Lesson 18: Introduction to participles in Russian

Participles function as verbal adjectives and are commonly used in both spoken and written Russian. You can use participles to describe a quality of a subject that depends on a verbal action. As verbal adjectives, participles have characteristics of both verbs (tense, aspect, voice) and adjectives (gender, number, case).

In this lesson, we’ll look at how to form and use active participles in the present and past tense. We'll cover passive participles in the next lesson about the passive voice.

For more information go here for the participles page in our Russian grammar resources.

Present active participles

When to use the present active participle

The present active participle is used to describe an action that the subject is performing currently or repeatedly.

The meaning of the present active partciple in English can often be translated as "-ing" or "who is doing something."

  • Девушка, читающая книгу. = The girl reading the book.
  • Поговорите с мальчиком, играющим в шахматы. = Go talk with the boy who is playing chess.
  • Я вижу детей, бегающих по парку. = I see the children who are running around the park.

How to form the present active participle

Remember, as there is no present tense in the perfective aspect, all present active participles are built from verbs in the imperfective aspect.

To form present active participles, take the third person plural form of the present tense verb, drop the -т, and add the endings -щий (-щая, -щее, -щие). For example:

  • играть → играют → играющий
  • смотреть → смотрят → смотрящий

Declension of present active participles


Past active participles

When to use the past active participle

The past active participle is used to describe an action that the subject had performed in the past.

The meaning of the past active participle in English can often be translated as "having done something" or "who had done something."

  • Человек, покупающий свежие овощи. = The person who had bought fresh vegetables.
  • Моя подруга, только что закончившая работу, ушла домой. = My friend, having just finished work, left for home.

How to form the past active participle

To form the past active participle, add the ending -вший (-вшая, -вшее, -вшие) to the past tense verb stem.

Remember, you can use either the imperfective or perfective aspect with the past active participle. Generally, the past active participle is more common with perfective verbs, but both come up.

Regular verbs with stems ending in vowels

  • работать → работал → работавший
  • поработать → поработал → поработавший

Verbs with stems ending on a fixed consonant

The “в” of the suffix is dropped to be just -ший:

  • нести → нёс → нёсший
  • погибнуть → погиб → погибший

Declension of past active participles

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