Present Participles


Now we will study the present participles. These are words like "remembering" and "seeing." These participles are the easiest to understand and the easiest to form. The present participle is highlighted in the examples below:

The first example is simple, but the second is more confusing. After all, why can't the participle "remembering" just be a gerund? The distinction between the gerund "remembering" and the participle "remembering" is a subtle one, and it doesn't help that the two forms are identical in English.

Essentially, the gerund marks a separate action that usually occurs before the main verb; the gerund never describes anything. Instead, it defines one of the several actions that a subject performs before the main verb. Meanwhile, the participle is a description that is part of what defines some noun. The participle is not always what the noun does in the sentence; but it is always what he is, was, or will be.

It may also help to note that the Sanskrit gerund also translates to "having remembered." This fact may help you keep the two distinct.

In parasmaipada

Recall from our study of consonant stems that some stems ending in consonants use strong and weak stems. The present participle is the same way. The strong stem is easy to find: to produce it, inflect a verb in the 3rd-person plural of the present tense. Then, remove the final i of the verb.

To produce the weak stem, remove the n at the end of the strong stem.

These participles follow the pattern of nouns ending in -mat or -vat. (The -at ending that we skipped over is the ending of the present participle.) But, there are two important exceptions:

With all of that said, here is an example, as a reminder of the consonant noun endings:

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The present parasmaipada participle can be a source of great confusion. For example, consider the word gacchati. As we have learned and studied, this is a 3rd-person singular present tense verb that means "he goes." But wait! This could also be a case 7 singular present participle that means "in the one who is going." The confusion doesn't end there; words like bhavate could also be either participles or regular verbs.

If you ever have trouble with a present tense verb, ask yourself: could this be a participle? You will save yourself plenty of trouble by doing so.

In ātmanepada and the passive

To form this version of the present participle, we add -māna to the verb stem. The result is used like an adjective ending in -a. Its feminine form ends in .

Here are some examples for the ātmanepada verbs:

And, here are some examples for the passive verbs:

In Sanskrit, the atmanepada verbs and the passive verbs share some fundamental similarities. One is that both types of verbs use the same endings; so, we have both labhate and labhyate. Likewise, they both use the same participle suffix; so, we have both labhamāna and labhyamāna.

Why do these similarities exist? We can't be sure; but it is likely that passive verbs developed from the atmanepada verbs. This fact finds support in a comparison with Greek, which often uses identical forms in both types of verbs. For this reason, both are often described together as the mediopassive verbs when discussing Greek or Proto-Indo-European. (In Greek grammar, the equivalents to the atmanepada verbs are referred to as being in the "middle voice.")

The present participle and "simultaneous action"

One of the most common uses of the present participle is to show that one action happens at the same time as another. This notion is expressed in two different ways:

With Case 7

Consider the examples below.

Notice that the participle and its noun are both completely separated from the rest of the sentence. Both are in case 7, and both also agree in gender and number.

More importantly, notice that the phrase is separated in time from whatever follows it. When we change the main sentence from the present tense to the past tense, the construction remains the same. It does not matter whether the main part of the sentence is in the present, the past, or the future.

With Case 6

Less commonly, case 6 is used to express the same idea of simultaneous action. But, the implication of the action is a little different. Consider the example below.

This usage emphasizes that even as one thing happens, another thing happens despite it. So, it shows a contrast between the two events.

With no participle at all!

When no participle is present, the participle "being" is implied.

This structure here doesn't mean the same thing as the yadā-tadā pair. That pair shows that one action happens only when another happens. The structure above shows that two actions coincidentally occur at the same time.


In this lesson, we learned that participles are verbal adjectives. They match the gender, case, and number of the noun they describe. We studied the present participle in all three of its forms: parasmaipada, ātmanepada, and the passive form.

Participles — bhū
भू parasmaipada ātmanepada Passive
Past Tense ???
Present Tense भवत्
Future Tense ???