Participles

Participles are forms of the verb that can function as adjectives or form the past perfect. In modern English there is a present participle ending in -ing, and a past participle ending in -ed. For example, in the sentences below, 'eating' is modifying the noun 'contest' and 'listened' modifies the verb 'have'. Though the past participle and past tense may look similar, the past tense indicates time while the past participle is a specific verb form which modifies a verb or noun and can't be used on its own.

I
Subject
Pronoun
held
Verb
 
an
Article
 
eating
Present
Participle
contest
Direct
Object

I
Subject
Pronoun
have
Verb
 
listened
Past
Participle
to
Prep.
 
you
Direct
Object

In Old English, there are also two participles. The present participle ends in -ende and the past particple often ends in -ed or -od, though there are several notable exceptions to this rule. You may also notice the past participle often has the prefix ge-. However, the present and past participles can be used in a few different ways.

Participles Used as Verbals

Verbals are verbs that act as another part of speech. The past and present participles are used in the formation of verbal constructions, where auxilliary verbs like 'habban - to have' or 'beon - to be' are used with a participle. For example, 'Hit wæs ofer stan getimbrod - It was built on stone', 'Hie ymb þa gatu feohtende wæron - They were fighting around the gate' or 'Þu hæfst burh getimbrod - You have built a fortress'.

Hit
Subject
Pronoun
wæs
Auxillary
Verb
ofer
Prep.
 
stan
Direct
Object
getimbrod
Past
Participle

Hie
Subject
Pronoun
ymb
Prep.
 
þa
Demon.
Pronoun
gatu
Direct
Object
feohtende
Present
Participle
wæron
Auxillary
Verb

Þu
Subject
Pronoun
hæfst
Auxillary
Verb
burh
Direct
Object
getimbrod
Past
Participle

Participles Used as Adjectives

In addition to functioning as verbals, participles can also be used as adjectives. In Old English you commonly find participles used as adjectives, such as in the phrase 'slæpende mann - a sleeping man'. When participles are used as adjectives, they also decline like adjectives and follow the grammar of the noun they modify. So, in the sentence 'He gefeng slæpendne mann - He siezed a sleeping man', the present participle of 'slæpan - to sleep', slæpende, takes the accusative, masculine -ne ending of strong adjectives.

He
Subject
Pronoun
gefeng
Strong
Verb
slæpendne
Present
Participle
mann
Direct
Object

When a participle is used as an adjective in a weak position (so, after a demonstrative pronoun such as se or a possessive such as his), weak endings are used. In the sentence below, 'Grendel gefeng þone slæpendan mann - Grendel grabbed the sleeping man', the participle adjective slæpendne gets the the accusative singular -an ending of weak adjectives to become slæpendan.

Grendel
Subject
Noun
gefeng
Strong
Verb
þone
Demonstrative
Pronoun
slæpendne
Present
Participle
mann
Direct
Object

As long as you recognise when a word is functioning as an adjective (i.e. that it is modifying a noun), and remember that participles can function as adjectives, then you won't find them hard to deal with. They will still be recognisable as participles because of the -end- form in the ending of the word. If you want to recap on adjectives, you can navigate back to Adjectives Summary.

Participles Used as Nouns

Participles can also function as nouns. For example, we might say 'the deceased lived nearby' or make a statement like 'I enjoy sailing'. In these sentences, verbs like 'deceased' and 'sailing' are functioning as subjects and objects. This is less common in Old English, but it is something to be aware of. For example, examine 'Dreama Rædende - giver of joy' in the below sentence 'Swa is Dreama Rædende to eallum eaþmedum gesceaftum - So the Giver of Joy is kind to all creatures'.

Swa
Conj.
 
is
Irregular
Verb
Dreama
Possessive
Noun
Rædende
Present
Participle
to
Prep.
 
eallum
Adjective
 
eaþmedum
Adverb
 
gesceaftum
Indirect
Object

The table below lists some common verbs with their participles: timbrian - to build, bodian - to announce/preach, ricsian - to reign, lufian - to love, libban - to live, wyrcan - to work/make/do, hergian - to plunder/harry. Use it to complete the sentences below, which all feature participles - some used as verbals, and some as adjecives. Feel free to use the table to help you with the questions. You can hide the table at any point by clicking the orange 'Hide Table' button. Otherwise, continue on to the next topic.

Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic timbrie Ic timbrode
2nd Person Singular Þu timbrast Þu timbrodest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo timbraþ He/Hit/Heo timbrode
Plural We/Ge/Hie timbriaþ We/Ge/Hie timbrodon
Participles timbriende (ge)timbrod
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic bodie Ic bodode
2nd Person Singular Þu bodast Þu bododest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo bodaþ He/Hit/Heo bodode
Plural We/Ge/Hie bodiaþ We/Ge/Hie bododon
Participles bodiende (ge)bodod
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic ricsie Ic ricsode
2nd Person Singular Þu ricsast Þu ricsodest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo ricsaþ He/Hit/Heo ricsode
Plural We/Ge/Hie ricsiaþ We/Ge/Hie ricsodon
Participles ricsiende (ge)ricsod
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic lufie Ic lufode
2nd Person Singular Þu lufast Þu lufodest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo lufaþ He/Hit/Heo lufode
Plural We/Ge/Hie lufiaþ We/Ge/Hie lufodon
Participles lufiende (ge)lufod
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic libbe Ic lifde
2nd Person Singular Þu leofast Þu lifdest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo leofaþ He/Hit/Heo lifde
Plural We/Ge/Hie libbaþ We/Ge/Hie lifdon
Participles libbende (ge)lifd
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic wyrce Ic worhte
2nd Person Singular Þu wyrcst Þu worhtest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo wyrcþ He/Hit/Heo worhte
Plural We/Ge/Hie wyrcaþ We/Ge/Hie worhton
Participles wyrcende (ge)worht
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic hergige Ic hergode
2nd Person Singular Þu hergast Þu hergodest
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo hergaþ He/Hit/Heo hergode
Plural We/Ge/Hie hergiaþ We/Ge/Hie hergodon
Participles hergiende (ge)hergod


While most verbs take -ed and -od in the past participle, verbs with an irregular past tense will have different forms. A good guide for the past participle form of a verb is the first person past singular without the 'e'. Examine 'wyrcan - to work' and 'libban - to live' in the table.

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