The Joys of Participles

I’ve been reviewing participles and their uses in Urdu by rereading Barker’s little essay on them. It is really quite a bit of material to get through and just now I’m going to go back through it all again and take notes as I have done for the rest of the grammar in Barker’s two volumes.

Participles, whether present or past or future, fascinate me. I’ve begun using them more in my conversation, giving my speech a stilted tone, e.g. While driving through Michigan, I saw…. vs Driving through Michigan, I saw….. An example I like is the French name for the cheese, La Vache qui Rit which becomes The Laughing Cow in English, using a participle; French is adverse to such participial uses and some languages have special forms derived from participles, e.g. Spanish sonriente instead of sonriendo. In English we have stricken and shaven, old participles used only as adjectives, as in ‘she looked stricken’ and ‘close-shaven’.

Russian and Latin, as do so many earlier languages in Indo-European, have participles in several tenses, including the future.

So it was with relief that I saw that the present and past participles in Urdu work pretty much like ours do with some considerations for idioms and idiomaticity. Where a close study comes in is in wanting to express yourself in Urdu. The participles are easily comprehended but tricky issues of agreement come up. The only analogy with English I can come up with is the issue of “I like him coming to pick me up early” vs “I like his coming…..” It is tricky in English because you will hear people say “Him coming early is a good idea” but that is not formal written English where “His coming….” would be required.

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