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Participles [passive] & Gerundives- Part 1

participles and Pali passive voiceIn the last post we looked at passive sentence construction. Now we can move on to take a look at participles in Pali. This post will focus mainly on their passive uses.
Whereas English has only past & present participle forms, participles in Pali have distinct past, present & also future/potential forms. And unlike English, these forms can change depending on their use in active or passive voice.
Also though the past, present & future correspond roughly to the English tenses there are some differences in usage.
A feature of participle in Pali is that, although verbs, they tend to behave like adjectives and thus all forms of participle decline like nouns in case, gender & number. They can be employed in several ways as verbs, adjectives or occasionally nouns.

In Pali there are six kinds of participles:
  • Past Active Participles,
  • Past Passive Participles,
  • Present Active participles,
  • Present Passive Participles,
  • Absolutive / Indeclinable Participles,
  • Future Passive / Gerundive / Potential Participles
In this post we are just going to deal with the passive participles; leaving the active to the next post.
It should be noted that the Pali Lookup tool often labels participles as adjectives. So always check with the PED. It was at this point in my studies that I began to notice the inadequacy of the available tools and dictionaries to capture all the various permutations of participles. I’ll post more detail of how verbs are inflected and the different roots and stem later, but I’ve included some information here to help identify the participle types. In this post, I’m mainly concerned with how they operate rather than how to identify them.

Past Participles in Pali

These are generally formed by adding –(i)ta or -na to the root of a verb. Of the two, the suffix -ta is by far the most frequent. Then declined like nouns in -a/ā as to case, gender and number forms.

Past participles are widely used in Pali as:
Past participles when used as stand-alone verbs are mainly in passive voice in Pali but can also, in a few exceptions, be active if the verb is intransitive. And this is true also in English, consider:
Alcohol is drunk" (passive)   :   "I get drunk" (active)
"The reason was forgotten"   :   "I have forgotten the kids
Though in the majority of situations they are passive, there are several clues as to the voice of the sentence:
  • The past participle will agree in number and gender with their subject. This will be the patient if passive or the agent is active.
  • If passive the past participle will agree in case (nominative) also with the patient.
  • The agent of a passive sentence will be in either instrumental or sometimes in genitive case.
  • If the verb is transitive (i.e. has an object) it will be active.
When used as a main verb they will be in nominative case.

They are also often accompanied by the present, past, or future forms of the verbs atthi, hoti, or bhavati (to be, to become etc.), either expressed or implied. This is termed periphrasis
Past participles as verbs operate a bit like equational sentences with the patient and participle being linked through an auxiliary ‘to be’ verb and thus both in nominative. This auxiliary verb is often implied and may have to be added.

bhikkhuno
rāgā
cittaṃ
vimuttaṃ
hoti
gen/dat
sgl
male

abl, nom
sgl,      pl
male

nom/acc
sgl
nt

nom/acc
sgl
m/nt
past part

pres act
sgl

3rd pers

a/the monk’s
(from) infatuation
mind
freed
is
from infatuation, the monk’s mind has been freed

Once we see a past participle we can look for its subject with which it agrees. If passive both the subject and the participle will be in nominative case. So here we can decide the sentence is passive and cittaṃ is the patient. Though, rāgā could be in nominative it would then be plural and as such it would not match anything in the sentence so it is likely to be singular ablative.

Then check for any agent in instrumental. No agent is expressed.  'rāgā' being ablative ‘from infatuation‘ is therefore a preposition and so 'bhikkhuno', a genitive, may also refer to 'cittaṃ'  - ‘a monk’s mind’.

The use of a past participle implies the perfect verb aspect (i.e. a completed action) rather than continuous/progressive. In fact sometimes they are called passive perfect participles. The accompaniment by 'hoti' (present tense) can emphasize the present perfect i.e. ‘is freed’ or ‘has been freed’ rather than continuous ‘is being freed’. I stress again that just because the participle is called a past participle this does not imply the past tense.

Lets run through some examples.
The auxiliary is sometime left implied and then context only can be the guide.

vimuttaṃ
cittan’ti
pajānāti
nom/acc
sgl
m/nt
past part

nom/acc
sgl
nt

pres act
sgl

3rd person

‘freed mind’
he knows
he knows, ‘(his) mind has been freed’

mayā
ime
sattā
nimmitā
instr/abl
sgl
m,n,f


nom/acc
pl
male
demon pron

nom
pl
male

nom
pl
m
past part

by me
they, these
beings
(are/were) created
by me these beings were created
'nimmitā' has many alternative declensions but we can narrow it down as they must match its subject. Here the pronoun 'ime' a pronoun, because it agrees with 'sattā' is acting as an adjective – ‘these beings’. And this phrase is in agreement with the past participle. There is no auxiliary so we will have to add 'are/were' – ‘these being are/were created’. As there is an agent expressed in instrumental so we know the sentence is passive and can be rendered:
‘these beings were created by me’.

saccaṃ
kira,
nigrodha,
bhāsitā
te
esā
vācā  ?
nom/acc
sgl
neut

indec
voc
sgl
male

nom, acc
sgl, pl
fem
past part

instru
sgl
m,n,f
2nd pers
pron
nom
sgl
fem
pronoun

nom, acc
sgl, pl
fem

truth
really
nigrodha
said, spoken
they/that,
by you
this/that
speech,
statement
Is it really true
Nigrodha
(is/was) spoken by you
this statement
This sentence is complicated. It's a question. I haven’t included all the inflections of bhāsitā but we know it’s a past participle which means the sentence is very likely passive. So is there an agent in instrumental? ‘te’ is sometimes tricky being common to the declension of ‘ta’ (3rd pronoun or demon pronoun) & ‘tumha’  (2nd person  instru: ‘by you’ or gen/dat: ‘your’, ‘of you’). So one possibility is ‘te’ in 2nd pers instrumental – ‘by you’ – which would give us ‘spoken by you’.  

There is no auxiliary verb with the participle so we will have to insert one – 'is or was' depending on context. The patient will be in nominative and in agreement with the participle. ‘vācā’ here is actually a noun in nominative and in agreement also is ‘esā’ a pronoun so ‘this speech is/was spoken by you’. Nigrodha is a name and in vocative as a form of address so the question is being addressed to Nigrodha . Finally ‘kira’ can indicate hearsay and ‘saccaṃ kira’ is according to the PED, an idiom meaning ‘is it really true’, therefore we get the final rendering.
Nigrodha, is it really true this statement was spoken by you?

Other uses of the Past participle

A past participle, when used as an adjective and also a complement, must like all adjectives, agree in number case and gender with the nouns it qualifies. And usually precedes the noun. Like English:
the broken door...
A small number of past participles can also be used as verbal nouns and I think these are only in neuter forms.
bhagavato
bhāsitaṃ
abhinanditvā
dat/gen
sgl
male

nom/acc
sgl
m,nt,f
past part

 absolutive
blessed one’s
spoken/speech
having rejoiced at,
having approved of,
…having approved of the blessed one’s speech….
‘bhagavato’ is a euphemism for the Buddha and is in genitive indicating the possessor of something. Usually the genitive term is placed immediately before that which is possessed. Here, bhāsitaṃ is a past participle of bhāsati meaning ‘spoken’ but here it is being used as a noun implying ‘that which was spoken’ i.e. the Buddha’s words. 

Pali Future passive participles - Gerundives.

Also sometime referred to as the participle of necessity, the potential participle or gerundive (not to be confused with the gerund).  As its name suggests this participle forms passive constructions. According to Warder, the ‘future passive participle‘ is used in any construction requiring a future participle.

The sense of the future passive participle is generally not of simple future but rather one of imperative or optative: ‘this must be done,’ ‘this should be done,’ ‘this ought to be done,’ also ‘this can/could be done ‘. As well as just  'to be done'.  This is noticeably different from English. 

Like past participles they can act as verbs (especially when the suffix -tabba or -(y)ya is used), adjectives (especially when the suffix -aniya is used), or as nouns (in neuter only).   They agree in number, gender and case with their subject. The agent, if stated will be in either instrumental or sometimes genitive.
Here are a couple of examples:
bhikkhunā
kammaṃ
kātabbaṃ
hoti.
instru/abl
sgl
male

nom/acc
sgl
neut

nom/acc
sgl
neut

pres, act
sgl

3rd pers

a monk
work, action
ought to be done
is
the work ought to be done by a monk

maggo
kho
me
gantabbo
bhavissati
nom
sgl
male

indec
instru/gen/dat
sgl
male
pron

nom
sgl
male

fut, act
sgl

3rd pers

(the) road
indeed
by me, mine
should be gone
will be
the road will have to be gone (travelled) by me

'khīṇā
jāti,
vusitaṃ
brahmacariyaṃ
kataṃ
karaṇīyaṃ
abl,  nom
sgl
male, fem
past part of
khīyati
nom
sgl
fem

acc
sgl
m,nt,f
past part of
vasati
acc
sgl
fem

acc
sgl
m,nt,f

acc
sgl
nt
fut pass part of karoti

exhausted (is) birth
fulfilled (is) the brahman way
done (is) that which ought to be done
Future passive participles are, I think, generally perfect in aspect. However, forms of ‘√as’ (atthi) with a future passive participle the normal perfect aspect is modified to be continuous (imperfect).
Idha with hoti and a future passive participle implies the perfect  ‘has had to do’.

Present participles on passive stems

A present participle passive can be formed in Pali by adding the suffix -māna to the passive stem (-[i]yamāna) and declining as a noun in -a.
dissamānena’pi
kāyena
dhammaṃ
desesi
adissamānena’pi
kāyena
dhammaṃ
desesi
instru
sgl
m,n
pres part, pass

instru
sgl
male

acc
sgl
male

aor,act
sgl

3rd pers

instru
sgl
m,n
pres part, pass

instru
sgl
male

acc
sgl
male

aor,act
sgl

3rd pers

having appeared
by body
dhamma
he teaches
having not appeared
by body
dhamma
he teaches
he teaches the dhamma, with the body appearing
he teaches the dhamma, with the body not appearing
There is often a problem translating the present passive of Pali because in English the passive is always expressed by a past participle. Usually the simplest solution is to render the participles as English present participles in active voice.

Agent-Genitive ("subjective genitive")

It should be noted that sometimes with passive participles the agent is indicated by the genitive case. This can be referred to as agent-genitive or subjective-genitive. Essentially the ‘of’ of the genitive can be rendered as ‘by’.


Next we'll continue with Pali participles in active voice.

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