to recognise an ablative absolute?
  • how to translate an ablative absolute?

What next?