GCSE Latin: Participles

Participles are verbal adjectives.

  • Like adjectives, they have a gender, case and number.

  • Like verbs, they have a tense, voice and sometimes an object or instrument/agent.

  • Here are the participles you will meet at GCSE:

    Tense and Voice Example English translation
    Present Active portans carrying
    Perfect Passive portatus (having been) carried
    Perfect Active conatus* having tried
    Future Active portaturus about to carry

    *Note that porto, along with most other Latin verbs, cannot have a perfect active participle. Only deponent verbs (such as conor) have perfect active participles.

    Sometimes the participle can be translated literally, e.g.

    dominus ancillas lacrimantes vidit.
    The master saw the crying slave girls.

    However, it is often better, and sometimes necessary, to create a subordinate clause from the participle.

    Consider the following example:

    hostes militem surgentem necavit.

    A literal translation of the participle (“The enemy killed the getting up soldier”) does not work well here. Instead you need to consider the various clauses which may be used to translate the participle:

    The enemy killed the soldier… when he was getting up. (temporal clause)
    because he was getting up. (causal clause)
    although he was getting up. (concessive clause)
    who was getting up. (relative clause)

    Note that the first method, creating a temporal clause, works almost every time and should be the default method for translating participles. Also note that, in the first three methods, the participle effectively works like cum with the subjunctive.

    There are some other translation methods which are specific to the tense of the participle. See the individual participle pages for more on this:

    Present Active
    Perfect Passive
    Perfect Active
    Future Active