Partly because of the significant number of participles relating to each verb, the participle plays a greater part in Greek than in Latin, which only has three participles for any verb. Latin's lack of a Past Participle Active and a Present Participle Passive create significant restrictions in practice. It is also worth remarking that English verbs only possess two participles, a Present Participle (e.g. Loosening) and a Past Participle Passive (e.g. Loosened); indeed to create other participles in our own language it is necessary in practice to employ auxiliary verbs such as 'having', 'being', and 'been' on a periphrastic basis, and we often use participles in a fairly loose manner, making the two we do have do almost all the work grammatically. The Greeks, on the contrary, having so many of them, used them with great precision.
5. Adverbial uses of the Participle.
The most common and the most significant function of the participle in Greek is adverbial. Just as a participle is often used in Greek as a means of expressing what in English would be an adjectival or relative clause, so it is available as an alternative to subordinate adverbial clauses. When used in this way, it can be called the Circumstantial Participle, because it expresses the circumstances in which an action takes place, and its use in this way facilitates many different shades of meaning: time, cause, purpose, condition, manner, limitation. When a participle is so used, it is sometimes not clear exactly in what way it is being used. While the participle can be translated in a neutral manner, it is usually preferable for the translator to determine its sense within the context in which it appears. For instance, the words "εἰπὼν ἀπῄει" literally mean, "having spoken, he went away", but they can be translated as either "when he had spoken, he went away", "although he had spoken, he went away", or "as though he had spoken, he went away". This ambiguity can lead to differences in translations of the same piece. However, the various adverbial uses of the circumstantial participle are now considered.
The use of participles as an alternative to a temporal clause is perhaps its commonest adverbial use. When translating into English, 'while' is the conjunction most likely to be used in tandem with a present participle; 'when', 'after', and 'before' are usual with aorist participles: e.g.
i.) οἴκαδε ἐπανελθόντες τὸν πατέρα ἐζήτουν. When they (had) returned home, they looked for their father.
i) ἅτε πολλὰ καὶ κακὰ παθόντες, τοῖς πολεμίοις ἑαυτοὺς παρέδοσαν. Because they had suffered many hardships, they surrendered to the enemy.
ii) τὸν Περικλέα ἐν αἰτίᾳ εἶχον ὡς πείσαντα σφᾶς πολεμεῖν. They blamed Pericles because he had persuaded them to go to war.
The participle may be used as a substitute for a conditional clause, i.e. the protasis of a conditional sentence. "Μή" is always used in the case of a negative condition: e.g.
i) τοῦτο μὴ ποιοῦντες, οὐκ ἂν εὖ πράττοιεν. Unless they did this, they would not prosper.
ii) οὐδέποτε μαθήσεται κιθαρίζειν, μὴ μελέτων. He will never learn to play the lyre, if he does not practise (unless he practises).
A participle is usually preceded by "καί or "καίπερ, although, when it is used concessively: e.g.
i) ἐποικτίρω αὐτὸν καίπερ ἐχθρὸν ὄντα. I pity him though he is my enemy.
ii) καὶ πολλὰ και κακὰ πάσχοντες, οὐκ εἶξαν. Although they were suffering many hardships, they did not yield.
The Future Participle is regularly employed in classical Greek to express purpose or intention, and is therefore an alternative to the Final Clause construction of "ἵνα", in order that, or "ὅπως", in order to, plus the Conjunctive. In such instances the Future Participle may be introduced by the conjunction "ὡς" so as to imply that the participle is expressing the alleged or presumed purpose of the subject of the sentence: e.g.
i) ἦλθον λυσόμενοι τοὺς πολίτας. They came to ransom the citizens.
ii) ἥκουσιν ὡς ὑμῖν τὰ γενόμενα ἀγγελοῦντες. They have come to tell you what happened.
Comparative clauses in English, used to express manner, are expressed in Greek by the conjunction "ὤσπερ", as if, as though, with the participle: e.g.
i) οὐκ ἐθέλετ' ἀκούειν, ὥσπερ ᾔδη εἰδότες. You are unwilling to listen, as if you knew it all already.
ii) ἐχρώμην αὐτῳ ὥσπερ ὄντι καίπερ οὐκ ὄντι ἀδελφῷ. Though he was not my brother I treated him as if were.
6. Use of the Participle in the Genitive Absolute.
The Genitive Absolute phrase is used in Greek when the noun which the participle is qualifying has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence in which it is placed, i.e. it is not the subject, the direct object or the indirect object of the main verb. The term "absolute" comes from the Latin word "absolutus", meaning, in this context, detached, separate, or unconnected, i.e. the Genitive Absolute stands as an independent construction with no syntactical relationship to the rest of the sentence. As in the case of the many types of adverbial clauses outlined above, the Genitive Absolute can therefore be translated in English by clauses beginning with a range of subordinating conjunctions, e.g. "when", "while", "as", "since", "because", although", "if". As in the case of its above uses as adverbial clauses, the choice of which introductory word to use must be determined form the sense of the sentence as a whole, but sometimes the presence of a word such as "καίπερ" makes it clear. Examples are as follows:
a) θάλποντος τοῦ ἡλίου, ὑπο ελάᾳ ἐκάθηντο. As the sun was hot, they were sitting under an olive- tree.
b) ἡμέρας γενομένης, ὁ πατὴρ τὸν παῖδα ἔπεμψε ζητήσοντα τὰ πρόβατα. When day came (or At daybreak), the father sent his son to look for the sheep.
c) οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἔπλευσαν ἡγεμονεύοντος τοῦ Νικίου. The Athenians sailed under the leadership of Nicias.
d) ληθέντων τῶν τειχῶν οἱ πολῖται ἐξέφευγον. When the walls were taken, the citizens tried to escape.
e) ἀποθανόντος τοῦ Κύρου, οἰ στρατιῶται ἔφυγον. When Cyrus was killed, the soldiers fled.
f) ὁ στρατηγὸς οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπιτίθεσθαι τοῦ στρατεύματος οὐδένα σῖτον ἔχοντος. The general did not wish to attack (the enemy) as his army had no food.
g) καίπερ θόρυβον ποιούντων τῶν προβάτων, ὁ αὐτουργὸς οὐκ ἔσπευδεν. Although the sheep were making a noise, the farmer did not hurry.
h) νυκτὸς γενομένης, ἔδοξεν ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ ἄστει μένειν. When night came (or At nightfall), we decided to stay in the city.
i) ἑσπέρας γιγνομένησς, οἱ ξένοι εἰς τὸ ἄστυ ἀφίκοντο. As evening was coming, the strangers arrived in the city.
j) τοῦ ἀνεμοῦ μείζονος γενομενοῦ, ἡ ναῦς, ὀλίγη οὖσα, ἐν κινδυνῳ ἦν. As the wind was growing stronger, the ship, being small, was in danger.
As indicated by a number of the above examples, it was common in Greek to commence sentences and paragraphs by a genitive absolute relating to the time of day or year, and to the state of the sun, the wind or the sea. Phrases such as "τοῦ ἡλίου ἀνατέλλοντος" (at the rising of the sun or at dawn) and "τοῦ ἡλίου καταδύντος" (the sun having set or at sunset) are common.
7. Use of the Participle in the Accusative Absolute.
Impersonal verbs use a participle in the Accusative, expressed in the Neuter Singular, in place of the Genitive. Impersonal verbs most commonly used in this way are: "δοκεῖ", it seems best, "ἔξεστι(ν)", it is possible, it is allowed/ permitted, and "δεῖ", it is necessary, it is a duty: e.g.
a) δόξαν τὸν παῖδα ἐς τὴν ἄγραν πέμψαι, ὁ Κροῖσος μάλιστα ἐφοβεῖτο. When he had decided (lit. It having seemed best) to send his son to the hunt, Croesus was very afraid. ("δόξαν" is the aorist participle of δοκέω".)
b) ἐξὸν ἐς την ἀγραν ἰέναι. ὁ Ἄτυς εὐθὺς ὁρμᾶται. Permission having been given (lit. It being permitted) to go to the hunt, Atys sets out at once.
c) δέον τὸ θηρίον αἱρειν, ἐς τὸ ὄρος ἔσπευδον. Since it was necessary (lit. It being necessary) to catch the beast, they hurried to the mountain.
Other Accusative Absolutes used in this way are:
ἀδυνατον ὄν It being impossible (from "ἀδυνατον ἐστίν", it is impossible)
παρόν It being possible/ allowed (from "πάρειμι", I am present)
προσηκόν It being fitting (from "προσήκω", I have arrived, I am near)
παρασχόν An opportunity offering (aorist participle from "παρέχω", I provide, allow, grant)
εἰρημένον It having been stated/ laid down (perfect participle of "λέγω", I speak).
8. Some idiomatic uses of the Participle.
a. Supplementary participles which extend or limit the meaning of a verb.
Participles are used, like the Prolative infinitive, to carry on the meaning of certain verbs. (The word "prolative" comes from the Latin word "prolatus", the past participle of "proferre", to carry forward or complete [the meaning of the predicate].) Greek verbs that are followed by participles used in this prolative manner are as follows:
τυγχάνω I happen
παύω I bring to an end, I stop
παύομαι I cease, I leave off
λήγω I cease
ἄρχω I begin
ἄρχομαι I begin
διατελέω I continue, I keep on
αἰσχύνομαι I am ashamed at
φαίνομαι I am plainly, I am shown to be , I am proved to be
δῆλος εἰμί I am clearly
ἀνέχομαι I endure
περιοράω I overlook, disregard
χαίρω I rejoice
ἥδομαι I am pleased
φθάνω I anticipate
λανθάνω I elude the notice of, I remain hidden
Below are some examples of participles being used after these verbs:
i) οὐκ ἀνεχομαι ζῶσα. I shall not endure to live.
ii) ἔτυχον ὁπλιται ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ καθεύδοντες. Some hoplites happened to be sleeping in the market.
iii) διατελεῖ ὀργιζόμενος. He continues to be angry.
iv) ἔτυχεν ἐλθών. He happened to have come.
v) ἔτυχον ἐπὶ τοὺς Πέρσας στρατευόμενοι. They were just then campaigning against the Persians.
vi) ἐπαύσαντο μαχόμενοι κελεύσαντος τοῦ στρατηγοῦ. They ceased fighting at the general's command.
vii) ἐφάνη σφόδρα αἰσχυνόμενος. He was plainly very much ashamed.
viii) ἐχαίρομεν πάντες ἀκούσαντές σε ἀσφαλῶς αφικόμενον. We all rejoiced to hear that you had arrived safely.
ix) τί διατελεῖς ταὐτά με ἐρωτῶν; Why do you keep on asking me the same questions?
x) οἱ τυχόντες αὐτοῦ ἀκούσαντες σφόδρα ἐθαύμαζον. Those who chanced to hear him were greatly surprised.
xi) ἐπαύσαντο πολεμοῦντες ἅτε ἀμφοτέρων τῶν στρατηγῶν ἀποθανόντων. They ceased making war because both the generals had been killed.
xii) δῆλοι εἰσιν οἱ πρέσβεις ψευδῆ λέγοντες. The ambassadors were clearly telling lies.
In the case of some the supplementary participles introduced by the verbs in the above list, the participle sometimes contains the main idea of the predicate, e.g. the participles following "τυγχάνω". In the case of the last two verbs in the above list, "φθάνω, and "λανθάνω", it is usual for the construction of the sentence to be inverted, when translated into English: e.g.
xi) ἐφθάσααμεν ἐλθόντες εἰς τὴν πόλιν.ἔφθασεν ἡμᾶς ἀφικόμενος. He arrived before us (lit. He anticipated us arriving).
xii) ἐφθάσαμεν ἐλθόντες εἰς τὴν πόλιν. We reached the city first (lit. We were the first coming to the city).
xiii) ἔλαθεν αυτοὺς φυγών. He escaped without them seeing him (He eluded their notice escaping).
xiv) αἱ νῆες ἔλαθον τοὺς πολεμίους εἰς τὸν λιμένα εἰσελθοῦσαι. The ships came into the harbour without being seen by the enemy (lit. The ships escaped the notice of the enemy coming into the harbour).
In a similar manner, the translator may choose to invert a sentence in the case of other verbs (Cf. 8.b. ii. below).
b. Verbs with different meaning when followed by the infinitive or the participle.
Two verbs, "αἰσχύνομαι" and "φαίνομαι", actually mean different things when followed a) by an infinitive, and b) by a participle.
"αἰσχύνομαι" plus the infinitive means "I am ashamed to do something (and therefore I don't do it), whereas "αἰσχύνομαι" plus the participle means "I am ashamed at doing a thing (which one does do); e.g.
i) αἰσχύνομαι λέγειν. I am ashamed to say (and therefore I don't).
ii) αἰσχύνομαι λέγων. I say with shame that ... (and I do).
"φαίνομαι" plus the infinitive means "I appear", whereas "φαίνομαι" plus the participle means "I am plainly, I am shown to be, I am proved to be".
iii) φαίνεται σοφὸς εἶναι. He appears to be wise.
iv) φαίνεται σοφὸς ὤν. He is manifestly (or He is shown to be) wise.
"φαίνομαι" is very often used in an impersonal construction. When "φαίνεται" is followed by the infinitive it is equivalent to "δοκεῖ" or "videtur" in Latin, i.e. "it seems"; when followed by the infinitive it is equivalent to "δῆλον ἐστιν" or "apparet" in Latin, it is manifest, evident, clear, plain, or certain. Thus, in its use with the infinitive "φαίνεται" denotes subjective belief, whereas in its use with the participle it designates objective certainty. In Platonic dialogues, "φαίνεται" is used to signify "Yes", although it is unclear which of these two states is implied. Perhaps either, according to the context.
c. Use of the present participle to mean "with".
"ἔχων", the Present Participle Active of "ἔχω", I have, I possess, is frequently used as equivalent to the English preposition, "with" and to the Latin "cum" plus the Ablative. The same participles of "ἄγω", I lead, I bring, and "φέρω", I carry, I bring, are used similarly; e.g.
i) ἀφίκετο ἐχων τριακοσίους ὁπλίτας. He arrived with three hundred hoplites.
ii) ὤφθη πολλάκις ξίφος ἔχων. He was often seen with a sword.
iii) ὁ στρατηγὸς προὐχώρει ἄνδρας μυρίους καὶ δισχιλίους ἄγων. The general advanced with (an army of) eleven thousand men.
iv) οἱ δοῦλοι ἀφίκοντο πολλὰ καὶ καλὰ δῶρα παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως φέροντες. The slaves came with many splendid presents from the king.
d. Use of the participle as as an adverb.
As is the case of adjectives in general, the participle, which is a verbal adjective, is often used as a simple adverb. Examples are as follows:
i) φθάσας ἀφίκετο. He arrived first.
ii) ἀνύσας ἄνοιγε. Open quickly.
iii) ἀρχόμενος ἔλεγεν. He used to say when he began.
iv) λαθὼν ἐποίησε. He did it secretly.
v) τελευτῶν εἶπε. At last he said.
This article has sought to demonstrate the central role which the participle plays in classical Greek. The inflexive prolixity of the participle was undoubtedly one reason why it was used so frequently, and the ability of writers to employ it with such precision was linked to this. Once one has become accustomed to the widespread use of the participle in Greek, one begins to appreciate how similar the structure of Greek sentences is to that of our own language, where the use of participial phrases as an alternative to subordinate clauses is so common. In Latin, because of the relative paucity of participial forms, subordinate clauses are perforce more frequent, and where participial phrases are used, many of them involve the Ablative Absolute construction, which is employed much more in Latin than its equivalent, the Genitive Absolute, is in Greek. For an analysis of the "Ablative Absolute", the reader is invited to look at the article so entitled which was published on this blog on 20th May 2012.