4. Identifying circumstantial participles

After you have translated attributive participles with English relative clauses, you can work on the remaining, circumstantial participles. The rich and flexible use of participles is a distinctive feature of Greek that has no single counterpart in English. In general, you should not translate a circumstantial participle with an English participle!

As a general rule, try to find an appropriate English secondary clause to translate Greek participles.

Like any adjective, the participle will take not only its gender and number, but also its case from the noun it agrees with. When the participle agrees with a noun that has no syntactic relation to the rest of the syntax, they are normally in the genitive case (the “absolute” usage of the noun, the genitive absolute).

The following table summaries the main possibilities you should consider in interpreting a circumstantial participle.

Sense of participleTense of participle or other syntaxTranslation hint
TemporalIn general, aorist expresses that participial action occurred before primary verb; present tense expresses that participial action is simultaneous with primary verb.“After …” (aorist) or “While…” (present)
Causal “Because…”
Manner “By …” (doing something)
Descriptive May sometimes correspond to an English participle (e.g., “doing …”)
Concessive “Although …”
PurposeὩς + future participle“In order to …”
View point of subjectὩς + participle (not in future tense)“On the grounds that…”
ConditionalEquivalent to protasis of a condition; note that negative will therefore be μή.“If …” (translation will depend on type of condition)


At this stage, you have analyzed the entire sentence. You can now reread the sentence with a full understanding of its syntax. Better yet, reread the whole paragraph it occurs in (or extend this idea to reread the entire text you are studying…)