Time and the Latin Participle

Time and the Latin Participle:

This is an important concept. Take some time with it.

The Tense of Participles in Latin actually works the same way it does in English:   the participle's time reference is relative to the controlling verb.   If the tense of the participle is present, the participle represents a time which is the same as, or contemporaneous with, the controlling verb.  Here are three examples:

"I saw Anna running down the street."  running is a present participle and it indicates that Anna was running down the street at the same time that I saw her -- time contemporaneous with a past verb.

"In Rome you will see tourists looking at many statues."  looking is a present participle and it indicates that tourists will be looking at statures in the future when you see them in Rome -- time contemporaneous with a future verb.

"I am sitting here thinking of examples"  thinking is a present participle and it indicates that i am thinking of examples at the very time now that I am sitting here -- time contemporaneous with a present verb.

It works the same in the past, where the past participle represents time before or time prior to the contolling verb:  "I saw the pictures praised by many."  The pictures had already been praised by many before I saw them.

Likewise a participle-like expression that refers to the future ("about to do something") always refers to a time after or a time subsequent to the controlling verb:  "A good lawyer, being about to open a case, will move to dismiss."  The opening remarks of this lawyer will come after the motion to dismiss; the participial phrase refers to time subsequent.

Latin participles work the same way:  they do not indicate a precise time by themselves, but only a time relative to the controlling verb.  When translating, you must always compare the tense of the participle to the tense of the verb that "controls" the participle-noun combination.

Some Latin Examples:

Caesar urbem captam incendit =  Caesar burned the captured city.   Note that the city had already been captured (time prior) when Caesar burned it.

Videte oratorem dicturum = See the orator (who is) about to speak.  Note that the orator will speak at some future time (time subsequent).

Timentes pugnabimus, sed pugnabimus. = Fearing we will fight, but we will fight OR We will fight in fear, but we will fight.  Note that our fear (timentes) is takes place at the same time (time contemporaneous) as our fighting.

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