Chapter 24Γ: Usage of Participles

Now that you have learned how to form participles in Modern Greek, what are the ways in which you can use them?Compared to Ancient Greek, the usage of participles has changed a lot, although some things have remained the same. In this lesson, you will learn when to use present active, present passive, and perfect passive participles.

Present Active Participles

As you learned earlier, the present active participle is not declined. Sometimes, you may hear it referred to as the gerund. These participles function as adverbial attributes, which can describe the time, cause, manner, condition, etc. of a verb. In this way, they function somewhat like camouflaged subordinate clauses. Take a look at the examples below. Can you spot what each of the participles indicates (time, cause, manner, condition, cause)?

  • Ο Φειδιππίδης έφτασε στην Αθήνα τρέχοντας. (“Pheidippides arrived to Athens by running.”)
  • Κλείνοντας την πόρτα, άκουσα το τηλέφωνο να χτυπά. (“As I was closing the door, I heard the phone ring.”)
  • Θέλοντας να με ευχαριστήσει, μου πήρε δώρο ένα βιβλίο. (“Because he wanted to please me, he took a book as a present for me.”)
  • Αγοράζοντας αυτό το πακέτο τηλεφωνίας, θα έχεις δώρο 2GB ίντερνετ. (“If you buy this phone package, you will have a 2 GB internet gift.”)

In the first example, the participle τρέχοντας indicates manner. How did Pheidippides arrive to Athens? By running. In the second example, the participle κλείνοντας indicates time. When did you hear the telephone ring? As you were closing the door. In the third example, the participle θέλοντας indicates cause. Why did he take a book as a present for you? Because he wanted to please you. In the fourth and final example, the participle αγοράζοντας indicates condition. What do you have to do to receive a 2 GB internet gift? Buy this phone package. Figuring out how to interpret and translate participles like these requires close attention to the context of the sentences in which they appear.

Present Passive Participles

In Modern Greek, present passive participle is used more commonly as a noun rather than as an adjective. In these cases, you could say that the present passive participle “hides” a relative clause. Look at the examples below:

  • Οι εργαζόμενοι απαιτούν καλύτερες συνθήκες εργασίας. (“The workers are demanding better working conditions.”)
  • Ο προϊστάμενος μου ζήτησε να έχω έτοιμη την αναφορά ως την Παρασκευή.  (“My supervisor asked for me to have the report ready by Friday.”)

In both of these examples, the participles refer to people: the εργαζόμενοι are workers, and the προϊστάμενος is a supervisor. Sometimes, the present passive participle can have an adverbial use, as well, similar to the present active participle. This is especially true for deponent verbs:

  • Ερχόμενος φέρε μου ένα ποτήρι νερό. (“When you come, bring me a glass of water.”)
  • Φοβούμενος την αποτυχία, άρχισε να διαβάζει πιο σκληρά για τις εξετάσεις. (“Because he was afraid of failing, he started to study harder for the exams.”)
Perfect Passive Participle

In Modern Greek, you can use the perfect passive participle more as a subject, object, predicate or attribute. Consider the examples below:

  • Ήρθαν οι καλεσμένοι μας. (“Our guests came.”)
  • Τα ρούχα είναι απλωμένα. (“The clothes are spread out.”)
  • Ήταν πολύ θυμωμένος. (“He was very angry.”)
  • Με κοίταξε με μάτια ενθουσιασμένα. (“He looked at me excitedly with his eyes.”)
  • Με κοίταξε με ενθουσιασμένα μάτια. (“He looked at me with excited eyes.”)

In the first example, the perfect passive participle καλεσμένοι is used as the subject of the sentence: the guests are the ones who came. In the second and third examples, the participles απλωμένα and θυμωμένος are used as predicates: the clothes are spread out, and the man is angry. In the fourth example, the participle ενθουσιασμένα is being used as an adverb, meaning “excitedly.” In the fifth and final example, the participle ενθουσιασμένα is being used as an attribute, agreeing with μάτια, meaning “excited eyes.”

Take note! Sometimes, but not always, the perfect passive participle can be used as an alternative to the perfect, past perfect, and future perfect tenses. Look at the following examples, and see how the participle takes on the role originally played by a verb:

  • Έχω σιδερώσει τα ρούχα. (“I have ironed the clothes.”) → Τα ρούχα είναι σιδερωμένα. (“The clothes are ironed.”)
  • Είχα ντυθεί πριν έρθει η Μαρία. (“I had already dressed myself up before Maria came.”) → Όταν ήρθε η Μαρία ήμουν ήδη ντυμένη. (“When Maria came I was already dressed.”)
  • Μέχρι να φτάσω σπίτι, θα έχω πεινάσει. (“Ι will be hungry when I get home.”) → Θα είμαι πεινασμένη όταν φτάσω στο σπίτι. (“Ι will be hungry when I get home.”)

Using the tenses helps put emphasis on the action itself, whereas using the participle puts emphasis on the result of the action, instead.

Ancient Greek Participles in Modern Greek

One last note! A fair number of participles from Ancient Greek have survived into Modern Greek. Unlike most other participles in Modern Greek, they preserve much older endings, like -ων, -θεις, and -εντες. However, participles like these are mostly used in limited, formal contexts and in specific set phrases. Take a look at some of them in the table below:

ο υπογράφων/η υπογράφουσα/το υπογράφον“the signatory”
ο λήξας/η λήξασα/το λήξαν “finished, closed”
ο ανακοινωθείς/η ανακοινωθείσα/το ανακοινωθέν“announced, breaking (news, communique)”
οι πληγέντες/οι πληγείσες “affected, struck”
ο επιλαχών/η επιλαχούσα“runner-up”
ο δηλωθείς/η δηλωθείσα/το δηλωθέν“reported”
οι διασωθέντες/οι επιζώντες“surviving, survivors”
  • The participle ο υπογράφων/η υπογράφουσα/το υπογράφον commonly appears in formal papers and contracts, and indicates the place for a signature.
  • The participle ο λήξας/η λήξασα/το λήξαν indicates that an issue or topic is closed or finished, e.g. “To θέμα θεωρείται λήξαν,” (“The issue is closed,”).
  • The participle ο ανακοινωθείς/η ανακοινωθείσα/το ανακοινωθέν refers to something that has been announced, and appears often in the phrase “το έκτακτο ανακοινωθέν,” (“breaking news”). Consider the following sentence: “Άνοιξε την τηλεόραση να ακούσουμε το έκτακτο ανακοινωθέν!” (“Turn the TV on so that we can listen to the breaking news!”)
  • The participle οι πληγέντες/οι πληγείσες refers to things or people struck or affected by something, like a natural disaster. Consider the following example: “Ο πρωθυπουργός μετέβη στις πληγείσες περιοχές εξαιτίας της πλημμύρας,” (“The prime minister went to the areas struck by the flood,”).
  • The participle ο επιλαχών/η επιλαχούσα refers to the runner-up in any kind of competition. Consider the following example: “Δεν πέτυχε στη βασική κατάταξη αλλά είναι στους επιλαχόντες,” (“He did not make it to the finals but he is among the runner-ups,”). 
  • The participles οι διασωθέντες/οι επιζώντες refer to people who have survived a deadly incident. Consider the following example: “Οι επιζώντες από το δυστύχημα δέχονται ψυχολογική υποστήριξη,” (“The survivors from the fatal accident receive psychological care,”).