Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Participles

Participles are used both in written and in spoken Russian, more or less frequently and depending on the type of participle.

1. Often the following constructions are used instead of participles:

instead of:

Мальчик, который читает книгу

The boy who is reading the book

Мальчик, читающий книгу

Мальчик, который читал книгу

The boy was reading the book

Мальчик, читавший книгу

Девочка, которая прочитала письмо

The girl who read the letter

Девочка, прочитавшая письмо

Письмо, которое девочка прочитала

The letter which the girl read

Письмо, прочитанное девочкой

2. Constructions with "который" can be replaced with participles only when который is in the nominative, or in the accusative without prepositions. Thus, the two sentences below:

человек, который подарил мне книгу

the man who gave me the book

книга, которую он написал

the book which he wrote

may be reworded as follows:

человек, подаривший мне книгу

the man who gave me the book

книга, написанная им

the book which was written by him

This would not be possible with sentences, such as:

человек, которому я подарил

the man to whom I gave the book

книга, про которую он написал

the book about which he has written

3.   On the other hand, a participle may be used to avoid a succession of constructions with "который": Человек, который говорил со мной – инженер, приехавший из Москвы. (The man who spoke with me is an engineer who arrived from Moscow.) is stylistically better than: Человек, который говорил со мной – инженер, который приехал из Москвы.

4.   There is a difference between the usage of a participle preceding a noun and that of a subordinate clause: The participle describes the noun, whereas the construction with "который" places an emphasis on the subordinate clause. Thus:

  • Мать подошла к спавшему ребёнку – describes the child as sleeping.  

  • Мать подошла к ребёнку, который спал – may emphasize the contrast between this child who was sleeping and another one who was not.

Usage Of Active Participles 

Active participles, present or past, are used fairly often. The tense of the active participle may be the same as the one of the main verb:


Я вижу человека, стоящего на углу(present)

I see а man who is standing on the corner.


Я увидел человека стоявшего на углу.  (past)

I saw a man who was standing on the corner.

Or, it may be different:


Я знаю (present) ученика, написавшего (past) эту работу.

I know the student who has written this work.

These constructions present no difficulty. However, example (d) below should be particularly noted because of the apparent oddity of its literal translation:

   (d)   Я увидел (past) человека, стоящего (present) на углу.

This example has the same meaning as (b) above, yet here the literal translation would appear to be "I saw a man who is standing on the corner."

Usage Of Passive Participles 

1.   The Imperfective aspect of passive participles is seldom used.

 2.   The tense of the passive participle may be the same as the one of the main verb:


Мы покупаем товар, импортируемый (present) из Европы.

We buy goods imported from Europe.


Я прочитал письмо, написанное (past) вами.

I have read the letter written by you.

Or, it may be different:


Я читаю (present) письмо, написанное (past) вами.

I am reading the letter written by you.

These constructions present no difficulty; however, here again the following example (d) should be particularly noted on account of its literal translation.


Мы видели (past) человека, обвиняемого (present) в краже  (lit. "We saw a man who is accused of theft.")


3.   The Present Passive Participle is either not formed at all from many verbs, or practically never used. This applies to:

бить – to beat; брать – to take; говорить – to say; ждать – to wait; кормить – to feed; лить – to pour; мыть – to wash; писать – to write; пить – to drink; платить – to pay; просить – to ask, to request; строить – to build; учить – to study, to teach, and a few others.

From many other verbs, these participles are used – even if not too frequently.   For example:   читать читаемыйдаватьдаваемый.

Among the verbs forming present passive participles currently in use are:

   (a)   Certain prefixed ones, such as: привлекать – to attract; создавать – to create; вытеснять – to force out; to crowd out, to dislodge; изображать – to picture, to portray; обвинять – to accuse; описывать – to describe; ожидать – to await.

   (b)   Verbs of foreign origin having the suffixes -ировать or -овать, as for example: аннексировать – to annex; аннулировать – to annul; импортировать – to import; оккупировать – to occupy; реквизировать – to requisition; формулировать – to formulate; экспортировать – to export; критиковать – to criticize; организовать – to organize.


4.   The Past Passive Participles formed from imperfective verbs are used very seldom (at least with most verbs). They are found with a few non-prefixed verbs, such as: видатьвиданный; слышать – слышанный; крастькраденный; носитьношенный; битьбитый; жарить жаренный.

These participles easily become adjectives (spelled with one н):

краденые деньги

stolen money

жареная рыба

fried fish


5. The Past Passive Participles formed from perfective verbs are used frequently, both in spoken and in written Russian:

чек, подписанный вами

a check signed by you

статья, прочитанная в классе

an article read in class

Usage Of The Short Form Of The Passive Participle 

The short form of a passive participle may express the present, the past or the future:

Всё сделано.

Everything is done.

Письмо было послано вчера

The letter was sent yesterday.

Завтра магазины будут закрыты.

Tomorrow the shops will be closed.

Often the short form, used without the auxiliary verb быть, indicates merely the result of an action, viewed at the present moment:

Этот дом хорошо построен.

This house is built well.

Это письмо написано по-русски.

This letter is written in Russian.

With был (была, было, были) the action is entirely viewed in the past:

Эта книга была написана за два года

This book was written in two years.

It may refer to a condition no longer present:

Дом был построен моим отцом.

The house was built by my father. (The house may no longer even exist.)

Likewise, with будет (будут) the result is viewed in the future:

Всё будет сделано вовремя

Everything will be done on time