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Participles are words which represent an action or state as if it were a quality of its subject or object. Participles are formed by special participial suffixes. There are six such suffixes, three active, ANT, INT, ONT, and three passive, AT, IT, OT.

Participles as adjectives

An active participle presents the action or state as a description of the subject.

-ANT- during the day - the action is not yet over leganta = is still reading
-INT- after the action - the action is already over leginta = was reading before.
-ONT- before the action - the action has not yet started legonta = will be reading later (about to read)
  • Viro, kiu ankoraŭ legas, estas leganta viro. - A man who is still reading is a reading man.
  • Viro, kiu antaŭe legis, estas leginta viro. - A man who was previously reading is a man who has read.
  • Viro, kiu poste legos, estas legonta viro. - A man who will read later, is a man who is about to read. (lit. is an about to read man)

A passive participle presents the action or state as a description of its object.

-AT- during the day - the action is not yet completed legata =is being read
-IT- after the action - the action is completed legita =has already been read
-OT- before the action - the action has not yet started legota =will be read
  • Libro, kiun oni ankoraŭ legas, estas legata libro. - A book which one is still reading is a "being read book".(Note that these participles can be used as adjectives)
  • Libro, kiun oni antaŭe legis, estas legita libro. - A book that one was reading before it a book that was read.
  • Libro, kiun oni poste legos, estas legota libro. - A book which one reads later is a "legota libro"= an about to be read book. (Because English doesn't have future participles, these participles need to be paraphrased by a clause.)

Passive participles can only be used with an action which can take an object. One cannot say for example okazata, because okazi can never take an object. All verbs with the IĜ-sufikso are intransitive. (do not take an object) Therefore ...iĝata, ...iĝita kaj ...iĝota are never possible.

The vowels in the participles are the same as the vowels in the verb endings AS, IS kaj OS. The meanings are also very similar, but not entirely identical. AS mainly shows the present tense of the action, while ANT and AT show the duration or repetition of the action. IS shows that the action occured before the present, while INT and IT show that the actions was completed, possibly before another action. OS shows the time after the present, while ONT and OT show a state before the beginning of the action, often with the nuance that one intends to act, that one is planning to act, or that it will soon happen.

  • Li skribas. - He writes.

    The writing is occurring now or customarily.

  • Tiam li estis skribanta en sia ĉambro. - At that time he was writing in his room.

    The act of writing was continuous at this time in the past.

  • La letero estis skribata en la paŭzo. - The letter was being written during the break.

    The writing was ongoing in the break.

  • Janjo havis en tiu nokto dormon maltrankvilan kaj interrompatan. - That night Janjo had a restless and interrupted sleep.

    There were repeated interruptions of his sleep.

  • Li skribis. - He wrote.

    The writing occurred earlier than now.

  • Kiam li estis skribinta la leteron, li foriris. - When he had written the letter, he went away.

    After having finished writing he went away.

  • Li sendis la skribitan leteron al sia amiko. - He sent the written letter to his friend.

    The writing of the letter occurred previous to sending it.

  • La letero estis skribita en la paŭzo. - The letter had been written in the break.

    The writing did not take place before the break, but sometime during the break the writing was completed. So the letter became ready during the break.

  • Li skribos. - He will write.

    The writing will take place sometime after.

  • Li estis skribonta la leteron, sed devis subite foriri. - He was about to write the letter but had to leave suddenly.

    The writing was planned, but it wasn't carried out.

  • Sur la tablo kuŝis aro de legotaj leteroj. - On the table lay a stack of unread letters. (lit. about to be read letters)

    The letters were waiting to be read. Someone was to read them but hadn't done so yet.

Note: Some individuals experiment with participles corresponding to the US-ending, UNT and UT: skribunta viro = "a man who might write", skributa letero = "a letter that might be written". But these participles are not official in Esperanto. If you use them you might not make yourself understood. Only in jocular use may they be tolerated.

Participles as adverbs

A participle with an E-ending indicates an additional action, which relates to the subject of the sentence. Instead of saying two sentences, one for each action, the two sentences are combined into one.

  • Li legis sian libron kaj manĝis samtempe pomon.Manĝante pomon li legis sian libron. - He read his book and at the same time ate an apple. → Eating an apple he read his book.

    Eating and reading were simultaneous.

  • j Li faris sian taskon. Poste li iris hejmen.Farinte sian taskon li iris hejmen. - He did his job. Later he went home. → Having done his job he went home.

    He finished his task before he went home.

  • Li intencis skribi leteron. Tial li kolektis siajn skribilojn.Skribonte leteron li kolektis siajn skribilojn. - He intended to write a letter. Therefore he gathered his writing material. → About to write a letter, he gathered his writing materials.

    The letter writing was planned, but before it could get under way, the gathering of materials took place.

  • Ili laboris. Samtempe la mastro rigardis ilin.Ili laboris rigardate de la mastro. - They were working. At the same time the master watched them. →They worked while being watched by the master.

    Working and watching occurred at the same time.

  • Mi tute ne atendis lin, sed li tamen venis al mi.Li venis al mi tute ne atendite. - I didn't expect him at all, yet he came to me. → He came to me unexpectedly.

    The expectation (which did not occur) would have preceded his coming.

  • Oni preskaŭ kaptis lin, sed li forkuris.Kaptote, li forkuris. - He was almost caught, but he ran away. → About to be caught he ran away.

    When the escape occurred the capture was imminent.

Those compound sentences are most common in the written language. They represent a complicated relationship among several things in a concise and somewhat difficult form. The spoken language often expresses these matters by using more words.

In that type of sentence the adverbial participle inevitably implies the description of the subject of the predicate.

  • Farinte la taskon li iris hejmen. - Having done the job he went home.

    He did the job.

  • Ili laboris rigardate. - They were working while being watched.

    They were being watched.

So don't say: Promenante sur la strato venis subite ideo al mi en la kapon. The subject of the predicate venis is ideo. The sentence therefore means that the idea was walking on the street, which is probably not the intended meaning. You must say: Promenante sur la strato mi subite ekhavis ideon en la kapon. Or: As I walked down the street, an idea suddenly came into my head.

Participles as nouns

An active participle with an O-ending shows the implied subject of the action or state. A passive participle with an O-ending shows the implied object. According to a special rule the O-participle normally designates a person:

  • skribanto= writer, a person who writes
  • skribinto= a person who has written
  • skribonto = a person who will be writing, who is about to write
  • amato=beloved, a person who is loved by someone
  • amito = a person was once loved
  • amoto = a person who will be loved
  • Kiam Nikodemo batas Jozefon, tiam Nikodemo estas la batanto kaj Jozefo estas la batato. - When Nicodemus beats Joseph, then Nicodemus is the beater and Joseph is the beaten.
  • La fuĝintoj kolektiĝis sur la kampo.La personoj, kiuj antaŭe fuĝis... - The fugitives gathered on the field. {1} The people who previously fled...
  • La juĝotoj staris antaŭ la juĝisto.La personoj, kiujn oni intencis juĝi... - Those about to be judged stood before the judge. {1}The people one intended to judge...

Don't add the suffix UL, because participles ending in O already signify a person.

If, instead of a person, we talk about a thing, then we add the suffix : skribitaĵo, legataĵo, plenumitaĵo, plaĉantaĵo. But with the presence of AĴ the participial suffix is often superfluous. Normally you can just say skribaĵo, legaĵo, plenumaĵo, plaĉaĵo.

In some cases an O-ending participle can show a matter not dealing with a person, playing a role mainly in mathematics and the like:

  • dividanto = divisor, (denominator) the number which divides
  • dividato = dividend, (numerator) the number being divided

From a noun which designates a person, one can normally make an adjective which means "relating to the person". This is not possible with noun participles, because adjective participles have a different meaning:

  • novulonovula kurso = a course for newbies.
  • komencantokomencanta kurso = "course which starts (something)". So we can't use komencanta kurso with the meaning "a course for beginners", but we can correctly say kurso por komencantoj (or perhaps porkomencanta kurso).

Note: The word Esperanto (with a capital E) was originally a participle with the meaning "Esperanto person", but it is now the name of the language and is no longer regarded as a participle. We can therefore derive from it the adjective Esperanta = "relating to the language Esperanto". The word esperanto (lower case) is however still a participle and continues to mean "esperanto person".

Compound verb forms

By using the auxiliary verb esti and various participles we can precisely express various nuances of mood, time, duration, completion etc. Simple verbs with AS, IS, OS, US and U are generally preferable, but on those occasions when we want to present an action in detail we can use a compound form. In principle we can combine all forms of esti (esti, estas, estis, estos, estu, estus) with all six participles. This would give us 36 possible verb forms. However some of those are hardly ever used in practice because the nuances they express are too exotic or too specialized. Others show nuances, which may well be needed, but for which there are often other, more practical expressions. Here are only a few examples:

  • Li estas leganta libron. - He is reading a book.

    His reading of the book is happening now.

  • Li estis leganta libron. - He was reading a book.

    His reading of the book took place then.

  • Li estos leganta libron. - He will be reading a book.

    His reading of the book will occurr then.

  • Li estas leginta libron. - He has read a book.

    His reading of a book is now an action in the past.

  • Li estis leginta libron. - He had read a book.

    His reading of a book was then already a past action.

  • Li estos leginta libron. - He will have read a book.

    His reading of a book will in this future time already be a past action.

  • Li estus leginta libron, se... - He might have read a book, if...

    His reading of a book would have been a past action, if...

  • Li estis legonta libron. - He was about to read a book.

    He was then prepared to read a book in the immediate future.

  • Li volas esti legonta libron. - He wants to be reading a book imminently.

    He want to be prepared for reading a book later.

  • La libro estas legata. - The book is being read.

    The reading of the book is now ongoing.

  • La libro estos legata. - The book will be (being) read.

    The reading of the book will then be ongoing.

  • La libro estus legata, se... - The book might be read, if...

    The reading of the book would be ongoing, if...

The compound ANT-forms are rarely needed. They emphasize the duration while something else is happening. Normally a simple verb will suffice. You can then use (ĝuste) tiam to emhasize the concurrency. The compound INT-forms are required more often. They can be useful in showing that one action preceded another. Often, however, the context brings that out quite well. When required the expressions with jam, antaŭe, ĵus, post kiam or antaŭ ol can help. The compound ONT-forms are used to show action that is soon to take place, or intended action. Also baldaŭ and various verbs can often express this more clearly.

The compound IT-forms are somewhat different from the compound INT-forms. The compound INT-form always shows an action, which occurred before another action. The compound IT-form shows the completion of an action, or an action which gave a result. The IT-form may well indicate a time frame earlier than another, but very often this is not the case:

  • Tiam li estis eltrovinta la veron. - At that time he had found out the truth.

    The discovery of the truth had to occurr before that time. To say that the action was completed just then, just use the simple verb: Tiam li eltrovis la veron. (Then he discovered the truth.)

  • Tiam la vero estis eltrovita. - Then the truth was discovered.

    The discovery of the truth occurred just then, or before then, depending on context. There is no simple verb form for passive action, but one can instead use a sentence with oni as its subject: Tiam oni eltrovis la veron. (Then one discovered the truth.)

In some cases there may be a misunderstanding, as to whether the IT-form shows an earlier action, or a completed action. In that case additional expressions, which clearly indicate the time frame, are called for. In practice, however, these clarifications are rarely required: Kiam via domo estis konstruata, mia domo estis jam longe konstruita. Estis konstruita refers to a time previous to estis konstruata. Antaŭe ni iradis en la lernejon kaj iom lernis, kaj poste ni estis konfirmitaj. Estis konfirmitaj occurs at a later time than iradis and lernis.

On occasion, instead of using esti + a participle, you can turn the participle directly into a verb in the same way that we turn adjectives into verbs: estas legantalegantas, estis legontalegontis, estus legintalegintus, estas legatalegatas, estos legitalegitos and he like.

These forms are entirely logical and regular, but in practice they are, unfortunately, very difficult to comprehend. Words like legintos seem to have too much information in too concise a form. The normal compound form with esti is more suitable in those rare cases when one cannot use the ordinary simple verb forms (legis, legos etc.)

But some of these short forms have found their way into the language to some extent. Especially the INTUS-form is popular. The simple US-form is without tense, but many regard the US-verbs as if they were in the present tense and therefore use INTUS whenever a past tense is called for: Se mi sciintus tion, mi agintus alie. = Se mi estus sciinta tion, mi estus aginta alie. One can simply say: Se mi (tiam antaŭe) scius tion, mi (tiam) agus alie.

Also the ATAS-form occurs rather often: Bezonatas novaj fortoj en nia organizo. = Estas bezonataj... Serĉatas nova redaktisto por la revuo. = Estas serĉata...


Sentences with a transitive verb can be changed from active (the normal sentence) to passive. In the passive, the manner in which the action is presented is reversed. When a sentence is made passive three changes occur:

  • The object becomes the subject (and loses its N-ending).
  • The predicate becomes a compound verb: esti + passive participle.
  • The active subject disappears or becomes a circumstantial complement with de.

La knabino vidas la domon. - The girl sees the house.

  • la domonla domo
  • vidasestas vidata
  • la knabinode la knabino

La domo estas vidata de la knabino. - The house is being seen by the girl.

Li batis sian hundon per bastono. - He beat his dog with a stick.

  • sian hundonlia hundo
  • batisestis batata
  • li can disappear

Lia hundo estis batata per bastono. - His dog was being beaten with a stick.

The passive is used to move the attention away from the active subject toward the action. Also what was once the object (the new subject) receives more attention. The passive is often used when one talks about generalities, when an active subject hardly exists.

If in a passive sentence you want to conserve the original subect of the active sentence, you have to use the preposition de: Ĝi estis trovita de mia frato. = Mia frato trovis ĝin. La piano estas ludata de vera majstro. = Vera majstro ludas la pianon. The preposition de has various meanings, but with a passive participle de almost always shows the agent. If, however, there is a risk of misunderstanding you can use fare de: Ĝi estis forprenita fare de mi. = Mi forprenis ĝin.

If the subject in a passive sentence is a subclause, infinitive or quantitative adverb (or quantitative adverbial particle), the passive participle must have an E-ending:Oni interkonsentis, ke mi faru tion.Estis interkonsentite, ke mi faru tion. Oni ordonis al mi fari tion.Al mi estis ordonite fari tion. Oni atribuis multe (= multon) al tiu rakonto.Multe estis atribuite al tiu rakonto. Sometimes a transitive verb appears in a sentence without an object. If you make that kind of sentence passive, then the result is a passive sentence without a subject. The participle will then also take the E-ending: Oni parolis pri tio.Pri tio estis parolate.

Passive — choosing a participle

The choice of participle in the passive depends on what we want to express. Choose the AT-participle if you're interested in the action as it is being played out, or if we are talking about repetitive action. Choose the IT-participle if completion or result is more important. Choose the OT-participle when it concerns a state before the action.

duration or repetition
completion or result
state instead of an action

When hesitating between AT and IT, use a control expression to determine which nuance is more suitable:

If one can add all the while, more and more or repeatedly without entirely changing the meaning, then AT is suitable, because all the while and more and more emphasizes the duration, and repeatedly emphasizes repetition.

If you can add definitely without altering the sense, then IT is appropriate, because definitely stresses the fulfillment or attainment of the result.

  • Ŝi amis kaj estis [plu kaj plu] amata. - She loved and was [continuously]loved.
  • Dum la teatraĵo estis [iom post iom] montrata, okazis strangaj aferoj en la salono. - While the play was being presented strange things were happening in the hall. [all the while].
  • Tiu ĉi komercaĵo estas ĉiam volonte [ree kaj ree] aĉetata de mi. - This product is always gladly bought by me (repeatedly)
  • Mi sciigas, ke de nun la ŝuldoj de mia filo ne estos [ree kaj ree] pagataj de mi. - I give notice that henceforth the debts of my son will not be [repeatedly] paid by me.
  • Estu trankvila, mia tuta ŝuldo estos [definitive] pagita al vi baldaŭ. - Calm down, my entire debt will [definitely] have been paid to you soon.
  • Georgo Vaŝington estis [definitive] naskita la dudek duan de Februaro de la jaro mil sepcent tridek dua. - George Washington was [definitely] born on the twenty-second of February in the year seventeen hundred and thirty two.

Some verbs have two different meanings, and choosing the right participle depends on which of the two meanings is intended. A classic example is the verb okupi, which can mean either "to take by occupying" or "to hold by occupying". Taking is normally a momentary action and therefore the taking gets our main interest. Holding, however, is a drawn out affair, and therefore normally the duration gets our interest. However after taking comes holding, and before holding we usually have taking. Therefore with okupi you can often use the AT-form or the IT-form as you like without any appreciable difference: Mi estas tre okupata de mia laboro. = Mia laboro nun "tenas min" (plu kaj plu), ĉar ĝi antaŭe "prenis min". Mi estas tre okupita de mia laboro. = Mia laboro (definitive) "prenis min", kaj tial ĝi nun "tenas min". Another example is the verb "kovri": Li kovris la plankon per tapiŝo.La planko estis kovrita (de li) per tapiŝo. Here we are dealing with the definite result of the action “putting on the floor”. Tapiŝo kovris la plankon.La planko estis kovrata de tapiŝo. Here we are looking at the duration of the action “ lying on the floor”. More often than not the IT-form is used with verbs like okupi and kovri, but you are free to choose depending on which idea you want to express.

Sometimes one may prefer an AT-participle when the action is only a theoretical possibility, which is not certain to be completed, or when the action is negated, or if the context in some way removes the idea of completion: Ŝi estis nun en tia aĝo, ke ŝi devis esti konfirmata. This is only about the duty of confirmation. Whether the confirmation actually took place we still don't know. Ili volas, ke tia aŭ alia ŝanĝo estu farata jam nun. Whether the changes will be undertaken, we don't know. La unueco de Esperanto neniam estos rompata. The breakup will never happen. Eĉ vulpo plej ruza fine estas kaptata. This is about a principle valid for all time. So the idea of duration becomes more important than the idea of completion. But one can also use the IT-form in these sentences. There is a freedom of choice depending on which nuance you want to emphasize.

With repeated actions we usually use AT, because we're interested in the repetition, but sometimes we can focus on the completion of each individual repetition and use IT. When showing the precise number of repetitions the idea of completion becomes more important, and then we usually use the IT-form: Dum la milito tiu vilaĝo estis ofte prirabata kaj bruligata. Dum la milito tiu vilaĝo estis kvarfoje prirabita kaj bruligita.

Note: Some Esperantists don't accept the previously outlined principles for deciding between AT and IT. According to those Esperantists AT means "just then", and IT in their opinion means only "before that time". They use sentences like: Mi estis naskata en Januaro. La ŝlosilo estis perdata hieraŭ. Subite li estis trafata de kuglo. That phaseology is normally called "atismo" (also "tempismo"). In normal Esperanto one uses IT in those sentences, and it is therefore called "itismo" (also "aspektismo"). The question of itismo and atismo has been definitively decided by three model sentences in the Fundamento: Georgo Vaŝington estis naskita la dudek duan de Februaro de la jaro mil sepcent tridek dua. Li sentis sin tiel malfeliĉa, ke li malbenis la tagon, en kiu li estis naskita. Mia onklo ne mortis per natura morto, sed li tamen ne mortigis sin mem kaj ankaŭ estis mortigita de neniu; unu tagon, promenante apud la reloj de fervojo, li falis sub la radojn de veturanta vagonaro kaj mortiĝis.

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