Active and Passive Participle

The Active Participle


The active participle is that noun derived from a gerund which is used to indicate upon the one who has, is, or will enact something. It is loosely referred to as the ‘doer’. For example, the active participle for “helping” is “helper”. Recall that the word “helper” can be used in any grammatical positioning in a sentence and its function as the ‘doer’ is at the word level, not the sentence level. We can say “Zaid hit his helper.” “Helper” in this sentence is a ‘doer’ (one who helps), but it is not the one doing the verb of the sentence (the subject is Zaid).


When we take a set of base letters and place them on one of the active participle patterns, the resulting meaning may not be immediately clear. We do know that this noun adds the ‘doer’ meaning, but for the final, correct translation of the word, a dictionary is usually consulted. In the chart below, compare the base meaning of each word with the active participle.


Some Popular Actual Meanings Expected


Active Participle Base Meaning Base Letters
clubhouse one who calls نَادٍ to call, convene ن، د، و
pregnant one who carries حَامِل to carry ح، م، ل
eyebrow, hermetic that which conceals حَاجِب to veil, conceal ح، ج، ب


Notice that the translation “eyebrow” above is what we know in English as a noun, whereas the word “hermetic” is an adjective. Which of the two functions a given derived noun uses is dependent on context. For example, we may say “the capable people can do it.” In this case, the word “capable” is being used as an adjective. And we may say “the capable can do it.” It is now being used as a noun.


A final point to note is that not all gerunds may have an associated active participle. Although most do. For example, “one who is tall” will not be expressed using an active participle because being tall is an attribute, not an act of doing something, so it is better suited for the resembling participle.



If the gerund from which the active participle is derived is a trilateral verb with no extra letters (see Verb Paradigms), then we simply place the base letters on the pattern:




The Passive Participle


The passive participle is that noun derived from a gerund designed to indicate upon the thing upon which the root meaning has been, is, or will be enacted. For example, using the passive participle for the gerund “breaking” gives us “that which is broken”, or simply “broken”. For contrasting purposes, notice that the active participle would have been “that which breaks”, or simply “breaker”.


Some points to note about the passive participle have already been detailed in our discussion on the active participle:


  • it can occupy any grammatical positioning in a sentence
  • the meaning might not always be obvious
  • it can be used as both an adjective and a noun
  • not all gerunds have an associated passive participle; e.g. intransitive gerunds


The following chart provides some passive participles. Notice how the word “rational”, for example, can be used as both an adjective or a noun; compare “this rational proof is good” and “this rational (thing) is good.”


Some Popular Meanings Expected


Passive Participle Base Meaning Base Letters
rational, cogent that which is comprehended مَعْقُوْل to comprehend ع، ق، ل
(tooth)paste something kneaded مَعْجُوْن to knead, to soak ع، ج، ن



For trilateral roots with no extra letters (see Verb Paradigms), the passive participle is constructed by placing the root letters on the following pattern:




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