lesson 16 index printable pages
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)
1) God willing, I'll see you tomorrow.
2) Weather permitting, the game will be played.
3) All things being equal, I prefer the second choice.
(with passive participles)
4) The session adjourned (or "the session having been adjourned"), club members went home.
5) With new instructions having been issued, the employees were confused.
6) With her fired, no one knew what to do.
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 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.
3) (τῶν ἀποστόλων διωκομένων ὑπὸ τῶν ἀρχόντων,)
S in genitive pple in genitive ............ agent of pple...........
[ 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.