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Translating Latin Future Active and Passive Participles into English

written by: John Garger • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/14/2012

Latin has a Future Participle but English does not. However, the Future Participle is needed to express some constructions when translating from English to Latin. Learn how to form and translate Future Participles in Latin.

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    A participle is a form of a verb that functions partly as a verb and partly as an adjective. Participles are, therefore, also known as verbal adjectives. English has only two types of participles: the present participle and the past participle. Latin has these two types too, but it also has a future participle which English lacks. Nevertheless, the future participle is needed to translate some English into Latin to coincide with standard Latin grammar.

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    English and the Future Participle

    English does completely lack the Future Participle but oddly enough, it is still needed to translate some English into Latin. The closest English construction to Latin’s Future Participle occurs when a speaker or writer wants to convey an action that is going to happen soon or must happen. Often in English, the phrases “about to” or “to be” are used to denote this construction, such as:

    Mike is about to run a race.

    Mary has a race to be run.

    The Future Participle in Latin can be broken down into active and passive voice forms. Both are verbal adjectives but with different constructions and inflections.

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    The Latin Future Active Participle

    When a Roman wanted to indicate that a person was about to so something, the Future Active Participle was used. For example,

    Caesar illos viros superaturus est (Caesar is about to defeat those men)

    Illi viri Caesarem superaturi sunt (Those men are about to defeat Caesar)

    Notice that the action of these sentences is expected to take place imminently, not just sometime after the present like the future tense, but very soon. This is what differentiates the Future Participle from the future tense; the action is so close to happening that it is almost happening in the present but not quite. You can see that although English lacks the Future Participle, it is needed whenever this construction is encountered to translate English into Latin. This participle is constructed with the fourth principal part stem plus –urus, -ura, -urum (depending on gender) plus the appropriate form of the verb “to be”, esse. As an adjective, it must agree with the noun it modifies in case, number, and gender.

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    The Future Passive Participle

    When a Roman wanted to indicate that something must occur, that there is an obligation for it to occur, the Future Passive Participle was used. This participle is also known as the gerundive. This participle is formed by adding –ndus, –nda, or –ndum (depending on gender) to the present verb stem. As always, the Future Passive Participle must agree with the noun it modifies in case, number, and gender. For example:

    Pontem transendum habeo (I have a bridge to be crossed)

    Caesar inimicum superandum habet (Caesar has an enemy to be defeated)

    Notice the telltale English words “has” and “have” that give away the participle in the English sentences. Also note that Latin does not have these auxiliary words; the entire English verb phrase is captured in the single Latin participle.

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    Conclusion

    English lacks a Future Participle and yet its construction is still necessary to translate some concepts from English to Latin. The two Future Participles, the active and the passive, indicate actions that are either about to happen or must happen. Formation of these participles in Latin is done with inflections that must agree with the noun or pronoun they modify in case, number, and gender. This concept is similar to the use of adjectives usually learned in previous grammatical lesson. However, the concept of declining what is essentially a verb can be confusing to most students.

Latin Participles: An English Comparison

Participles function as part verb and part adjective in both Latin and English. Whereas both languages have a present and past participle, only Latin has a future participle. This can cause confusion among Latin students encountering participles during translation exercises.
  1. A Comparison of Latin and English Present Participles
  2. Latin Past Participles: An English Comparison
  3. Translating Latin Future Active and Passive Participles into English