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Biblical Greek (Beginners): 10. Participles (present, aorist, perfect)

Participle

A participle is a verbal adjective, which is very common in Greek. Without knowing the participles, the Greek text cannot be well understood.

Participles are based on verbal roots. As a verbal adjective, it serves to further develop or refine the noun (subject). Participles can be substantiated, just as with adjectives. We translate into English by a verbal adjective, participles or by a secondary sentence.

When analyzing participles, we determine: tense, voice, case, number, and gender

Declension (inflection)

Participle occurs at all tenses except imperfect and pluperfect. In past tenses, it will not have the augment and there is the reduplication in perfect. The participle scheme of the verb εἰμι or the declension group of nt-stems (III. declension) are usually used as the basic schemes for the inflection of participles.

Our scheme will be based on the basic characteristics and the overall summary of participles. The participles using discerning letters of particular tenses (green) and add additional letters to discern verbal voice (red):

  Active Middle Passive Occurrences
  m+n f m+n+f m+n f  
Present οντ ουσ ομεν   3700
Future σοντ σουσ σομεν   13
Imperfect - 0
Aorist σαντ σασ σαμεν θεντ θεισ 2285
Perfect κοτ κουι μεν   673
Pluperfect - 0

The schema of participle creation is as follows: verb root + discerning letters + ending. For example, we create G sg. m. present active as follows: λύ οντ ος λύοντος “loosing”. The active voice always has its own specific form for nominative masculine and neuter (as it is usual for the III. declension).

This basic table above must be remembered. Now we will expand this table in detail and add more individual case endings to get a complete picture:

Tense Voice Root Connectors Endings N (m+n)  
Present A λυ οντ ος, ι ὠν m
ος, ι ὀν n
ουσ η, ης,   f
         
M/P ομεν ος, ου   m
ος, ου   n
α, ης   f
             
             
Aorist A λυ σαντ ος, ι σας m
ος, ι σαν n
σασ η, ης,   f
         
M σαμεν ος, ου   m
ος, ου   n
α, ης   f
         
P θεντ ος, ι θεις m
ος, ι θεν n
θεισ η, ης,   f
             
             
Perfect A λυ κοτ ος, ι κως m
  ος, ι κος n
κυι η, ης,   f
         
M/P μεν ος, ου   m
ος, ου   n
α, ης   f

Present

  • Active:
    • for m, n are used discerning letters οντ + endings of the III. declension: λύ + οντ + ος = λύοντος “loosing”
    • for f are used discerning letters ουσ + endings of the I. declension of pattern δοξα: λύ + ουσ + ης = λύουσης “loosing”
  • Middle
    • discerning letters are: ομεν + endings of the I. (m a n), the II. declension (f) of pattern ψυχη (η-purum): λύ + ομεν + ος = λύομενος “loosing (for) himself, being loosed”

Aorist

Same rules as for the present, with the insertion of the aoristic discerning letters -σα- (aorist signifier) after the root. Aorist II., irregular, is conjugated using endings of the present tense. Participle has no augment.

  • Active:
    • for m, n: σαντ: λύ + σαντ + ος = λύσαντος “(he, it) loosed”
    • for f: σασ: λύ + σασ + ης = λύσασης “(she) loosed”
  • Middle:
    • for m, n, f: σαμεν: λύ + σαμεν + ος = λύσαμενος “loosed (for) himself”
  • Passive:
    • for m, n: θεντ: λύ + θεντ + ος = λύθεντος “(he, it) was loosed”
    • for f: θεισ: λύ + θεισ + ης = λύθεισης “(she) was loosed”

Perfect

Same rules as for present, with the insertion of the perfective discerning letter -κ- (perfect signifier is κα) after the root. Participle will be employing reduplication.

  • Active:
    • for m, n: κοτ: λελύ + κοτ + ος = λελύκοτος “(he, it) having loosed”
    • for f: κυι: λελύ + κυι + ης = λελύκυιης “(she) having loosed”
  • Middle:
    • does not have any discerning letters (as we are used to with perfect)
    • μεν: λελύ + μεν + ης = λελύμενης “having loosed (for) himself / having been loosed”

Future

Same rules as for present, with the insertion of the perfective discerning letter -σ- (future signifier) after the root: λύ + σοντ + ος = λύσοντος. It occurs minimally (only 13 times).

  • Active: σοντ, σουσ
  • Middle: σομεν

Substantivization

As with adjectives, directly in front of participle will be an article:

  • ὁ λεγων “speaker, (the one) who speaks”
  • ὁ ἐρχομενος “the one who is coming” (Rev 1:8) (participle of verb ἐρχομαι “come, go”).

Translation of Participles

We can translate sentence ὁ μαθητής ὑπαγει ἐχων ἐλπιδα by:

  1. Participle (literally): “the disciple leaves having hope”
  2. Verbal adjective: “the disciple leaves having hope”
  3. Subordinate clause: “the disciple leaves, because/when/if he has hope”
  4. Main clause: “the disciple leaves and has hope” (see explanation below)

Time Relation to the Primary Verb

  • Present
    μαθητής ὑπαγει ἐχων ἐλπιδα “the disciple leaves and has hope”
    • It is an activity parallel to the action of the main verb. The disciple, at the time of his departure, also has hope.
    • We translate with the “and” conjunction by joining to the main clause
  • Aorist
    ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὑπηγεν κριψας θησαυρος “the man hid a treasure and then left”
    • Represents activity preceding the action of the main verb. At first the man hid the treasure and right after this action he started to leave.
    • We translate by joining using “and then” or “then”

Genetive Absolute

The genitive bond of the participle + the subject (the subject can be further developed, but only in the genitive). It is not associated with the main verb by a common subject.

We translate:

  • Expanding to adverbial subordinate clause
  • Parallel main clause joined to the main clause:
    • διδασκοντος του διδασκαλου οἱ μαθηται γραφουσιν/ἐγραφον
      • “When (because, if, however…) teacher is/was teaching, pupils are/were writing“ = teacher is/was teaching and pupils are/were writing.
    • Ἰησοῦς ἐξένευσεν ὄχλου ὄντος ἐν τῷ τόπῳ
      • “Jesus departed while a crowd was in that place“

Charts

Participles

Greek