Present Active Participles

The present active participle in Latin roughly corresponds to the present participle in English (i.e., the “–ing” form of a verb), which is also active voice. There is no present passive participle in either language.

In form, Latin's present active participle is a third declension adjective of one termination. It uses the present stem as a base and adds –ns, which declines to –ntis.

First conjugation: amī, amā re becomes ā nns, amantis

Second conjugation: doceī, docē re becomes docē ns, docentis

Third conjugation: agī, agere becomes agē ns, agentis

Third conjugation –iī: faciī , facere becomes faciē ns, facientis

Fourth conjugation: sentiī,sentī re becomes sentiē ns, sentientis

Deponent verbs do keep their present participles, even if they are active; for example, -rā ns, verē ns, loquē ns, patiē ns, oriē ns.

Table 15-1 Present Participle Declension

Always remember that the present active participle refers to an action happening at the same time as the main verb. Whatever the tense of the main verb, the present active participle is concurrent.

trēs flentēs consolā n poterā mus. (We were not able to console the weeping mothers.)

The “weeping” and the inability to console were simultaneous.

The most common substantive use of a present active participle is to show a person who performs the action, much like the suffix –or does when attached to the stem of the fourth principal part of a verb. Both amā ns and amā tor, therefore, mean “lover.” Latin, however, uses participles as substantives quite freely, where English does not. Sometimes you need to get the sense of the Latin; then, rather than “translate,” consider how English would express the same thought.

Flentēs consolā n poterā mus. (We were not able to console the weepers.)

Perhaps “weeping women” would sound better. Of course, the form flentē s could be masculine as well as feminine, so “weeping men” is also possible. If this sentence were in context, you would know which meaning would be best.

When a present active participle is being used like a noun (i.e., a substantive), its ablative singular form is like that of a third declension noun. So instead of agentī you will find agend e.

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