AskDefine | Define participial

Dictionary Definition

participial adj : of or relating to or consisting of participles; "participial inflections" n : a non-finite form of the verb; in English it is used adjectivally and to form compound tenses [syn: participle]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. of, relating to, or being a participle


  1. a participle

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, a participle (from Latin participium, a calque of Greek μετοχη "partaking") is a non-finite verb form that can be used in compound tenses or voices, or as a modifier. Participles often share properties with other parts of speech, in particular adjectives and nouns.

Participles in Modern English

English verbs have two participles. One, called variously the present, active, imperfect, or progressive participle, is identical in form to the gerund, and indeed the term present participle is sometimes used to include the gerund. The term gerund-participle is also used. The other participle, called variously the past, passive, or perfect participle, is usually identical to the verb's preterite (past tense) form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ. Examples of participle formation include: The present participle in English is active. It has the following uses:
  • forming the progressive aspect: Jim was sleeping.
  • modifying a noun: Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • modifying a verb or sentence: 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 has both active and passive uses:
  • forming the perfect aspect: The chicken has eaten.
  • forming the passive voice: The chicken was eaten.
  • modifying a noun, active sense: our fallen comrades
  • modifying a noun, passive sense: the attached files
  • modifying a verb or sentence, passive sense: Seen from this perspective, the problem presents no easy solution.
As noun-modifiers, participles usually precede the noun (like adjectives), but in many cases they can or must follow it:
  • Please bring all the documents required.
  • The difficulties encountered were nearly insurmountable.

Participles in 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, we would kill walrus" 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).


The Arabic verb has two participles: an active participle (الاسم الفاعل) and a passive participle (الاسم المفعول به), and the form of the participle is predictable by inspection of the dictionary form of the verb (see Arabic grammar). 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 verbs of motion 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 tense (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 progessive (is going...) meaning. The exact tense or continuity of these participles is therefore determined by the nature of the specific verb (especially its Aktionsart 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.


Compared with English, Latin has an additional future tense participle:
  • present active participle: educāns "teaching"
  • perfect passive participle: educatus "(having been) taught"
  • future active participle: educātūrus "about to teach"
  • future passive participle: educāndus "(necessary) to be taught"


Among Indo-European languages, 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 form einąs/einantis ("going, walking", present tense), the passive participle form einamas ("being walked", present tense), the adverbial participle einant ("while it is being walked"), the semi-participle eidamas ("while [he is/was] going, walking") and the participle of necessity eitinas ("that which needs to be walked"). The first three of those five are inflected by tense, while the active, passive and the semi- participles are inflected by gender and the active, passive and necessity ones are inflected by case.


There are two basic participles:
  • Present participle: formed with the verb root + ant, hence marchant "walking", étant "being"
  • Past participle: formation varies according to verb group, hence marché "walked", été "been", vendu "sold", mis "placed", and fait "done". The past participle requires agreement with the gender of any preceding direct object.
The French present participle, however, is not used to mark the continuous aspect as it is in English.
Compound participles are possible:
  • Present perfect participle: ayant appelé "having called", étant mort "having died"
  • Passive perfect participle: étant vendu "being sold, having been sold"


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", 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, -endo or -iendo: 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:
  • las cartas escritas "the written letters"*Los ladrones fueron capturados "The thieves were caught."*Ella ha escrito una carta. "She has written a letter."


Verb: tehdä (to do)
Present active: tekevä Present passive: tehtävä Past active: tehnyt Past passive: tehty Agent participle (passive): tekemä (done by...)


Verb: слышать slyšat' (to hear, imperfective aspect)
Present active: слышащий slyšaščij Present passive: слышимый slyšimyj Past active: слышавший slyšavšij Past passive: слышанный slyšannyj Adverbial present active: слыша slyša Adverbial past active: слышав slyšav
Verb: услышать (to hear, perfective aspect)
Past active: услышавший uslyšavšyj Past passive: услышанный uslyšannyj Adverbial past active: услышав uslyšav


Verb: правя pravja (to do, imperfective aspect)
Present active: правещ pravešt Past active aorist: правил pravil Past active imperfect: правел pravel 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 Past passive: направен napraven

Kinds of participles in various languages

Adverbial and adjectival

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

See also


  • Participles from the American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996).
participial in Tosk Albanian: Partizip
participial in Czech: Příčestí
participial in Danish: Participium
participial in German: Partizip
participial in Modern Greek (1453-): Μετοχή (γραμματική)
participial in Spanish: Participio
participial in French: Participe
participial in Latin: Participium
participial in Lithuanian: Dalyvis (gramatika)
participial in Hungarian: Melléknévi igenév
participial in Dutch: Deelwoord
participial in Japanese: 分詞
participial in Norwegian: Partisipp
participial in Polish: Imiesłów
participial in Portuguese: Particípio
participial in Slovenian: deležnik
participial in Finnish: Partisiippi
participial in Swedish: Particip

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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