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Grammar: Participles and the Main Verb

Very often a participle will be combined with a main verb so that you will want to actually translate the participle as if it really were a verb. For example:

  • aperiens veritatem rei dixit ad eam... He revealed the truth of the matter and said to her...
  • adductus de carcere ludebat ante eos. Samson was led from the prison and sported before them.
  • iacentes resupini umbra se pedum protegunt. They lie on their backs and cover themselves with the shade of their feet.

Because there is no past active participle in Latin, it sometimes happens that a past passive participle is attached to the object a verb, when the action really should belong to the subject. Here are some examples:

  • mulier acceptam pecuniam abscondit. The woman hid the taken money = The woman took the money and hid it.
  • clausum in carcere molere fecerunt. They made the shut-in-prison Samson turn the millstone = They shut Samson in prison and made him turn the millstone.

In other cases, a present active participle is used when the action clearly does not take place at the same time as the main verb but instead takes place prior to the main verb (again, Latin does not have a past active participle to express this meaning):

  • Samon consurgens de somno extraxit clavum. Awaking from sleep, Samson pulled out the nail = Samson awoke from sleep and pulled out the nail.
  • descendentes autem fratres eius tulerunt corpus eius. Coming down, his brothers took away his body = Samson's brothers came down and took away his body.

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM