Participle Active

Summary

An active participle is a non-finite verbal form with active voice that can function as a verb (either a main verb or a verbal complement), an adjective, or a noun. When used verbally, an active participle most often expresses continuous or imminent action.

Article

In Biblical Hebrew, participles are non-finite verbal forms that can change their form based on stem formation (like verbs) as well as person, gender, state, and definiteness (like both adjectives and nouns). Participles are very flexible in their grammatical use and can function as a verbal complement, a finite main verb, an adjective, or a noun. In most cases, the context will clearly show how the participle is being used in the sentence. The meaning of a participle is usually clear, even in cases where its specific grammatical function cannot be determined precisely.

Active participles express verbal action in active voice, meaning that the person/thing described by the participle performs the action expressed by the participle itself.

Form

Qal Active Participle Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular Absolute קֹטֵל qotel killing / killer
feminine singular Absolute קֹטֶלֶת / קֹטְלָה qotelet / qotelah killing / killer
masculine plural Absolute קֹטְלִים qotelim killing / killers
feminine plural Absolute קֹטְלוֹת qoteloth killing / killers
Hiphil Active Participle Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular Absolute מַקְטִיל maqtil causing to kill
feminine singular Absolute מַקְטֶלֶת maqteleth causing to kill
masculine plural Absolute מַקְטִילִים maqtilim causing to kill
feminine plural Absolute מַקְטִילוֹת maqtiloth causing to kill
Piel Active Participle Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular Absolute מְקַטֵּל meqattel slaughtering
feminine singular Absolute מְקַטֶּלֶת meqatteleth slaughtering
masculine plural Absolute מְקַטְּלִים meqattelim slaughtering
feminine plural Absolute מְקַטְּלוֹת meqatteloth slaughtering

Function

In Biblical Hebrew, it is helpful to classify participles according to their function in the sentence as a whole: as a verb (or verbal complement); as an adjective; or as a noun. Participles can function independently as their own grammatical entity, but they often introduce entire clauses that function either as adjectives or nouns. When used verbally, the active participle is closely related in meaning to an imperfect verb. They are both often used to describe continuous or repeating action and can function as either a non-finite verbal complement or a finite main verb.

Functions as a non-finite verbal complement

When functioning as a verbal complement, the participle is governed by the main verb of the sentence and has potential to be translated as past time, present time, or future time. A verbal participle can express continuous, imminent, habitual, or even stative action as determined by the context.

Note

The subject of a verbal participle usually precedes the participle, in contrast to the normal conventions of Hebrew word order.

Example: HOS 2:10 –– expressing stative action
יָעַ֥צְתָּ בֹּ֖שֶׁת לְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ קְצוֹת־עַמִּ֥ים רַבִּ֖ים וְחוֹטֵ֥א
נַפְשֶֽׁךָ
ya’atsta bosheth levethekha qetsoth-‘ammim rabbim wehote
nafshekha
you-have-devised shame to-your-house cutting-off_peoples many
and-making-guilty your-soul
You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many people,
and have sinned against yourself
Example: 1SA 28:14 –– expressing simple durative action
עוֹדֶ֖נּוּ מְדַבֵּ֣ר עִמָּ֑ם וְרָחֵ֣ל׀ בָּ֗אָה עִם־הַצֹּאן֙
אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאָבִ֔יהָ
‘odennu medabber ‘immam werahel ba’ah ‘im-hatson ‘asher le’aviha
still-he was-speaking with-them and-Rachel came with_the-sheep
that to-her-father
While Jacob was still speaking with them, Rachel came with
her father’s sheep,
Example: NEH 1:4 –– two participles paired with finite verb היה
וָֽאֱהִ֥י צָם֙ וּמִתְפַּלֵּ֔ל לִפְנֵ֖י אֱלֹהֵ֥י הַשָּׁמָֽיִם
wa’ehi tsam umithpallel lifne ‘elohe hashamayim
and-I-was fasting and-praying before God-of the-heavens
I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Functions as a finite main verb

When functioning as a main verb, the participle is governed by the context and has the potential to be translated as past time, present time, future time, or even without a specified timeframe. A verbal participle can express continuous, imminent, habitual, or even stative action as determined by the context.

Note

The subject of a verbal participle usually precedes the participle, in contrast to the normal conventions of word order.

Example: 1SA 3:8 –– expressing frequentive action
וַיָּ֣בֶן עֵלִ֔י כִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה קֹרֵ֥א לַנָּֽעַר
wayyaven ‘eli ki yehwah qore lanna’ar
and-he-understood Eli that Yahweh was-calling to-the-boy
Then Eli realized that Yahweh had called the boy.
Example: 1SA 28:14 –– expressing simple durative action
וַתֹּ֗אמֶר אִ֤ישׁ זָקֵן֙ עֹלֶ֔ה
wattomer ‘ish zaqen ‘oleh
and-she-said man old is-going-up
She said, “An old man is coming up
Example: 1SA 3:11 –– expressing imminent action
הִנֵּ֧ה אָנֹכִ֛י עֹשֶׂ֥ה דָבָ֖ר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
hinneh ‘anokhi ‘oseh davar beyisra’el
Behold I am-doing thing in-Israel
See, I am about to do something in Israel

Functions as an adjective

An adjectival participle immediately follows the noun it describes, and matches that noun in gender, number, and definiteness. An adjectival participle can either function as an adjective by itself or introduce an entire clause that functions as an adjective (either attributive or predicative).

Example: DEU 4:24 –– a participle functioning by itself as an adjective
כִּ֚י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֵ֥שׁ אֹכְלָ֖ה
ki yehwah ‘eloheykha ‘esh ‘okhelah
for Yahweh your-God fire eating
For Yahweh your God is a devouring fire
Example: GEN 1:12 –– a participle introducing a clause functioning as an adjective
וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙
לְמִינֵ֔הוּ
wattotse ha’arets deshe ‘esev mazria’ zera’ leminehu
and-it-sprouted-forth the-earth grass crops yielding seed
to-its-kind
The earth produced vegetation, plants producing seed after their
kind

Functions as a noun

A nominal participle often takes the definite article (but not always), and can either function as a noun by itself or introduce an entire clause that functions as a noun. A nominal participle will appear in the construct state either when it takes a pronominal suffix or when it is in a construct relationship with another noun in the absolute state.

Example: GEN 1:30 –– a participle functioning by itself as a noun
וּלְכֹ֣ל׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ
ulekhol romes ‘al-ha’arets
and-to-all crawlers on_the-earth
and to everything that creeps upon the earth
Example: GEN 26:11 –– a participle introducing a relative clause functioning as a noun
הַנֹּגֵ֜עַ בָּאִ֥ישׁ הַזֶּ֛ה וּבְאִשְׁתּ֖וֹ מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת
hannogea’ ba’ish hazzeh uve’ishto moth yumath
the-one-touching in-the-man the-this and-in-his-wife dying
he-will-be-made-dead
Whoever touches this man or his wife will surely be put to death.