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16.5 Uses of the participle, part II

Click for review:  Uses of the participle, part I: 15.5; Chart of participial functions

Until now all our participles have been "attached" to an element of the clause where they belong.  We saw how they therefore had to agree in gender, number, and case, with the particular noun or pronoun upon which they depended.  Even participles used substantively, i. e. as nouns (e.g.  οἱ κλέπτοντες) had a function in the context of that clause: their case reflected that function. 

Other participles are "unattached."  Neither "attached" nor "unattached" are common terms: I use them for clarity.  "Unattached" participles, however, do have a grammatical name.  They are called absolute (from Latin, meaning "untied or separated from."  Because these participles are ALWAYS in the genitive, they are known, for short, as GENITIVE ABSOLUTE = absolute participles in the genitive.


English uses absolute participles, not as often as Latin or Greek, but often enough for them to be familiar.  Consider the following expressions:

(with active participles)


(with passive participles)


Replace each one of these participial expressions by a dependent clause with a conjugated verb, and you will obtain different sorts of adverbial clauses:  conditional (1,2), circumstancial (3: "as all other things are equal") or, again, conditional; temporal (4); causal (5).  There are many varieties of roles for these participial expressions, which often have the stylistic advantage of corresponding loosely to one or more adverbial clauses.   


You will notice that none of the nouns (we may call it the "subjects") of  these English participles has a function in the clause.  They are ab-solute.


The structure in Greek is the same, but both the noun (or pronoun) and the participle are in the GENITIVE.



The genitive absolute is marked between round parentheses, because it is dependent on its main clause.  Participle absolutes are often awkard in English; we use them mostly for ready-made idioms. To work out a translation of a Greek Genitive Absolute into English, if it is not apparent immediately, say provisionally "with something happening," and then try to substitute an adverbial clause, introduced by "if," "as," "when," "since," etc.  "As," being non-committal, fits most examples.   

                   genitive absolute                                                  main clause

1) (θεοῦ               θέλοντος)     [σὲ αὔριον ὄψομαι]

    S in genitive                  pple in genitive           DO      adv                 V

God willing, I will see you tomorrow.         

                 genitive absolute                                                        main clause

2)  (ἐμοῦ             ἀπόντος)            [τὰ αὐτὰ πράττετε.]

    S in genitive            pple in genitive                                 DO                    V

“With me absent”  (= When I am absent), carry out the same things.       

                                                        genitive absolute                                                                  

 3) (τῶν ἀποστόλων διωκομένων ὑπὸ τῶν ἀρχόντων,)               

                  S in genitive               pple in genitive             ............  agent  of pple...........            

                          main clause

 [ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἦλθον εἰς ἄλλον οἶκον.] 

                 S                           V                      εἰς  + acc

“With the apostles being pursued by the rulers”  (= As / while/ when / since the apostles were being pursued...),the disciples went (in)to another house.                                   genitive absolute                                                                                                      main clause

4) (   παίδων1            ὄντων            ἡμῶν   ἔτι,) [ Ἀγάθων ἐνίκησε τῇ πρώτῃ τραγωδίᾳ.]

     Predicate in gen            pple in genitive                    S in gen    adv                    S                         V             ..........   dat of means............ 

“With us being children still”  (= As / when we were still children), Agathon won //the prize// with his first tragedy.       


Note 1:  this predicate is not in the nominative because its subject is in the genitive. 

So the construction S in nom - linking verb - P nom becomes S in gen - pple in gen - P in genitive.