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Hellenistic Greek © 2008, 2015, 2022
Lesson 29: Aorist Active Participle
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Lesson at a Glance


You will learn to recognize a large portion of the Greek participles used in the New Testament.


You will learn to understand aorist participles in the context of another verb in the same sentence. Aorist participles were generally used to present an action or state as complete, not in process at the time implied by the context.

What is a participle?

A participle is formed from a verb but is used in many ways like an adjective or noun. Here are some examples of verb forms used as adjectives in English:

Here are some examples of English verb forms used as nouns:

Greek participles may be used in both of these ways, but they may also be used to describe the setting in which something happens. The Greek equivalent of the following English sentences might use a participle.

The first part of each of these sentences (“While Jessica ate lunch”, “After cooking breakfast”) could be expressed with a participle in Ancient Greek.

    Usage of Ancient Greek Participles

    Like other verb forms, Greek participles can be accompanied by an object (often a noun inflected for a case other than nominative).

    Like adjectives, Greek participles may modify a noun, and in some instances even function like a noun.

    Like adverbs, Greek participles may modify the main verb or the entire clause in which it appears.

    Implications of the Aorist Participle (both first and second aorist)

    An author's or speaker's choice of the aorist form for a particple as opposed to the present form (to be studied later), is not a decision about time, but one about aspect. The choice of aorist over present portrays the action indicated by the participle as complete, not in progress.

    In practice, this often correlates with contexts where one action (the one portrayed by the participle) occurs before another (the one portrayed by the main verb), but that sequence is implied, not encoded in the meaning of the aorist form.

  1. ὁ . . . Πιλᾶτος ἀκούσας τῶν λόγων τούτων ἤγαγεν ἔξω τὸν Ἰησοῦν (John 19:13)
    Pilate, having heard these words, brought Jesus out.
    Hearing these words, Pilate brought Jesus out.
    After he heard these words, Pilate brought Jesus out.

  2. However we decide to translate this sentence into English, the Greek text does not present the hearing (ἀκούσας) as in progress while Pilate brings Jesus out.

    The participle ἀκούσας is a first aorist form. Consider this example with a second aorist participle:

  3. Ταῦτα εἰπὼν Ἰησοῦς ἐξῆλθεν σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ (John 18:1)
    After saying these things, Jesus went out with his disciples
    Having said these things, Jesus left with his disciples

  4. Notice that the implications of the aorist are the same. It makes no difference if the form is first aorist or second aorist. The author's use of the aorist presents Jesus' "saying these things" as not being in progress when he leaves with his disciples.

    Adverbial Usage

    A participle may be used as a modifier of the main verb or of a clause as a whole. In such cases its implied subject is the same as that of the main verb, and the participle matches that subject in case, gender, and number. Both of the examples above (John 19:13 and 18:1) show this type of usage.

    Let us look a little more closely at John 19:13 to see this.

  5. ὁ . . . Πιλᾶτος ἀκούσας τῶν λόγων τούτων ἤγαγεν ἔξω τὸν Ἰησοῦν (John 19:13)

  6. It is clear that ὁ Πιλᾶτος, the only nominative case noun, is the subject of the main verb (ἤγαγεν, he brought, he led). Pilate brought Jesus out.

    Who is the implied subject of the participle, ἀκούσας? Who heard "these words" (τῶν λόγων τούτων)? Again, ὁ Πιλᾶτος is the one who heard the words. The subject of the main verb (ἤγαγεν) and the subject of the participle (ἀκούσας) are the same. This is why the participle has its nominative case form.

    The participial phrase (ἀκούσας τῶν λόγων τούτων) modifies the main verb (ἤγαγεν) by giving the circumstance prompting the action it names: ἤγαγεν ἔξω τὸν Ἰησοῦν (led Jesus out). What prompted Pilate to lead Jesus out? He had heard the words.

    Of course there are many other ways a participle can modify a main verb besides stating what prompted the action. You will see others in the exercises below.

    Adjectival Usage

    The Greek participle may modify a noun. When used in this way, it agrees in case, gender, and number with the noun it modifies. The logical subject of the participle is that noun.

  7. ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν ... ἔλαβον τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων (John 12:12)
    The great crowd that had come to the festival ... took branches from palm trees

  8. Here the participial phrase ὁ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν (having come to the festival) describes the noun phrase ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς (the great crowd), and just as we would expect with an adjective when it follows the noun it describes, the article for that noun ( ὄχλος) is repeated with what describes it ( ἐλθὼν).

    The participle (ἐλθὼν) matches the noun (ὄχλος) in case, gender, and number. Both are nominative, masculine, singular. You will be able to see this clearly after studying the participial forms discussed later in this lesson.

    In this context, the participle does not modify the main verb, but its subject. It does not tell us anything about how or why the crowd "took branches." Instead it tells us something about the crowd itself. They are the crowd who had come to the festival.

    Substantival Usage

    Just as adjectives are sometimes used as nouns, participles can do the same.

  9. οἱ φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν (Acts 13:16)
    Those who fear God
    The God fearers
    You who fear God

  10. Notice that it is often necessary to use a relative pronoun (who, what, that) to make the meaning clear in English.

    Let us look at an example in a complete clause.

  11. ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. (Matthew 10:39)
    The person who loses their life for my sake will find it
    The one who loses their life for my sake will find it

  12. Notice that it is necessary to insert a word like "person" or "one" to make this work in English. The Greek phrase ὁ ἀπολέσας does not mean "the losing" (the act of losing something). It means, "the [one] who loses [something]."

Formation of Ancient Greek Participles

The Greek participle shares some characteristics with verbs (tense/aspect and voice), and others with adjectives (case and context-sensitive gender).

You saw in lesson 9 that aorist indicative forms add an augment, the letter ε, to the beginning of the verb stem. The aorist participle does not add an augment. Observe the following present indicative, aorist indicative, and aorist participle forms of λαλέω.

Present Indicative Aorist Indicative Aorist Participle
λαλέω → λαλῶ λάλησα λαλήσας

The aorist indicative adds the augment (ε), but the aorist participle does not.

Verbs of the ω conjugation almost always have a vowel connecting the stem to the ending. This vowel is called the thematic vowel.

ἀκούομεν (present)
ἠκούσαμεν (aorist)

In first aorist forms, this thematic vowel is α.

First Aorist Participles can be identified by the presence of -σα- at the end of the stem. This syllable (σα) is added to the present stem to form the first aorist stem, just as you saw earlier with most first aorist indicative forms (lesson 9). The participial endings are then added to that aorist stem.

ἀκούω + σα + ς = ἀκούσας

If the present stem ends in a vowel (α, ε, or ο), that vowel lengthens when σα is added.

ἀγαπάω + σα + ς = ἀγαπσας (Romans 8:37)
ποιέω + σα + ς = ποισας (Romans 10:5)
πληρόω + σα + ς = πληρώσας

Remember, however, that καλέω is the most frequently encountered exception to this lengthening rule.

καλέω + σα + ς = καλσας (Matthew 2:7)

Consonant Table for Changes with Σ
Stem-final Consonant + σ = New Spelling
Labial π β φ + σ ψ
Palatal κ γ χ + σ ξ
Dental τ δ θ + σ σ

If the stem ends in one of the nine consonants affected by the addition of σ, the addition of the σα causes predictable spelling changes.

γράφω + σα + ς = γράψας (Romans 16:22)
προπεμπω + σα + ς = προπέμψας (2 John 6)

Endings for the Aorist Active Participle

First aorist active participles use the following endings after the σα tense/aspect marker. You have learned all of these endings already. The masculine and neuter forms use third declension endings (See Lesson 15), and the feminine forms use σ plus the first declension endings (See lesson 11).

The table below lists the endings for all aorist active particples.

(for all aorist active participles)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ς σα ν
Genitive ντος σης ντος
Dative ντι σ ντι
Accusative ντα σαν ν
(for all aorist active participles)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ντες σαι ντα
Genitive ντων σων ντων
Dative σι σαις σι
Accusative ντας σας ντα

With participles, the vocative case uses the same endings as the nominative case.

Notice the frequent appearance of ντ in the masculine and neuter forms. This is explained below.

First Aorist Forms of Thematic (ω) Conjugation Verbs

Remember that there is no difference in meaning between the first aorist and the second aorist. They are simply two different ways of forming the aorist.

Observe the forms of the verb πιστεύω.

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative πιστεύσας πιστεύσασα πιστεύσαν
Genitive πιστεύσαντος πιστευσάσης πιστεύσαντος
Dative πιστεύσαντι πιστευσάσ πιστεύσαντι
Accusative πιστεύσαντα πιστεύσασαν πιστεύσαν
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative πιστεύσαντες πιστεύσασαι πιστεύσαντα
Genitive πιστευσάντων πιστευσάσων πιστευσάντων
Dative πιστεύσασι πιστευσάσαις πιστεύσασι
Accusative πιστεύσαντας πιστεύσασας πιστεύσαντα

ντ in Participle Endings

If you can learn the forms of the first aorist active participle without understanding why some of the masculine and neuter forms have -ντ- and others do not, you can skip this section. For many learners, though, understanding why some forms have these two letters while others do not can simplify learning not only these forms but others we will encounter later.

The consonant combination τσ is not attested in Hellenistic Greek. When an ending that began with σ was added after a τ, the τ was omitted.
-τ + σ- = -σ-.

See the consonant table for changes with σ above.

Similarly, the consonant combination νσ is not attested in the Hellenistic Period. In earlier forms of Greek it could appear near the beginning of words that were formed by adding the preposition ἐν to a verb whose stem began with σ, but no such forms are found in the Greek New Testament.
-ν + σ- = -σ-.

Look at the tables above again now. You will notice that all but two of the forms that are missing the ντ have an ending that starts with σ, so both the τ and the ν were deleted. The other two are the nominative and accusative neuter singular forms. They end with ν rather than ντ. No ancient Greek word ends with τ. So the missing τ here is easy to explain!

Note that all of the feminine forms add σ before the first declesion ending. This σ is the reason none of the feminine forms have ντ.

The Participle of εἰμί

As you saw in lesson 16, in the indicative mood εἰμί has present forms (unaugmented) and imperfect forms (augmented), but it does not have aorist forms. It also has future forms, but we have not seen those yet.

Just as εἰμί has no aorist indicative forms, it also has no aorist participle forms. The forms shown below are its present participle forms. The ones in gray are known from other hellenistic literature, but do not appear in the Greek New Testament.

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ὤν οὖσα ὂν
Genitive ὄντος οὔσης ὄντος
Dative ὄντι οὔσῃ ὄντι
Accusative ὄντα οὖσαν ὄν
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ὄντες οὖσαι ὄντα
Genitive ὄντων οὐσῶν ὄντων
Dative οὖσιν οὖσαις οὖσιν
Accusative ὄντας οὖσας ὄντα

Notice the similarities between these forms and the aorist participle endings presented above. It is easy to see that the stem of the particple of εἰμί is οντ-, and that with the exception of the nominative masculine singular form (ὤν), adding the same endings as above results in the forms in this chart.

In fact, this is the origin of the ντ in the particple endings of all other verbs. Their participles are formed by appending the particple of εἰμί to their stem after any appropriate tense/aspect markers. For first aorist forms, the tense/aspect marker σ and the thematic vowel α, form σα. When οντ is added to the aorist stem, the α replaces the ο of οντ, producing σαντ-.

For this reason, it is extremely important that you learn the forms of the participle of εἰμί well—even the forms that are not attested in the Greek New Testament. While they do not appear as forms of εἰμί, they do appear as participle endings!

Second Aorist Active Participle of Thematic (ω) Conjugation Verbs

The second aorist active participle is used in exactly the same way as the first aorist active participle. There is no difference in meaning. Some verbs use first aorist forms, and others use second aorist forms.

The second aorist stem.

The second aorist is formed without adding σα to the stem. It is distinguisted from the present particple (to be learned in a later lesson) by using the second aorist stem. As you saw when you studied the second aorist active indicative, the second aorist stem often shows no relation to the present stem at all.

Compare the present and aorist participles of λέγω.

Present Aorist
λέγοντος εἰποντος

Notice that while they use different stems, they have exactly the same endings. That ending is a form of the participle of εἰμί!

Here are all of the forms of the aorist participle of ἔρχομαι (aorist stem: ἔλθ-). Remember that while the present of ἔρχομαι uses middle voice endings, the aorist uses active voice forms.

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ἐλθών ἐλθοῦσα ἐλθόν
Genitive ἐλθόντος ἐλθοῦσης ἐλθόντος
Dative ἐλθόντι ἐλθοῦσ ἐλθόντι
Accusative ἐλθόντα ἐλθοῦσαν ἐλθόν
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ἐλθόντες ἐλθοῦσαι ἐλθόντα
Genitive ἐλθόντων ἐλθοῦσων ἐλθόντων
Dative ἐλθοῦσιν ἐλθοῦσαις ἔλθοῦσιν
Accusative ἐλθόντας ἐλθοῦσας ἐλθόντα

With the second aorist participle, the accent is always located on the first syllable of the ending, never on the stem. There is a logical reason for this, but I will not address it here.

Aorist Participles of Athematic (μι) Conjugation Verbs

Μι conjugation verbs use the same aorist participle endings, but add them to the stem without the σ tense/aspect sign or a thematic vowel. They add them directly to the aorist stem.

The aorist stem is formed by removing the reduplication (the first syllable) and the personal ending from the present stem, and changing the stem vowel to its short form. Look at the aorist stems of the verbs δίδωμι, τίθημι, and ἵστημι:

δίδωμι → δο
τίθημι → θε
ἵστημι → στα

Now plug the aorist stem into the blanks in the table below, and you will have the aorist participle forms for the verb with that stem.

(for all aorist active participles)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ___ς ___σα ___ν
Genitive ___ντος ___σης ___ντος
Dative ___ντι ___σ ___ντι
Accusative ___ντα ___σαν ___ν
(for all aorist active participles)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ___ντες ___σαι ___ντα
Genitive ___ντων ___σων ___ντων
Dative ___σι ___σαις ___σι
Accusative ___ντας ___σας ___ντα


Read each Greek sentence before revealing the English translation. Try to understand it without viewing the translation. After you view the tranlation, hide it and read the Greek sentence again.

  1. οἱ γραμματεῖς οἱ ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων καταβάντες ἔλεγον ὅτι Βεελζεβοὺλ ἔχει (Mark 3:22)

  2. Here "who had come down from Jerusalem" translates the participial phrase, οἱ ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων καταβάντες, which describes the noun phrase οἱ γραμματεῖς (the scribes).

  3. [κλάω = I break (something)]

    λαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἄρτον ἔκλασεν

  4. λαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἄρτον καὶ εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν

  5. λαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἄρτον καὶ εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ δοὺς τοῖς μαθηταῖς εἶπεν· λάβετε φάγετε

  6. The two verbs λάβετε φάγετε are imperative forms (commands). You will study these later.

  7. λαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἄρτον καὶ εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ δοὺς τοῖς μαθηταῖς εἶπεν· λάβετε φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

  8. ταράσσω = I trouble, bother, worry (someone)

    In Matthew's story about the birth of Jesus, Herod hears the Magi's comments about the baby. Then we find the following statement.

    ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης ἐταράχθη

  9. ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης ἐταράχθη

  10. ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης ἐταράχθη καὶ πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ

  11. [πυντάνομαι = I ask, inquire]
    Notice the middle voice ending (-ομαι). The assumption seems to be that when we ask for information, we are acting in our own interest.
    [πυντάνομαι παρά = ask about, inquire concerning]

    ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης... ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν

  12. If the stem of ἐπυνθάνετο is πυνθαν-, what tense/aspect is the verb in the sentence above?

  13. [συνάγω = I gather, bring together]

    καὶ συναγαγὼν πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν...

  14. [ποῦ = where?
    γεννάω = I give birth, bear (a child), engender]

    ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ποῦ ὁ χριστὸς γεννᾶται.

  15. καὶ συναγαγὼν πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ποῦ ὁ χριστὸς γεννᾶται.