You can turn verbs/nouns into adjectives using participles like this:

  • The big-eyed monkey.
  • The jumping spider.
  • The loved rabbit.

However, I don't think these structures exist in Chinese, for example, so I would imagine they would just be said sort of like this:

  • The big-eye monkey.
  • The jump spider.
  • The love rabbit.

It doesn't quite get across the same meaning though. So how would a language outside of English say these sorts of things? Do they have their own participle/gerund forms, or do they just leave them off, or do something else? Wondering if you need to be this specific or can just leave them off.

1 Answer 1


Every language has ways of turning one category of word into another. For turning verbs into adjectives, for example, English has very regular active participles (-ing), slightly less regular passive participles (-ed), and some much less regular derivational processes (-able).

Other languages do it differently. Ancient Greek loves its participles and can express all sorts of things like "belonging to the people who have finished ___ing for themselves" in a single word. Swahili on the other hand doesn't really do participles at all; instead it uses relative clauses, turning an entire clause into a modifier ("a living person" → "a person who lives").

English often lets you turn one category into another without any special marker, because our syntax is very strict and that generally shows what category you mean ("you can verb any word"). Languages with less strict syntax generally don't allow this because it gets confusing. As a rule of thumb, strict syntax correlates with simpler morphology, and lenient syntax correlates with more complex morphology.

  • What about analytic languages like Chinese/Vietnamese/etc., do they do like I'm describing or how?
    – Lance
    Oct 26, 2022 at 1:03
  • @Lance My experience with Chinese is fairly limited, but I believe the syntax indicates what role something plays in the sentence. A verb appearing in certain positions is the main predicate, and appearing in other positions it's a modifier to an entity instead.
    – Draconis
    Oct 27, 2022 at 18:13

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