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Deponent verb: Wikis


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In linguistics, a deponent verb is a verb that is active in meaning but takes its form from a different voice, most commonly the middle or passive. A deponent verb doesn't have active forms; it can be said to have deposited them (into oblivion).


Languages with deponent verbs

This list may not be exhaustive.



Greek has middle-voice deponents (some of which are very common) and some passive-voice deponents. An example in Greek is ἔρχομαι (erchomai, I come or I go), middle/passive in form but active in translation.


Latin has passive-voice deponents, such as hortārī ('to exhort'), vĕrērī ('to fear'), lŏquī ('to speak'), and blandīrī ('to flatter').[1] The forms regularly follow those of the passive of normal verbs:

ămārĕ to love ămāri to be loved hortāri to exhort
ămō[2] I love ămŏr I am loved hortŏr I exhort
ămāui I have loved ămātus sum I have been loved hortātus sum I have exhorted

Deponents have all the participles normal verbs do, although those of the (future) perfect carry an active meaning, rather than a passive meaning as in the case of normal verbs. Some deponent verbs, such as sequor (to follow) use the corresponding forms of other verbs to express a genuine passive meaning

Additionally, four Latin verbs (audēre, to dare; gaudēre, to rejoice; sŏlēre, to be accustomed; and fīdĕre, to trust) are called semi-deponent, because though they look passive in the perfect tenses, they are semantically active in all tenses.[3]

Conversely, Latin also has some verbs that are active in form but passive in meaning. fit (it is made, done) was used as the passive of facit. In the perfect forms (perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect), this was a compound verb just like regular verbs (factus est it has been done).


Sanskrit also contains some deponent verbs such as: सच॑ते sác-ate.


Swedish has a few passive-voice deponents, although interestingly, its closely related neighbour languages Danish and Norwegian mostly use active corresponding forms. Indeed, Norwegian shows the opposite trend: like in English, active verbs are sometimes used with a passive sense, such as in "boka solgte 1000 eksemplarer" ("the book sold 1000 copies").

  • andas, "breathe" (cf. Danish and Norwegian Bokmål ånde (non-deponent))
  • hoppas, "hope" (cf. Danish håbe, Norwegian Bokmål håpe (non-deponent))
  • kräkas, "vomit"
  • trivas, "enjoy oneself"

Deponency and tense

Some verbs are deponent universally, but other verbs are deponent only in certain tenses, or use deponent forms from different voices in different tenses. For example, the Greek verb ἀναβαίνω (anabaino) uses active forms in the imperfect active and aorist active, but in the future active it shows the middle form ἀναβήσομαι (anabesomai). The future active form might be predicted to be *ἀναβήσω (anabeso), but this form does not occur, because the verb is deponent in the future tense. The future forms that do occur have the same meaning and translation value that the active forms would have if they occurred.

Latin has a few semi-deponent verbs, which behave normally in the imperfect system, but are deponent in the perfect tenses.

Peculiar issues in Greek

Koine Greek has a few verbs which have very different meanings in the active and middle/passive forms. For example, ἁπτω ('hapto') means "I catch fire," whereas its middle form ἁπτομαι ('haptomai') means "I touch." Because ἁπτομαι is much more common in usage, beginners often learn this form first and are tempted to assume that it is a deponent.


  1. ^ These were chosen because they reflect the four conjugation paradigms. For a longer list, see Adler page 686 ff.
  2. ^ According to Adler, in poetry the o is sometimes short.
  3. ^ George J. Adler (1858). "A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language; with Perpetual Exercises in Speaking and Writing: For the Use of Schools, Colleges, and Private Learners" (PDF). Sanborn, Carter, Bazin & Co.. Retrieved 2008-11-17.  

See also

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