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Past participles

The most extensive category of past participles is represented by forms derived from passive forms, reflecting a direct object thematic rol, such as:

Example 1

opgetekende gevalle
recorded cases’
cases which have been recorded
Example 2

afgehandelde sake
concluded matters
matters which have been concluded
Example 3

besette grond
occupied land
land which has been occupied
Example 4

'n beleërde stad
a besieged city
a city which is under siege

Although it is a very productive construction, not all the relative constructions with passive forms necessarily qualify:

  • ?'n bekruipte rooiboka stalked impala
  • *gebêrede kruidenierswarestowed groceries
  • *'n geglode stellinga believed statement
  • ?'n geneuriede wysiea hummed tune

(Botha 1973)


As in the case of adjectives in general, certain past participles are used either in the attributive or in the predicative position, or in certain cases in both.

Verbal structures

Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs, such as aankondigannounce and afbakendemarcate’, have the following past participles, with the ge- affix inserted before the verbal component:

  • aangekondigde salarisverhogingsannounced salary increases
  • afgebakende gebieddemarcated area

Adverbial phrases

Adverbial phrases consisting of a particle (adjectival or otherwise) plus past participle may reflect the extent to which lexical condensation has taken place, in the sense that the particle may be separated orthographically from the participle or not, as in the following cases:

  • skerp bewoorde brief sharply worded letter
  • goed toegeruste kampewell-equipped camps
  • handgemaakte juwelierswarehand-made jewellery
  • voorafvervaardige geboueprefabricated buildings

The syntactic projection of such constructions when more than one argument is involved, however, rarely occurs in Afrikaans. Hence:

  • 'n droogtegeteisterde gebieda drough-stricken area
  • die verfoeide leiera despised leader

but not:

  • *'n deur die droogte geteisterde gebieda by the drought afflicted areaa drought-stricken area
  • *die deur die populiste in die party verfoeide leierthe by the populists in the party despised leader

Weak and strong adjectival past participles

Weak past participles

Weak past participles, when used as attributive adjectives, consist of the verb stem followed by -d or -t, roughly depending on whether the stem ends on a voiced phone or not. This is, however, not very reliable, and may also be linked to the voicing of intervocalic obstruents in the corresponding Dutch infinitives, such as verslavenenslave and verslaafdeenslaved, in which case the Afrikaans past participle would likewise probably be verslaafde rather than *verslaafte. In these examples, the participles are also inflected by means of the suffix -e when used attributively.

As a rule of thumb, past participles ending on an obstruent do not add a -d or -t when used verbally, because of a phonological rule which simplifies consonant clusters in the auslaut of all word classes.

Strong past participles

Strong past participles, which are characterised by the absence of the -d/t affix, or a change of stem vowel, as in verlorelost or beleseerudite, are not used as main verb in a predicate, except for the passive forms geboreborn, as in Hy is op Dinsdag gebore.He was born on Tuesday. and oorlededeceased, as in Hy is verlede week oorlede.He died last week. One active form, in biblical language, which is still used, is geskapecreated, as in Op die sesde dag het God die mens geskape.on the sixth day have.AUX God the human.being createdOn the sixth day, God created man., although in more recent Bible translations, the weak form geskep is often used.

In some cases, only the strong adjectival past participles occur as attributive forms (weak past participles may still be used predicatively, particularly if they overlap with the main verb equivalent), as in the following examples:

  • die ontslape staatsmanthe deceased statesman, not *die ontslaapte staatsman
  • 'n onbesonne daadan ill-considered act, not *'n onbesinde daad
  • die verdagte moordenaarthe suspected murderer, not *die verdinkte moordenaar

In other cases, there is there are semantic and collocational differences between the two forms, such as

  • splyt: 'n gesplyte atooma split atom, but 'n gesplete persoonlikheida split personalitya schizoid personality
  • breek: 'n gebreekte borda broken plate, but 'n gebroke harta broken heart
  • slyp: geslypte messewhetted / sharpened knives, but 'n geslepe skelma cunning crook

Judged by the examples above, one could conclude that the weak form seems to be used for a literal meaning, while the strong form is mostly used for figurative, metaphorical applications. From a different, diachronic perspective, however, it would seem that the strong forms represent inherited links with 17th century Dutch expressions, while the weak forms are used when sentences are articulated tabula rasa, on the basis of the basic denotation, regardless of literal or figurative intention. A case in point would be an expression such as gebreekte beloftesbroken promises, which may occur next to gebroke verhoudingbroken relationship.

  • Botha, J.P1973Die adjektief as voorbepaling in Afrikaans.Unisa.Thesis
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