Lesson 18: Adjectives/Comparison, Participles


240. Adjectives (and adverbs) are subject to comparison in Greek as in other languages. Comparison may be regular, e.g. long, longer, longest, or it may be irregular, e.g. good, better, best. The three degrees are usually referred to as positive, comparative (strictly speaking, only two items are compared), superlative. The superlative is on the wane in hellenistic Greek with the result that there is a certain amount of confusion: the superlative is often used in an elative sense (e.g. best = very good), and the comparative form often does duty for both itself and the superlative (Bl-D §§60-62).

241. The comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives (and adverbs) may be formed in one of two ways: 1) by means of the suffixes -τερος (comparative) and -τατος (superlative) (§§242-245); 2) by means of the suffixes -(ι)ων (comparative) and -ιστος (superlative) (§245). Other ways of expressing comparison belong under syntax; here only the formation and inflection of comparative and superlative forms is to be considered.

242. Comparative in -τερος superlative in -τατος. The comparative is formed from the masculine stem of the adjective.

242.1 ἰσχυρότερος (< ἰσχυρός)
                      βαρύτερος (< βαρύς)
                      (-τερος is added to the stem vowel)

242.2 ἀσθενέστερος (< ἀσθενής)
                      (-τερος is added to a shortened stem vowel)

242.3 μακαριώτερος (< μακάριος)
                      (-τερος is added to a lengthened stem vowel)

242.4 δεισιδαιμονέστερος (< δεισιδαίμων)
                      (-εστερος is added to the stem consonant on the analogy of comparison of type 2. above)

242.5 The superlative is also formed from the masculine stem of the adjective:
                      ἀκριβέστατος (< ἀκριβής) (= type 2. above)
                      (< ἅγιος) (= type 3. above)
                      (< τίμος) (= type 3. above)

A full list of the comparatives of this type appearing in the New Testament will be found in Moulton-Howard 165; the above list of superlatives of this type is complete for the New Testament.

243. Comparatives in -τερος and superlatives in -τατος are declined exactly like adjectives of group II.1 (§224: comparatives will have α after ρ in the fem. sing., superlatives η after τ in the fem. sing.).

244. A number of comparatives are derived from adverbs.

Positive   Comparative      
ἄνω   ἀνώτερον (adv.)
ἔξω   ἐξώτερος
ἔσω   ἐσώτερος
κάτω   κατώτερος
κατώτερω (adv.)
πέραν   περαιτέρω (adv.)
πόρρω   πορρώτερον (adv.)
πρό (prep.)   πρότερος (superlative: πρῶτος)
   —   ὕστερος

The comparative adverbs are not, of course, declined. The adjectival forms are declined like adjectives in class II.1 (s. §243).

245. Comparative in -(ι)ων superlative in -ιστος. Since all adjectives involving irregular comparison (§240) belong to this group, a full catalogue is provided for the New Testament (including adverbs). Where the comparative or superlative is formed from the stem of the positive, the stem vowel is dropped and -ιων, -ιστος‚ added.

Positive Comparative Superlative
ἀγαθός βελτίον (adv. only)
(2 Tim 1:18, Acts 10:28D)
(κρατύς) κρείσσων (κρείττων) κράτιστος
(ἄγχι) (adv.) ἆσσον (adv.) (Acts 27:13)
ἐγγύς (adv.) ἐγγύτερον ἔγγιστα (Mk 6:36D, 1 Clem 5:1)
ἡδύς (ἡδέως adv.) ἥδιον (adv.)
(1 Clem 2:1, 62:3)
ἥδιστα (2 Cor 12:9, 15, Acts 13:8D)
—— ἥσσων   ——
(μάλα) (adv.) μᾶλλον μάλιστα
μέγας μείζων μέγιστος (2 Pet 1:4)
μικρός μικρότερος
  ἐλάσσων ἐλάχιστος
κακός χείρων
καλός (καλῶς adv.) κάλλιον (adv.) (Acts 25:10)
πολύς πλείων (πλέον) πλεῖστος
ταχύς (ταχέως adv.) τάχιον (adv.) τάχιστα (Acts 27:15)
  θάττον (adv.)
(1 Clem 65:1, MPol 13:1)
(ὕψι) (adv.)   ὕψιστος

2450. Notes:

2450.1 The comparative and superlative forms, κρείσσων, κράτιστος, are from κράτυς, but κρείσσων functions as a comparative of ἀγαθός, good.

2450.2 The forms ἐγγύτερον, μικρότερος belong with the comparatives in §242.

2450.3 The weakening of the formal system of comparison led to double comparison upon occasion: μειζότερος, 3 Jn 4 (cf. μείζων); ἐλαγχιστότερος, Eph 3:8 (cf. ἐλάγχιστος).

2451. Comparatives in -(ι)ων belong to adjective group IV.2 (§235). Superlatives in -ιστος are inflected like adjectives of group II.1 (and superlatives in -τατος, §§224, 243).


246. The participle is a verbal adjective. It therefore manifests characteristics of both verb and noun. As a verb it has tense and voice; the formal signals of these aspects will be considered in conjunction with the verbal system (§§0467-469). References to tense and voice may be ignored provisionally; it is only necessary at this juncture to grasp the inflectional patterns of the participle. As an adjective the participle is subject to full inflection (three genders, two numbers, all cases). The participle is declined in accordance with patterns already familiar.

The inflectional patterns of the participle may be divided into three types: 1) those which follow πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν; 2) those which follow πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν but present a unique feminine stem; 3) those which are declined like adjectives of group II.1 (ἀγαθός, -ή, -όν).

247. Type 1. All participles in the active voice (except the perfect active) and the aorist passive participle have stems in -ντ- (-οντ-, -εντ-, -αντ-, -υντ-) and are declined like πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν, except for stem vowel (adjective group III.1, §231: third-first declensions).

247.1 Present and second aorist participles with stems in -οντ- form the masc. nom. sing. in -ων (the stem vowel is lengthened; τ is dropped since it cannot stand at the end of a word, §923) without -ς (cf. nouns of class II.2.a, §§165f.).

247.2 Present participles with stems in -αντ-, -εντ-, -υντ- form the nom. masc. sing. with -ς (the -ντ- is lost before the σ and the stem vowel lengthened to compensate for the loss of the ν: α < ᾱ, ε < ει, ο < ου, υ < ῡ, §929.9), e.g. ἱστάς, τιθείς, δεικνύς (cf. nouns of class II.2.b, §167).

All first aorist active and all aorist passive participles follow this pattern, as do present and second aorist participles from μι-verbs with stems in -οντ- (exception to 1. above; e.g. διδούς [present], δούς [aorist]).

2470. Assorted paradigms may be given here for reference:

2470.1 Present and second aorist participles with stems in -οντ- are declined like:

                                  λύων, λύουσα, λῦον loosing
    Singular       Plural           
  M F N        M F N
N λύων λύουσα λῦον   λύοντες λύουσαι λύοντα            
G λύοντος λυούσης λύοντος   λυόντων λυουσῶν λυόντων
D λύοντι λυούσῃ λύοντι   λύουσι (ν) λυούσαις λύουσι (ν)
A λύοντα λύουσαν λῦον   λύοντας λυούσας λύοντα

2470.2 The present participle of εἰμί be is declined exactly like λύων, λύουσα, λῦον. Indeed, its declension corresponds to the endings attached to all present and second aorist participles with stems in -οντ-.

                ὤν, οὖσα, ὄν being
    Singular       Plural
  M F N   M F N
N ὤν οὖσα ὄν   ὄντες οὖσαι ὄντα        
G ὄντος οὔσης ὄντος   ὄντων οὐσῶν ὄντων
D ὄντι οὔσῃ ὄντι   οὖσι (ν) οὔσαις οὖσι (ν)
A ὄντα οὖσαν ὄν   ὄντας οὔσας ὄντα

2470.3 Present participles with stems in -αντ-, -εντ-, -υντ-; first aorist active participles; all aorist passive participles; present and second aorist participles from μι-verbs with stems in -οντ- are declined like:

  ἱστάς, ἱστᾶσα, ἱστάν putting, placing, etc.  
    Singular     Plural
  M F N   M F N
N ἱστάς ἱστᾶσα ἱστάν   ἱστάντες ἱστᾶσαι ἱστάντα             
G ἱστάντος ἱστάσης ἱστάντος   ἱστάντων ἱστασῶν ἱστάντων
D ἱστάντι ἱστάσῃ ἱστάντι   ἱστᾶσι (ν) ἱστάσαις ἱστᾶσι (ν)
A ἱστάντα ἱστᾶσαν ἱστάν   ἱστάντας ιστάσας ἱστάντα

Stem in -εντ-: τιθείς, τιθεῖσα, τιθέν; gen. τιθέντος, τιθείσης, τιθέντος; dat. plur. τιθεῖσι (ν), τιθείσαις, τιθείσι (ν) (all aorist passive participles have stems in -εντ-).

Stem in -υντ-: δεικνύς, δεικνῦσα, δεικνύν; gen. δεικνύντος, δεικνύσης, δεικνύντος; dat. plur. δεικνῦσι (ν), δεικνύσαις, δεικνῦσι (ν).

First aorist active: λύσας, λύσασα, λῦσαν; gen. λύσαντος, λυσάσης, λύσαντος; dat. plur. λύσασι (ν), λυσάσαις, λύσασι (ν) (identical, except for accent, with πᾶς).

Present and second aorist stems from μι-verbs: διδούς, διδοῦσα, διδόν; gen. διδόντος, διδούσης, διδόντος; dat. plur. διδοῦσι (ν), διδούσαις, διδούσι (ν) (aorist: δούς, δοῦσα, δόν, etc.)

2471. Notes:

2471.1 The neut. nom. and acc. sing. show the bare stem (less τ which cannot stand at the end of a word, §293).

2471.2 The dative plur. (masc. and neut.) of all participles with stems in -ντ- lose the -ντ- and lengthen the preceding vowel in compensation, §929.9.

2471.3 The fem. stem (-ουσα, -εισα, -υσα, -ασα) is formed by adding -ι̯α to the stem (s. §2300.1).

2471.4 The present participle of contract verbs (in -άω, -έω, -όω) and the future participle of liquid and nasal futures are contracted according to the regular rules (the thematic vowel is always -ο-): -έω and -όω verbs yield -ῶν in the masc. nom. sing., -ου- elsewhere (in the active voice); the middle-passive participle from these verbs (s. §2500.1) has -ου- everywhere; -άω verbs contract to -ω- throughout.

2471.40 Contract participles in -έω: ποιῶν, ποιοῦσα, ποιοῦν; gen. ποιοῦντος, ποιούσης, ποιοῦντος; dat. plur. ποιοῦσι (ν), ποιούσαις, ποιούσι (ν).

Contract participles in -όω: πληρῶν, πληροῦσα, πληροῦν; gen. πληροῦντος, πληρούσης, πληροῦντος; dat. plur. πληροῦσι (ν), πληρούσαις, πληροῦσι (ν).

Contract participles in -άω: ἀγαπῶν, ἀγαπῶσα, ἀγαπῶν; gen. ἀγαπῶντος, ἀγαπώσης, ἀγαπῶντος; dat. plur. ἀγαπῶσι (ν), ἀγαπώσαις, ἀγαπῶσι (ν).

248. Type 2. The perfect active participle exhibits two stems: -(κ)οτ- (masc. and neut.), -(κ)υς‚ (fem.). The forms with κ are called first perfect, those without second perfect. The fem. stem is formed by adding -ι̯α: the σ is lost between vowels (§929.8), which then contract into -(κ)υῖα (cf. §2300.1).

249. The perfect active participle is also declined like πᾶς, i.e. third-first declensions.

249.1 The nom. masc. sing. has -(κ)ως‚ (as though the τ were lost and the stem vowel lengthened, as in λύων).

249.2 The neut. nom. and acc. sing., however, have -(κ)ός‚ (indicating an alternate stem in -οσ-).

249.3 The masc. and neut. dat. plur. lost the τ of the stem before σ (§927.2).

2490. First perfect participle:

                   λελυκώς, λελυκυῖα, λελυκός having loosed
  M F N
N λελυκώς λελυκυῖα λελυκός
G λελυκότος λελυκυίας λελυκότος
D λελυκότι λελυκυίᾳ λελυκότι
A λελυκότα λελυκυῖαν λελυκός
  M F N
N λελυκότες λελυκυῖαι λελυκότα
G λελυκότων λελυκυιῶν λελυκότων
D λελυκόσι (ν) λελυκυίαις λελυκόσι (ν)
A λελυκότας λελυκυίας λελυκότα

Second perfect participle: εἰδώς, εἰδυῖα, εἰδός; gen. εἰδότος, εἰδυίας, εἰδότος, dat. plur. εἰδόσι (ν), εἰδυίαις, εἰδόσι (ν).

250. Type 3 . All middle-passive participles in -μεν- (i.e. excepting the aorist passive which has a stem in -εντ-, §247.2) are declined like second-first declension adjectives (group II.1, §224), e.g. λυόμενος, λυομένη, λυόμενον; gen. λυομένου, λυομένης, λυομένου; etc. The suffix -μεν-, moreover, is a handy signal for identifying middle-passive participles.

2500. Notes:

2500.1 Middle-passive participles in -μεν- from contract verbs in --έω and -όω contract to -ου- throughout (the thematic vowel is always ο): ποιούμενος, ποιουμένη, ποιούμενον; πληρούμενος, πληρουμένη, πληρούμενον.

2500.2 Middle-passive participles in -μεν- from contract verbs in -άω contract to -ω- throughout (the thematic vowel is always ο): ἀγαπώμενος, ἀγαπώμενη, ἀγαπώμενον.