What is the present participle of esse?

Most grammar textbooks will tell you that the Latin ‘to be’ has only a future active participle. On a practical level, that’s true. However, there is evidence within the Latin language of a lost present active participle. This would have been sōns, sontis. (cf. Greek ὤν).

However, this form is all but lost. We may conjecture that it existed at one time because it is stored in certain adjectives (īnsōns, innocent; absēns, absent, praesēns, present). It also appears in late Latin philosophical terminology (ēns, being; entia, the things which are). However, these were likely designed by intellectuals to reflect the present participle as it would appear, were it in use. Honestly, the same might be true of insōns, etc, but with words that old, we can’t trace their origins properly.

The Essential AG: 170b

Advertisements

Colloquial Omission of Verbs

In colloquial and poetic language, common verbs like dīcō, faciō, agō and the like are often omitted.

  • What does this aim at: quō hōc [spectat]?
  • You will know a lion by his claws: ex ungue leōnem [cōgnōscēs].
  • What shall I say of this: quid [dē hōc dicam]?
  • The songstress thus spoke in replay: haec contrā cantrix [inquit].
  • Then Cotta said: tum Cotta [inquit].
  • Where are you from, and where are you of to: unde [venīs] et quō [tendis]?

Sum, as a copula, is omitted quite frequently where it is a present indicative or present infinitive:

  • You are his wife: tū coniūnx [es].
  • What need of many words: quid multa [verbōrum est]?
  • What then? Am I the boldest of all: quid ergō [est]? audācissimus ego ex omnibus [sum]?
  • The best things are rare: omnia praeclāra rāra [sunt]?
  • Hear first what must be accomplished: accipe quae peragenda prius [sunt].

As you might imagine, omission of sum will be especially popular in proverbs and sententiae, where clever identities and definitions are made all the time, making a est or a sunt all too predictable.

The Essential AG: 319a