Partying with Participles #2

This is the second in a series of posts about participles. Click here to go to the first in the series. 

I finished the last post saying that participles can be defined along two dimensions:

  1. The timeframe the action occurs in.
  2. Whether it is active or passive.

It’s important to remember what the difference between active and passive is for this post, so look back at the previous post if you don’t remember!

Unlike English, Esperanto doesn’t have just past and present participles, it has something like past, present and future participles.

Where more specifically:

  • Past refers to an action that has been completed, finished and fulfilled.
  • Present refers to an action beginning/continuing/unfinished.
  • Future refers to an action not yet begun, but intended.

This shows that Esperanto’s participles don’t quite have the idea of tense, but more like “aspect”, which considers the state of completion of an action, rather than the time (tense) it occurs in.

This is a very important distinction to remember when we start talking about one of the ways in which to create a passive phrase in Esperanto (next participle post).

For now, it’s time to introduce how we form the participles.

Here’s how to make the three active participles for the verb “to sing” = “kanti”:

  • La kantanta kamelo = The singing camel (The singing is happening,ongoing)
  • La kantinta kamelo = The camel that sang (Lit. The having-sung camel. The singing has stopped)
  • La kantonta kamelo = The camel about to sing (Lit. The going-to-sing camel. The singing is anticipated, but not yet begun)

Note why they’re active: the camel is doing the singing.

Here’s how to make the three passive participles for the verb “to sing” = “kanti”:

  • La kantata melodio = The tune being sung (Lit. the being-sung tune. The singing is currently happening)
  • La kantita melodio = The tune that was sung (Lit. the sung tune. The tune was sung, it’s not being sung now)
  • La kantota melodio = The tune about to be sung (Lit. the going-to-be-sung tune. The tune hasn’t begun yet, but will do)

Note why they’re passive: the tune is sung (it would be the direct object of “to sing”), the tune isn’t doing the singing (like the camel was)

An easy way to remember which aspect (or phase of completion) each suffix means, is to look at the vowel before the “t” (passive) or “nt” (active). Compare them to the simple verb forms:

  • Mi kantas = I sing (present)
  • Mi kantis = I sung (past)
  • Mi kantos = I will sing (future)
  • -ant and -at are present/ongoing, just like “as” is present
  • -int and -it are past/completed, just like “is” is past
  • -ont and -ot are future/not started, just like “os” is future

As mentioned above, the next post will discuss creating passive phrases using “esti” = “to be” and the passive participle. E.g.

  • La kamelo estis trovita antaŭ kelkaj jaroj = The camel was found a few years ago.

It will discuss why it’s important in this instance to think of “aspect” rather than “tense”, and also why there can be more elegant ways of creating this phrase than using participles (despite the English-speaker’s temptation!).

And there is plenty more to talk about after that!

I should also mention that my learning of the intriguing details about participles is being greatly helped by the book “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”. There is an appendix devoted to the finer points about participles.

5 thoughts on “Partying with Participles #2

  1. Mi preferas mallongigi ‘estas x-ita’-n al ‘x-itas’ (ekz. “la domo estas konstruita en 1905a jaro” —–> “la domo konstruitas en 1905a jaro”), sed kelkaj opinias, ke tio cxi estas malbone komprenebla. Kion vi pensas?


  2. Being Colloquial in Esperanto is on my “to get” list already. Maybe I need to move it up the list a bit and get it next.

    FWIW, I’ve also been reading Helen Fryer’s The Esperanto Teacher (free version on Kindle) and it has quite a few examples of participle usage as well.

    Thanks again for the usual excellent work!



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