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A participle ( Latin participium , from particeps " parthabend "; plural: participles ) is a grammatical form that is derived from a verb and thereby partly acquires the properties of an adjective , but partly retains the properties of a verb. The term “participle” and also the German term middle word express this peculiarity of participating in two categories at the same time, namely verb and adjective. Similarly, there are also intermediate stages between verb and noun, which are called gerunds .

German examples of participles are the forms auf -end wie spielend (for the verb to play; so-called “present participle”) and the forms of auf- like played (so-called “past participle”). In traditional grammar, participles were often listed as a separate part of speech alongside verb, adjective, noun, etc.; In today's linguistics, however, this view is not shared, but participles are viewed as words or even constructions in which verbal and adjectival components are included in varying proportions. Most German textbooks and school grammars refer to participles as verb forms.

Verbal properties of participles can consist in the fact that they are partially combined with the usual additions to the verb and that they are traditionally differentiated according to time level and active / passive. However, they never show features of finite verb forms (number, person and mode), and the "time stage" is never a real deictic (i.e. finite) tense , but rather relative time relationships, as they are otherwise possible in the infinitive ( see having played the infinitive of the perfect perfect as in ). Adjectival properties of participles can e.g. B. consist in the fact that they can appear as attributes to a noun, whereby they also have the inflection of adjectives in German, for example the ending -e in playing children .

The grammatical properties of participles, however, are inconsistent; One of the main difficulties of the term is that the term “participle” usually encompasses all variants that externally have the same form ( i.e. in German with -end , ge ), even if they have very different grammatical properties. For example, the inflected attributive form is clearly adjectival like in Played Surprise , the outwardly identical form in auxiliary verb constructions of German, such as Die Kinder haben Fußball’s football, is clearly an infinite verb form . There are also uses of participles as adverbial determinations that are more difficult to classify. The way of speaking of an intermediate status of the participle can thus be interpreted in different ways: It can mean that a middle word is present in the real sense, which therefore has verbal and adjectival properties at the same time, or that it is a question of forms that lie between clearly adjectival and clearly verbal Switch uses.

Participles can be identified in different languages ​​of the world. Differences to German can then be that other “time levels” exist (especially participles of the future tense) or other forms of the active / passive distinction, e.g. B. also participles that are neutral in this regard. The phenomenon that, as in German, participles of the “present” are active and participles of the “perfect” are passive, is also found as a tendency in other languages, albeit by no means without exception.

Overview of the participle forms in German

In German there are two forms of participle:

  • "Partizip I", also: "first participle, present participle, present participle, middle word of the present, first middle word, process form [of the verb]"
  • "Partizip II", also: "second participle, past participle, past participle, perfect participle, middle word of the past, second middle word, completion form [of the verb], completion form [of the verb]"

Formation of the participle I.

The present participle is formed by adding “-end” to the root of the verb. The present participle always has the properties of an adjective in German, i.e. it is used as an attribute or as an adverbial definition , and with restrictions also as a predicative (see next section).

Example: the verb to jump

Finite Formen: z. B. spring-e, spring-st …
Infinitiv: spring-en
Wortstamm somit: spring-
Partizip Präsens: spring-end


  • For verbs with a stem ending in -r or -l , the ending -end is shortened to -nd , just as the -en of the infinitive is shortened to -n : smile-nd, trauer-nd .
  • Verbs with a stem ending in a vowel behave irregularly. In some cases the infinitive is always shortened, namely to do, to be; here there is a participle form that deviates from the infinitive: do-end, being-end. Some other verbs with stem on vowel can optionally be shortened in the infinitive, but this never happens with the participle: schau -en or colloquially: schaun , but participle always schau-end , never: * schaund .

Formation of the participle II

The so-called past participle is usually formed with the prefix “ge” and by adding “-t” or “-et” (for regular verbs) or “-en” and other changes (for irregular verbs).

In the case of weak verbs , the root of the word is surrounded by- and the suffix -t :

  • love → loved
  • build → built
  • to win → won
  • lay → laid

In strong verbs the past participle form is with overall and the suffix -en formed:

  • to ride → ridden
  • bend → bent
  • take → taken
  • dig → dug

However, there are verbs that without the prefix overall are formed, are including:

  • all inseparable verbs , i.e. all that are not stressed on the first syllable, especially verbs starting with -ieren
    • react → reacts
    • fix → fixed
    • trumpet → trumpet
  • inseparable verbs with unstressed prefixes such as bes, er, ent, ge, ver and zer-
    • tell → told
    • recommend → recommended
  • some words that have an -ge or an unstressed prefix
    • confess → confessed
    • concede → conceded
    • earn extra → earned extra

The past participle can also be formed as a compound word in German . Examples:

  • Noun + past participle (iced, moss-covered)
  • Adverb + participle (well-tempered mood)
  • Adjective + participle (the fine print)

To use the second participle, see below under "Past participle" .

Present participle

Properties in German

The participle I is used in the sentence to use a verb as an adjective or adverb .

Adjectival properties of the participle are the inflection (example: suitable, suitable, suitable ), the antonymy (example: suitable - unsuitable ), the possibility of forming compound words (example: applicable ) and the possibility of both attributive and predicative use ( Example: a suitable opportunity  - the opportunity is suitable ).


  • the loving mother - the singing girl - the silent lamb - the screaming salesman
  • The example is correct . - The child runs home crying .

The participle can be declined like an adjective . For this reason it is often referred to as a verbal adjective . The participle attributes, which can be formed by a participle and possibly an extension, are attributive to a noun. A participle attribute can always be resolved by a relative clause. This will make the sentence easier to understand.


  • the message coming from above (as a relative clause: the message that comes from above )
  • with the message that comes from above (as a relative clause: with the message that comes from above )

In German, the participle can also express the simultaneity of actions and activities, similar to Latin:


  • The man walks through the house singing (The man sings and walks. So he does two things at the same time.)

The participle can also be formed as a compound . Examples:

  • Noun + present participle (carnivorous, pain reliever)
  • Adverb + participle (perpetual calendar)
  • Adjective + participle (single)

According to the New German Spelling, the literal meaning is recommended to be used separately (e.g. the child riding a bike , the carnivorous plant). When the compound term is used figuratively, the words should be written together (e.g. the tree standing alone , but the woman standing alone [without a partner] )

Latin language

In Latin: Present Active Participle (PPA)

The PPA expresses the temporal relationship of simultaneity between the action expressed by the participle and that of the parent sentence. In Latin, the participle also serves as a sentence shortening in the construction of the Participium coniunctum (PC) and the ablative absolutus .

Greek language

In Greek: present participle active and present participle medium / passive .

In contrast to German, the passive forms of the present tense are formed synthetically (own forms).

past participle

German language


The past participle serves


  • the beloved mother - the song sung - the prodigal son
  • I loved  (Perfectly Active) - I am loved (Present passive)
  • he drove home  (perfect active) - he is driven home (present passive)

The past participle is usually of the verbs have, sein and are ruled. Occasionally, however, other participle governing verbs appear, such as the verb get (example: get something as a gift ). This special form of the passive is referred to as getting- passive, "recipient passive ", "beneficiary passive " or "dative passive". Further examples of verbs governing the participle include (captured) take / set / hold, (convenient) come, (lost) give / believe / know .

Adjectival properties

Adjectival properties of the participle II are the ability to increase (example: the most successful performance ), the antonymy (example: animate - inanimate ), the possibility of forming compounds (example: highly loved ) and the possibility of attributive and predicative use (example: the sung song  - the son is lost ).

Some participles are so independent as adjectives that an underlying verb does not exist or has a completely different meaning (examples: hairy , winged , related ).

The participles II of the real intransitive verbs cannot be used adjectivally, but only serve for the analytical formation of the tenses perfect, past perfect and future II. The participles of the unaccusative verbs , on the other hand, allow use as an adjective attribute, they have an active instead of a passive meaning (examples : fall asleep, arrive, rust).

Latin language

In Latin: Past participle Passive (PPP)

The PPP is used to form the passive voice and is the third root form (example: amatus ). The past participle expresses the prematurity of the action of the parent sentence. In contrast to German, the passive forms of the present tense are formed synthetically (own forms) and do not fall back on the PPP.

In Latin, the participle also serves as a sentence shortening in the construction of the Participium coniunctum (PC) and the Ablativus absolutus .

Greek language

In Greek: past participle medium / passive and past participle active .

Past participle

Latin language

In Latin: Active past participle ( PFA )

The PFA stands for Nachzeitung . This form cannot be created in German and must therefore be circumscribed in the translation.

Example: Morituri te salutant “the doomed / those who are about to die / those who are about to die greet you”.

Greek language

In Greek: present participle active , future past participle passive and future participle medium .

Other languages

Lithuanian has both an active and a passive past participle, e.g. B. rašysima knyga (“the book that will be written”), Gimė vaikas valdysiantis pasaulį (“a child was born who will rule the world”). In Russian, the active present participle of the perfect verb with future tense meaning is used colloquially.

Baltic and Slavic participles

There are a particularly large number of participle forms in the Baltic and Slavic languages. The synthetic verb forms are modified according to tense and gender verbi, and like adjectives according to case and number . In addition, participles differentiate between short and long forms (the Slavic resultant participles now usually only have short forms). Combining these grammatical categories results in up to several dozen forms, which usually rarely coincide. However, in some languages ​​the participles are suppressed and paraphrased with subordinate clauses. Participles of the future tense are particularly rare.

Example from the Lithuanian : Inf. Matyti "see", act. Present mask. Nom. Sg. Matąs / matantis “who sees”, act. Perfectly masked nom. Sg. Matęs "who saw", act. iter. Perfectly masked nom. Sg. Matydavęs "who has seen repeatedly", act. Future tense masculine nom. Sg. Matysiąs / matysiantis “who will see”, pass. Present masked nom. Sg. Matomas "who is seen", pass. Perfectly masked nom. Sg. Matytas “who has been seen”, pass. Present masked nom. Sg. Matysimas "who will be seen".

Predicatively, some Baltic participles can express the modus relativus , e.g. B. Lithuanian Jis sako buvęs namie ("He says he was at home"), kuršiai gyvenę šiaurėje ("the cures lived in the north"; cf. the indicative form gyveno ) or in the passive kuršių gyventa šiaurėje (the same; in the indicative the often omitted auxiliary verb would be added: (buvo) gyventa ). Analogously, the transgressive is also used when the subject of the main clause differs from that of the indirect speech, e.g. B. jis sakė tėvą išėjus (“he said that the father has gone away”; this construction is called Accusativus cum participio in Latin ).

For the formation of periphrastic tenses there are also progressive (active) participles in Lithuanian, e.g. B. jis buvo bemiegąs “he was sleeping / he was sleeping”.

Usually colloquial or dialectal, both active and passive participles are used to form periphrastic (perfect) tenses:

  • Polish: Wtedy wypiłem. ("I was drinking back then.")
  • Russian: У меня корова подоена. ("I milked the cow." / "I milked the cow." - PPP)
  • Macedonian: Gi nemam videno. ("I have not seen her.")
  • Old Church Slavonic: běx stoję ("I was standing." - progressive form )
  • Lithuanian (dialect in Belarus): Manip karvė pamelžta. ("I milked the cow.")

Formally passive participles sometimes only have an active meaning, e.g. B .:

  • Polish: Przyszedłem. ("I came.")
  • Lower Sorbian: Mam wšo docynjone. ("I've done everything.")

The past tense is formed analytically in many Slavic languages ​​similar to the German perfect . For this purpose, a form of sein is connected as an auxiliary verb with the so-called L-participle . In Russian , the past is formed without an auxiliary verb.

Derived infinite verb forms

In the Slavic languages ​​there is the transgressive and in the Baltic the quasi-participle (e.g. lit. matant , mačius , matysiant from matyti “see”) as well as half-participles , e.g. B. Lithuanian rašydamas ("writing", infinitive rašyti ), Latvian likdams ("legend", infinitive likt ). Half-participles can only be used as sentence-valued verb phrases. In German they are usually paraphrased by subordinate clauses.

In some languages ​​the infinite verb form is congruent with the reference word in gender and number , e.g. B. in Czech (transgressive) or Lithuanian (half participle), cf. Lithuanian Jis įėjo Verkdam as ("he came in crying") vs. Ji įėjo Verkdam a ("they ...").

Modality expressions

Some languages ​​have special participle forms that express modal aspects. For example, in Lithuanian there is the participle des Müssens ( Participium Necessitatis ), the meaning of which is similar to the German gerundive , e.g. B. rašytinas straipsnis ("the essay to be written"). In some Slavic languages ​​there is the participle of the possibility, e.g. B. in Upper Sorbian ( korigujomny "correctable", wobdźiwajomny "admirable"), in Lower Sorbian ( widobny "seeable", zranjobny "vulnerable") or in Czech ( korigovatelný "correctable"). However, some modal participles have gradually lost their modality. In addition, the usual participles can also be used as modality expressions, e.g. B. Latvian dzerams "drinkable", in Lithuanian and Russian the negated forms mostly have a modal connotation, e.g. B. lit. neištariamas " unpronounceable ", Russian nerešaemyj "unsolvable". Whether a participle can express modal aspects depends on its tense , verbal aspect and gender verbi , the criteria vary from language to language. Modal participles can be paraphrased by subordinate clauses with modal verbs.

spelling, orthography

In German, both present and perfect participle can be substantiated . They may then have to be capitalized . Examples: the lovers, the students, the following, a prisoner, everything in print .


  • Martin Haspelmath: Passive Participles across Languages . In: Barbara Fox, Paul Hopper (eds.): Voice: Form and Function . John Benjamin, Amsterdam 1994, pp. 151-177.

Web links

Wiktionary: participle  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. An overview is given e.g. E.g .: Irene Rapp: Participles and semantic structure . Stauffenburg, Tübingen 1997 (= studies on German grammar, 54) ISBN 3-86057-444-2 .
  2. about Elke Hentschel, Harald Weydt: Handbuch der Deutschen Grammatik . 4th edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2013, p. 126f.
  3. See Haspelmath 1994
  4. Canoonet: Past participle with or without
  5. [Duden - Trenn- und Zusammenschreibung ], Bibliographisches Institut GmbH, Berlin, accessed on January 23, 2015.
  6. Duden. The grammar . 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim, Vienna, Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04048-3 , pp. 550 f .
  7. For a list of participle-governing verbs see wikt: Wiktionary: German / Infinitive -governing verbs .
  8. For more information on the reformation orthography of substantiated participles see: wikt: Wiktionary: German / upper and lower case of verbs .