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Past Participle

Watch this to unpack the Past Participle (and why your romances and arguments define your history)

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Oscar Wilde once wrote: “Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it”.

To have loved, and laughed, and argued in your lives is your history. It is the narrative of what has gone before; writing about it is so important. It captures your life, or that of other people. This is the power of great writing.

In order to talk about the past, however, one must have a solid grasp on the past tenses which are required for the narration.

In Latin, of the many verbs conjugated in the past that can be found in a translation exercise, the participle is certainly one of the most complicated.

Let’s look back and see how it works.

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Just like the present participles, past participles are, verbal forms used as adjectives. Let’s use the following sentence as an example: “Caesar, greeted by his soldiers, walked through the Forum”. In our example, “greeted” comes from a verb (“to greet”) but it is used as an adjective which describes Caesar. What is the Latin word for “I greet”? That would be “saluto”. And how do we change “I greet” into “greeted”? By changing the -o ending of “salut-o” into “salutat-us”. The -us ending tells us that the verb is no longer a present tense, but a past participle. Of course, this -us ending rule applies to all verbs. So, “Caesar loved by Cleopatra” would be “Caesar a Cleopatra amatus”; “Caesar beaten by the enemies” would be “Caesar ab hostibus victus”;
Most of Latin verbs are regular. However, there is a substantial number of verbs that are not just irregular, but highly irregular. While it is fairly easy for us to acknowledge that amatus is the past participle from amo, and laudatus from laudo, how are we supposed to remember that pulsus comes from pello; that gestus comes from gero or, worse still, that latus comes from fero? Here is the trick: the dictionary will always report the past participle as the fourth principal part of a verb.
Let us take the irregular verb fero as an example. The dictionary will record all its principal parts and the past participle is the fourth one.
For once, the dictionary is good for something!

The participle operates as an adjective, and just like all adjectives, it declines, too. For the remaining cases (accusative, genitive, dative and ablative), the participle employs the endings of the 2rd declension nouns.

So, “Caesar, greeted by his soldiers, walked through the Forum” would be “Caesar, a militibus salutatus, per Forum ambulavit” Why salutat-us? Because Caesar is in the nominative case, thus the -us ending. On the contrary, the sentence “I saw Caesar being greeted by his soldiers” would be “Caesarem a militibus salutatum vidi”. Why salutat-um? Because Caesar is no longer in the nominative case, it is in the accusative, since I am the one who saw him being greeted.

The Past participle takes us away from the monotony of the present and carries us to a long bygone, even remote past. It allows us to make our own storytelling vibrant and lively. It allows us to keep forever our best times alive.

Oscar Wilde knew this and I hope you do too.

This was ThinkFour.
Thanks for watching.