A Helpful Introduction to Russian Participles

In Russian grammar, participles play an important role in conveying nuanced meaning and tying together different parts of a sentence. As verbal adjectives, participles express the secondary actions, states, or qualities of the nouns they modify. Understanding how to recognize and properly use participles is key for communicating complex ideas in Russian.

In this post, we will take a deep dive into the fascinating world of Russian participles, looking at the various types, their formation rules, and how they are used in sentences. Whether you are a beginner or advanced Russian speaker, this guide will give you a stronger grasp of participles and how they function in Russian grammar.

Types of Participles & Their Formation

Participles in Russian are verb forms that can function as adjectives, combining the qualities of a verb (action or state) with those of an adjective (describing a noun).

Russian has four main types of participles:

Present Active Participles

These participles end in -ущий, -ющий, -ащий, or -ящий. They are formed from the present tense stem of imperfective verbs. For example:

читать (to read) -> читающий (reading)
говорить (to speak) -> говорящий (speaking)

Present active participles convey ongoing or repeated actions. They can function as adjectives or adverbs.

Present Active Participles

Past Active Participles

Formed from perfective verb stems, past active participles end in -вший or -ший. For example:

написать (to write) -> написавший (having written)
сделать (to do) -> сделавший (having done)

These participles denote completed actions in the past. They are used similarly to present active participles.

Present Passive Participles

Built from passive voice verb stems, present passive participles end in -мый, -емый, -ный, or -тый. Examples:

читать (to be read) -> читаемый (being read)
видеть (to see) -> видимый (being seen)

They indicate actions happening to the subject.

Past Passive Participles

Formed from the past tense passive stem, these participles end in -нный or -тый. For example:

прочитать (to read) -> прочитанный (having been read)
увидеть (to see) -> увиденный (having been seen)

They signal actions that happened to the subject in the past.

Examples of Usage

Participles in Russian can be used to modify nouns, functioning like adjectives. They agree in gender, number, and case with the noun they modify.

Рабочие, строящие новый дом, трудятся каждый день.
The workers who are building the new house work hard every day.

Девочка, играющая во дворе, моя младшая сестра.
The girl playing in the yard is my younger sister.

Мальчик, рисующий картину, очень талантливый.
The boy who is drawing the picture is very talented.

Ветер, дующий с севера, приносит прохладу.
The wind blowing from the north brings coolness.

Собака, охраняющая дом, не подпускает чужих.
The dog guarding the house doesn’t let strangers approach.

Ученик, прочитавший это стихотворение, понимает смысл.
The student who has read this poem understands the meaning.

Они встретились с девушкой, окончившей университет.
They met with a girl who had graduated from university.

Это письмо, написанное моим дедушкой, очень ценно для меня.
This letter that was written by my grandfather is very precious to me.

Рассказ, прочитанный на уроке, всем очень понравился.
The story that was read in class pleased everyone very much.

Девушка, окончившая институт, уехала работать за границу.
The girl who graduated from college went abroad to work.

Закон, обсуждаемый в парламенте, скоро вступит в силу.
The law being discussed in parliament will come into force soon.

Песня, исполненная этим певцом, стала хитом.
The song performed by this singer became a hit.

As we have seen, Russian participles are multi-functional verbal adjectives that add flair and nuance to the language. The main participles types each play a unique grammatical role in conveying tense, aspect, and voice. While participles have many complexities, keeping the formation rules, classifications, and usage conventions straight will help you wield participles confidently in your own Russian writing and speech. With continued practice and exposure to diverse participial usage, you will internalize the grammatical logic. Your understanding of Russian syntax will grow, unlocking your ability to communicate with greater sophistication, precision, and eloquence.

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