Volume 32, No. 2 - Summer 1986
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


The Pennsylvania State University

1. General Remarks

The participle may be in the nominative case, modify the subject of the main verb and define more closely the meaning of the main verb. Examples:

(a) aš     nesijaučiu                nieko    bloga      padaręs              
      I     don't feel myself       nothing  bad         having done (prt.).

      I don't feel that I have done anything bad.'

(b) sakės                         daug    dirbdavęs          tenai.
      he says himself (refl.)  much   having worked   there.

. 'He says that he used to work a lot there.'

(c) numanau     nieko     gero     negausiąs               girdėt.
     I think         nothing   good   will not be getting    to hear.

 'I don't think I will be getting anything good to hear' (Ambrazas, 1979, 96-97)

Only certain semantic classes of verbs can function with the nominative participle: a. physical perception: matyti', regėti 'to see,' matytis, regėtis 'to be seen,.' jausti(s) 'to feel (oneself),' (pa-)rodyti 'to show,' rodytis 'to appear,' atrodyti 'to seem.' b. psychological perception or activity: manyti, numanyti 'to think' žinoti 'to know,' suprasti 'to understand,' pa(si)tirti 'to experience,' at(si)minti 'to remember,' už(si)miršti 'to forget.' One can include here verbs denoting a decision or a promise to act, e.g., apsiimti 'to undertake,' siūlytis 'to volunteer,' nuspręsti 'to decide,' žadėti(s) 'to promise,' ketinti 'to intend,' grasinti 'to threaten,' užtikrinti 'to check,' and verbs of belief or doubt, e.g., tikėti 'to believe,' abejoti 'to doubt.' c. information, e.g., sakyti(s) 'to say (oneself),' skelbti(s) 'to announce (oneself), gintis 'to defend oneself,' 'teisintis 'to justify oneself,' girtis 'to boast,' skųstis 'to complain.' d. emotional or simulated state, e.g., džiaugtis 'to rejoice,' bijoti(s) 'to be afraid,' rūpintis 'to take care of,' gailėtis 'to be sorry for,' verkti 'to cry,' apsimesti 'to pretend (to be),' išsiduoti 'to betray oneself,' dėtis 'to pretend (to be),' etc.

According to Ambrazas, 1979, 97, present active participles are used for the most part in the participle with nominative construction, but past active participles are encountered except with verbs denoting decision or promise to act. Future active participles are not likely to be connected with verbs denoting an action limited to the present or the past or with verbs denoting remembering or forgetting.

Present and past passive participles depend on approximately the same semantic groups as the active participles, but the former are less common. They are not usually combined with verbs of psychic perception (at(si)minti 'to remember,' užmiršti 'to forget,') and they are not encountered at all with verbs denoting decision or promise to act.

Both the simple and the reflexive verb may be used as the main verb in conjunction with the participle. The reflexive forms are more customary in the Samogitian dialects. The constructions with the simple non-reflexive verb are more characteristic for some northern Lithuanian dialects and are also productive in the standard language. Some verbs are encountered only as reflexives, e.g., prisiminti 'to remember,' apsiimti 'to undertake,' etc. and some are encountered only as non-reflexives in this construction, e.g., atrodyti 'to appear,' abejoti 'to doubt,' etc.

According to Ambrazas, 1979, 98, the Lithuanian construction of nominative with participle is equivalent to a subordinate clause. Thus:

(a) tėvas    sako-si          dirbęs
     'fater    says himself    having worked' 

is equivalent to: (b) tėvas sako, kad dirbo 'father says that he worked.' Likewise the same construction with a present passive participle is equivalent to an infinitival construction, e.g., (c) ligonis norėjo būti lankomas 'the patient wanted to be visited' could be expressed by (d) ligonis norėjo lankomas. Cf. also (e) tėvas žadėjo grįžti/grįšiąs 'father promised to return' (also with nom. sg. masc. fut. act. participle).

2. The Origin of the Nominative with the Participle

There are several explanations for the origin of the nominative with participle. The first of these, according to Ambrazas, 1979, 107, goes back to Bielenstein (1863, 265) who compared the Latvian:

(a) šie       teicãs                labi   strãdãjuoši.
     these   said themselves  well  working. 

'They said that they work well,' with vinš teicãs bagãts 'he said he was rich.' Both of these constructions according to Bielenstein, consist of a verb, its object, a reflexive participle -s and a nominal predicate. The nominal predicate got the nominative form instead of the accusative (as in Latin: (b) dixit se divitem 'he said himself to be rich' (where divitem 'rich' is in the accusative singular)) under the influence of the subject which is in the nominative case.

According to Ambrazas, 1979, 108, Potebnja, 1958, 156-157, has set forth the second view most clearly. The latter writes that already in the Baltic and Slavic languages there existed a second nominative with nonreflexive intransitive verbs. Potebnja writes that Old Russian (c) tvorit'sja Ida 'he pretends (that) he is going' is the same kind of compound predicate as (d) ostaneši tvorja 'you stop doing,' cf. Lith. (e) dedasi' bemiegąs 'he pretends (that he) is still sleeping' and (f) liko bemiegąs 'he remained sleeping still.' In such constructions the reflexive particle does not have the meaning of an object and is essentially a pure marker of the middle voice. Therefore the nominative form of the participle agrees regularly with the subject just as in Lat. (g) nemo doctus nasdtur 'no-one is born learned.' Havránek, 1928, 160, 181, gives such examples as Old Russian:

(h) (Simonu volxvu)   i     sam       premenjašetsja, ovo staru (nom.), ovo   molodu (nom.)
      Simon   the sorcerer  himself   changed            first old                then  young.

      'Simon the sorcerer changed himself first to young and then to old.'

Ambrazas, 1979,109, writes, as far as its surface structure is concerned the nominative with participle construction resembles the predicate attribute construction used with verbs denoting state or change thereof, cf., e.g., (i) žmogus sėdi piktas (nom.) 'the man sits (there) angry,' (j) guli paslikas (nom.) '(he) is lying (there) half-dead.' There are also many parallels from other Indo-European languages, e.g., OCS (k) slĕpu (nom.) rodi še 'he was born blind,' Goth. (1) galaip gaurs (nom.) 'he departed sad,' Lat. (m) felix (nom.) vivas 'may you live happy,' Skt. (n) 'sthãd ūrdváh, Gk. (o) st d' orthós 'he stood straight.

Ambrazas, 1979, 109-110, notes the correlation between the double nominative and the intransitive verb on the one hand and the double accusative and the transitive verb on the other hand.

Note the following examples:

(p) tėvas     bėrė (tr.)   grūdą (acc.)  sausą (acc.)
     father     sowed     the grain        dry vs.

(q) grūdas (nom.)  biro (intr.)  sausas (nom.) 
     the grain          scattered    dry.

(r) tėvas   plėšė (tr.)  audinj (acc.)  skersą (acc.)
    father   tore          the cloth        crosswise.

(s) audinys (nom.) plyšo (intr.) skersas (nom.)
     the cloth          tore             crosswise.

(t) tėvas   (pa)vertė (tr.)  jį (acc.)   nelaimingą (acc.)
     father  made             him          unhappy.

 (u) jis (nom.) (pa) virto (intr.) nelaimingas (nom.)
       he            became            unhappy.

Ambrazas proposes then that as the reflexive particle came to be a mark of intransitivity the nominative case came to be used in the predicate as with other intransitive verbs. Thus on the analogy of (v) daro jį (acc.) nelaimingą (acc.) 'makes him unhappy' there arose the reflexice (intransitive) (w) jis (nom.) darosi (intr.) nelaimingas 'he is becoming unhappy.'

3. The Development of the Nominative with the Participle

Ambrazas, 1979, 112, writes that participial forms can be used with verbs denoting 'to stop, to cease,' e.g., liauti(s) 'to cease,' nustoti 'to stop,' baigti 'to finish,' mesti 'to give up.' Such constructions, characteristic of folklore and popular speech are being ousted from the literary language by constructions with the infinitive. Only rarely are they encountered (Krėvė, Rg. 152):

(a) bernas  nesiliovė     beverkiąs,  besiskundžiąs.
     the lad  didn't stop  crying,        complaining. 

Note beverkiąs and besiskundžiąs are nom. sg. masc. pres. act. participles. Note also the example with the nom. sg. masc. half-participle (Acad. Diet. Vol. 7, p. 395): (b) Arklys neliaunas eidamas 'the horse doesn't stop going (i.e., it is nervous, jumpy).' The present tense active participles and half-participles do not differ in meaning from the past active participles used in such constructions. In such nominative constructions one also finds such verbs as nutilti 'to become silent,' nurimti 'to calm down,' nuščiūti 'to become silent, calm,' pailsti 'to lose one's breath,' sustoti 'to stop moving,' stabtelėti 'to stop briefly,' etc. Note the example: (c)Nutilo Jonienė šaukusi 'Mrs. Jonas stopped shouting.' šaukusi is the fern. nom. sg. past act. prt. of šaukti 'to shout.'

Such constructions with verbs denoting 'to finish, to stop' are known in other Indo-European languages also, cf. Latv. (d) nuost'aja braucis 'stopped riding,' Old Church^Slavic (Luke 5,4): (e) pre'sta gl(agol)ę = Gk. (f) epausato lalon 'left off speaking' (Ambrazas, 1979, 113).

At the very beginnings of the written tradition it seems that verbs of perception and information used with the nominative case of the participle are for the most part reflexive.

The existence of non-reflexive forms in Samogitian and West High Lithuanian dialects leads one to the conclusion that nominative participles could originally be used with non-reflexive verbs of perception and information also. Thus in some areas in addition to:

(g) brolis    sako-s           atėjęs
     brother says himself    having come. 

'Brother says that he came;' one may say also (h) brolis sako atėjęs with the same meaning (Ambrazas, 1979, 115).

The use of the nominative participle with forms of the Indo-European root *men- 'to think, to consider' is encountered in many languages according to Ambrazas, 1979, 116. Thus Lithuanian:

(i) jis  manė     daugiau   žinąs.
    he  thought  more       knowing.

'He thought he (himself) knew more.' Old Church Slavic (Luke 24, 37):

(j) minĕaxq      d(u)xu  vidęšte (nom. pl.).
    they thought spirit    seeing. 

They thought that they were seeing a spirit.' Old Indie (rig Veda):

(k) sómam manyate papivān (nom. sg.).
     soma    thinks     having drunk.

 'He thinks that he has drunk soma.'

In Lithuanian and Latvian the nominative with the participle, like the accusative with the participle is widely used even today, but the reciprocal relationships between these two structures have largely changed during the period of the written tradition (Ambrazas, 1979, 127). Since the gerund form has become widely spread in the accusative constructions, the participles are only retained in them when they are used as a modifier of a nominal or pronominal direct object. Therefore the use of the declined participial forms in the accusative constructions became much more limited. Similarly the contrast between the accusative vs. nominative constructions has simultaneously become weakened. Nowadays a nominative with participle construction such as (1) sakė-si grįžtąs 'he said (himself) to be returning, i.e., he said he is returning' (or (m) zinojo-si grįžtąs 'he knew he is returning') can no longer be correlated with an accusative with participle construction (as in the 16th and 17th centuries) such as (n) sakė jį grįžtantį 'said him to be returning, i.e., said that he was returning' (or (o) žinojo jį grįžtantį 'knew that he was returning'). The reason for this is that instead of the later constructions usually gerundive constructions such as (p) sakė (žinojo) jį grįžtant or subordinate clauses such as (q) sakė (žinojo), kad jis grįžta 'he said (he knew), that he is returning' are used. 

The functional load of the reflexive pronoun si decreased under such circumstances. Thus in contemporary Lithuanian there came to be used more widely the nominative with participle with non-reflexive verbs of perception and information, e.g., (r) jis sakė (žinojo) grįžtąs 'he said (knew) he is returning.'

The nominative with participle and non-reflexive forms is particularly productive in north-east high Lithuanian dialects in which the accusative with participle is hardly used. In Sirvydas' Punktay sakymų (I158-16)we find only one example of a non-reflexive verb out of 51 participle with nominative constructions:

(s) idant    žmogus . . . gailėtus . . . bewelidams ing  kuonorint     kito   pikto impuolys essus / negi Diewu pažieydis. 
    so that  man       should repent   wishing        in   whoatsoever other evil   pits         being   than God    to have injured.

 'So that a man should repent wishing to be in the depths of some other evil than to have injured God.' Nowadays in the northeastern corner of Lithuania neither the nominative plus participle with reflexive verbs, nor the accusative with participle is encountered although with non-reflexive verbs one encounters such constructions with the nominative participle as:

(t) žmonės  kalbėjo   matę             Kraujelį.
    people   said         having seen   Kraujelis.

 'People said they had seen Kraujelis.' The spread of the reflexive verbs and the nominative with participle, most characteristic of the Samogitian dialect for the most part only partially touched the nominative constructions of the eastern dialects. Some of these nominative constructions may have been old and the predominance of non-reflexive forms is evident.

Although in contemporary Lithuanian one notices a tendency to use the nominative with participle with certain non-reflexive verbs, the reflexive forms in this construction predominate up to now. The reflexive particle functions as a clear (although sometimes optional) grammatical marker denoting the identity of the subject of the personal form of the verb and the action of the participle (Ambrazas, 1979, 128).


Acad. Diet. (Academy Dictionary = Lietuvių kalbos žodynas), Kruopas, J. et. al., eds. Vilnius.

acc. - accusative
act. - active
fern. - feminine
fut. - future
Gk. - Greek
Goth. - Gothic
intr. - intransitive
Lat. - Latin
masc. - masculine
nom. - nominative
OCS - Old Church Slavic
pres. - present
prt. - participle
refl. - reflexive
sg. - singular
Skt. - Sanskrit


Ambrazas, V. 1979. Lietuvių kalbos dalyvių istorinė sintaksė. Vilnius, Mokslas.
Bielenstein, A. 1863. Handbuch der lettischen Sprache I. Lettische Grammatik. Mitau, Fr. Lucas' Buchhandlung. Repr. 1972 by the Zentralantiquariat der Deutschen Demokrati-schen Republik, Leipzig.
Havránek, B. 1928. Genera verbi v slovanskych jazycich. Vo. 1. Prague.
Potebnja, A.A. 1958. /z zapisok po russkoj grammatike. Moscow.