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New Testament Greek
Course III
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  Lesson 1 Participles, Morphology, Syntax

So far, we have dealt only with the indicative and subjunctive moods. In Course III, we will consider the remaining moods.

There has not been unanimity regarding the classification of the participle as a mood. For that matter, there has not been unanimity regarding the classification of the indicative, imperative, or infinitive as moods. Robertson, who used the term "mode" rather than "mood," briefly discussed the history of the treatment of moods by various grammarians (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 320f).

Early on, we said that "mood' had to do with "degree of contingency." In the indicative mood, there is zero contingency. The verbal idea is affirmed or negated as a matter of fact. The subjunctive mood has contingency. The verbal idea is contemplated as a possibility, but not necessarily a reality. The optative mood has even greater contingency. In keeping with that idea, we will later consider the imperative mood as having contingency. (You may command someone to do something, but whether he does it or not remains to be seen.)

However we will classify the infinitive and the participle as moods primarily because being an infinitive or a participle precludes being any other mood. That is, no verb is both a participle and indicative, nor is any verb both a participle and subjunctive.


Robertson tells us his mentor, John Broadus, described ancient Greek as "a participle-loving language" (p. 1098).

Participles are fundamentally verbal adjectives. They indicate action as do verbs. But they also modify nouns. Consider the word "walking" in the following sentence:

The man walking down the street lost his car.

The subject is "man," and the main verb is "lost." The simple sentence is "man lost car." But there is a modifier telling us which man is under consideration. The modifier is the phrase, "walking down the street." Here, "walking" is a participle. It is a verb that functions as an adjective.

Participles can also function adverbially (modifying a verb), and the adverbial idea often comes to the forefront. As an adverb, the participle may tell us when or how the action of the main verb took place as in the following sentence:

He broke his leg playing football.

The simple sentence is "He broke leg." But the adverbial phrase, "playing football" tells us when the break occurred. "Playing" is a participle. In this instance, the participle is functioning as an adverb modifying the verb "broke."


Participles do not have "person" and therefore, are not conjugated to distinguish between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person. However, just as regular adjectives have case endings for each gender, so also do participles.

Present Active Participle of λύω
follows the pattern of the 3rd declension noun
follows the 1st declension, but with
ουσ inserted between the stem and the connecting vowel
N/V λύων λύουσα λῦον
G λύοντος λυούσης λύοντος
D λύοντι λυούσῃ λύοντι
A λύοντα λύουσαν λῦον
N/V λύοντες λύουσαι λύοντα
G λυόντων λυουσῶν λυόντων
D λύουσι(ν) λυούσαις λύουσι(ν)
A λύοντας λυούσας λύοντα


Present Middle/Passive Participles

Every present middle/passive participle is formed as follows:

present stem + connecting vowel + μεν + 2nd or 1st declension ending

Consider λυόμενος:

present stem + connecting vowel + μεν + 2nd declension ending

   λυ        +           ο         +   μεν    +      ος               

Learn to recognize that μεν as the tell-tale sign of a present middle or passive participle.

Present Middle/Passive Participle of λω
  masculine feminine neuter
N/V λυόμενος λυομένη λυόμενον
G λυομένου λυομένης λυομένου
D λυομέν λυομέν λυομέν
A λυόμενον λυομένην λυόμενον
N/V λυόμενοι λυόμεναι λυόμενα
G λυομένων λυομένων λυομένων
D λυομένοις λυομέναις λυομένοις
A λυομένους λυομένας λυόμενα

Remember that the connecting vowel is o before μ or ν, and ε before anything else. In the present middle/passive participles, the connecting vowel is always followed by the μ in μεν and therefore is always o. Hence we can say the present middle participles are always comprised of

present stem + oμεν + 2nd or 1st declension ending.


A participle will not be the main verb in a sentence. Instead, as noted above, participles are verbs that are used as modifiers. In Greek as in English, they may modify nouns as do adjectives, or they may modify verbs, as do adverbs. To the extent that the tense of a participle indicates time, it will indicate time only relative to the main verb. Present tense participles usually indicate action coincident with the time of the main verb. In the sentence,

He broke his leg playing football,

the main verb (also known as the "leading verb") is broke, and is past tense. If this sentence were in Greek, the participle would be in the present tense, but it would not indicate that the playing is present time in an absolute sense. Rather it would indicate that the playing was present time at the moment the leg was broken. We might translate,

He broke his leg while playing football.

The presentation of the function of participles in your text book acknowledges the tendency of participle usage to refuse rigid classification. Nonetheless, I think it helpful to the beginner to have an outline of distinct classifications to use as an initial framework for interpreting participles. With the understanding that the following approach is intentionally simplistic, consider two ways in which participles are used, adjectivally and adverbially.

Participles used as Adjectives

When a participle is in the attributive position, translate it as an adjective modifying the noun with which it agrees in gender, case and number. Remember that the fundamental characteristic of the attributive position is that the adjective comes immediately after its definite article.

(a) One of the two basic patterns we have learned for the attributive position is...

Definite Article | Noun | Definite Article | Adjective

Previously, we have seen nouns, or noun phrases, in the attributive position and functioning adjectivally. Now we will see participial phrases doing the same thing.

Definite Article | Noun | Definite Article | Participial Phrase

Generally, then, we can simply think of this form of the attributive construction in the following manner:

Definite Article | Noun | Definite Article | Modifier


In the following sentence, we see the familiar [noun] [modifier] construction wherein the modifier is in the attributive position.

ὧδε ὁ νοῦς ὁ ἔχων σοφίαν

Note that the modifier is the whole phrase ἔχων σοφίαν, "having wisdom.It tells us which νοῦς (mind) is in view, the one having wisdom. The participle ἔχων agrees with the noun it modifies, νοῦς, in gender, case, and number. But the verbal idea in a participle is not abandoned, and therefore it may take an object just as any other verb may. In this sentence, although ἔχων is functioning adjectivally, it is also a verb and has as its object, σοφίαν.

How do we translate this sentence?

"Here [is] the mind, the having wisdom [one]" is certainly awkward.

"Here [is] the having-wisdom mind" is not any better.

"Here [is] the mind having wisdom" is perhaps marginally better.

But we can introduce an explanatory object clause in English that will serve the same purpose as the adjectival participle, viz., identifying what mind is in view:

Here is the mind that has wisdom


ἐϐλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἔχοντος τὴν ἐξουσίαν

The leading verb is ἐϐλασφήμησαν, the subject is implicit in the verb, and the object is ὄνομα. The simple sentence is, "They blasphemed name." But ὄνομα has some modifiers. Of course there is the definite article, and that gives us, "They blasphemed the name." But then we have a genitive τοῦ θεοῦ that tells us what name, "the name of God." Now we come to the participle, ἔχοντος. It is masculine genitive singular and is very clearly in the attributive position:

τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἔχοντος

Clearly, it is modifying θεοῦ. What God? "The God having..." But even though it is functioning as an adjective, it is still a verb and can take an object. What does God have? He has τὴν ἐξουσίαν. The phrase τοῦ ἔχοντος τὴν ἐξουσίαν in its entirety modifies θεοῦ, telling us what God, even as the phrase τοῦ θεοῦ itself modifies name, telling us what name.

How do we translate this sentence?

"They blasphemed the name of God, the having the power [one]" is certainly awkward.

"They blasphemed the name of the-having-power God" is a little better.

"They blasphemed the name of God having power" doesn't get the job done.

But we can introduce a relative clause in English that will serve the same purpose as the adjectival participle, viz., identifying what god is in view, or something about the God who is in view:

"They blasphemed the name of God who has the power."

(b) Remember that the attributive construction may also take the following form:

Definite Article | Adjective | Noun

Again, in place of a simple adjective, we may have a participial phrase. And we may represent this form of the attributive construction generally as

Definite Article | Modifier | Noun


ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις (Lk. 3:7)

Therefore he was saying to the going-out crowds...

ἐκπορευομένοις modifes ὄχλοις, telling us something about the crowds to whom Jesus was speaking. For this reason, ἐκπορευομένοις agrees with ὄχλοις in gender, case, and number. We might well translate,

Therefore he was saying to the crowds that were going out...

(c) Adjectives may function attributively even though there is no definite article present. The same is true for participial phrases.


καὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου
Lk 4:33

And in the synagogue was a man having a spirit of an unclean demon.

The participial phrase ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου (having a spirit of an unclean demon) describes the man who was in the synagogue. For this reason, it agrees with ἄνθρωπος in gender, case, and number. Again note that in English, a relative clause might aptly be used to convey the idea of the participial phrase:

And there was a man in the synagogue who had a spirit of an unclean demon.

(d) And finally, just as is true of any adjective, a participle can function as a substantive.


καὶ ἐγένετο φόϐος μέγας ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας Ac 5:5
and great fear came upon all the hearing [ones]

The noun modified by τοὺς ἀκούοντας is not explicit, therefore we may need to supply a noun in English. And again, we may translate using a relative clause to modify a supplied pronoun:

And great fear came upon all those who heard.

Participles used as Adverbs

When a participle is not in the attributive position, it may well be functioning as an adverb, modifying the main verb by telling you when or in what manner the action of the main verb took place.


ὑπέστρεψαν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἀναζητοῦντες αὐτόν

ἀναζητοῦντες [seeking] is functioning as an adverb, telling us in what manner ὑπέστρεψαν [they returned].

They returned unto Jerusalem seeking him.

But just as a participle used adjectivally does not lose its verbal quality, neither does a participle used adverbially lose its connection with a noun, whether the noun is explicit or implicit. In this instance, the participle ἀναζητοῦντες is masculine, nominative, plural. That is because it agrees with the implied subject of the verb ὑπέστρεψαν. Even when functioning as an adverb, the participle still has an adjectival quality inasmuch as it agrees with and thus maintains some modifying force on a substantive, whether explicit or implicit.


εὗρον αὐτον ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καθεζόμενον ἐν μέσῳ τῶν διδασκάλων

They found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers

The subject of the sentence is "they," implicit in the 3rd person, plural verb, εὗρον. The object of the verb is αὐτον, "him". The participle καθεζόμενον [sitting] is adverbial telling us that someone was sitting when "they found him in the temple." Who was sitting? Were they sitting, or was he who was found sitting?

While it may make practical or contextual sense to you that the one who was found was doing the sitting, there is a grammatical point that assures us of that fact. καθεζόμενον agrees with αὐτον in number (singular) case (accusative) and gender (masculine). It would have to be nominative and plural to agree with the subject of εὗρον. (In fact, εὗρον itself could be either 1st person singular or 3rd person plural, but the larger context from which this excerpt is taken, Luke 2:41ff, indicates that the subject of the verb is Jesus' parents and accordingly the verb is 3rd person plural.)

When a participle is used adverbially, we will often translate it using such temporal adverbs as "while" or "after." As a rule of thumb, if the context calls for a temporal adverb and if the participle is present tense, use "while" or "when" rather than "after" in your translation. That is because a present tense participle usually indicates action that is concurrent with the time of the leading verb. The leading verb is the main verb, the verb of the simple sentence. In the example above, the leading verb is εὗρον. The present tense participle καθεζόμενον is describing action that was concurrent with the time of the leading verb. At the time that they found him, he was sitting in the midst of the teachers. And we could translate this sentence as follows:

They found him in the temple while he was sitting in the midst of the teachers.

Notice that the present tense participle καθεζόμενον is translated using a past tense in English, was sitting. As previously noted, the tense of a participle does not indicate absolute time of action, but very often does indicate relative time, that is, time relative to the time of the leading verb. A present tense participle indicates action occurring at the same time as the action of the main verb. In this sentence, the present tense participle indicates action (sitting) that was occurring at the time of the action of the main verb (found). In English, we may use a past tense to indicate the same idea.

What if the sentence had been...

εὗρον αὐτον ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καθεζομένῳ ἐν μέσῳ τῶν διδασκάλων

...how would the meaning change? Now the participle is in the dative case and no longer agrees with αὐτον. Instead it agrees with ἱερῷ. Therefore it would be the temple that is described as sitting in the midst of the teachers. Because the temple isn't likely to move, this probably wouldn't mean "while it was sitting in the midst of the teachers," and therefore we are apt to translate it adjectivally rather than adverbially:

They found him in the temple which was sitting in the midst of the teachers.

That illustrates two points: (1) You must pay close attention to the case, number, and gender of the participle in order to know who or what is the subject of the action inherent in the participle, and (2) the particular function of the participle, whether primarily adjectival or adverbial, may sometimes only be discerned by considering the context and what makes the most sense.


ἐλάλει εὐλογῶν τὸν θεόν. Lk. 1:64b

He was speaking blessing God.

The participle εὐλογῶν functions as an adverb modifying ἐλάλει. It tells in what manner "he was speaking." Even so, it still agrees with the implicit subject of the verb in number, case, and gender.

Reviewing what we have said, we may conclude that an articular participle is necessarily attributive and functions as an adjective (or substantive). In these cases, it will often be helpful to use a relative clause in translation. If a participle is anarthrous, it may be attributive, or on the other hand, it may be functioning adverbially.

It is true that anarthrous participle usage will often defy neat categorization as either adjectival or adverbial. But I think that as a beginning point, this framework will serve you well. As you progress, you will get a feel for the wide range of nuances conveyed by means of participles.

  Assignment for Lesson 1