In form, nātūrus is a future active participle of the (deponent) verb nāscor – which otherwise only appears in passive forms – and is used to mean about to rise and, taken literally, about to be born, at least according to wiktionary/nātūrus. However, if nāscor literally means to be born, shouldn’t nātūrus rather mean about to bear or about to give birth?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to use a future passive participles, such as nāscendus instead of nātūrus? How can nātūrus carry the same meaning rather than the dual one?

Does this happen in general with other deponent verbs? Why?

Remark. The future active participle actually seems to be nāscitūrus, according to Asteroides’ comment below. Wiktionary seems to have it wrong as of now. It also has an entry on wiktionary/nāscitūrus.


1 Answer 1


The same happens with all deponent verbs in Latin.

The Latin participle system is defective for a transitive verb like amare:

  Active Passive
Past amatus
Present amans (amandus)
Future amaturus (amandus)

The gerundive is not really a participle, although it can play roles similar to the present or future passive participle. I advice against calling it the future passive participle. I prefer to say that three of the six participles are simply missing.

For a deponent verb the two voices can be conflated to create a complete system of participles:

Past arbitratus
Present arbitrans
Future arbitraturus

(As pointed out in a comment, the future participle of nasci is somewhat irregularly nasciturus rather than naturus. See this question for more discussion on the matter. Therefore I changed my example from nasci to arbitrari.)

The past participle comes from the passive side, the present and future ones from the active side. The personal forms all come from passive (unless the verb is semideponent like gaudeo, gavisus sum) but participles come from both voices. It is indeed weird, but active participles are used for both present and future for deponents. Deponent verbs should not be seen as passive forms of a transitive verb but as independent verbs; if there was a verb nascere, "to give birth", the semantics of na(sci)turus would be different, but there is no such verb. The lack of corresponding active forms is a defining feature of deponent verbs. There is no need to use the gerundive to supplement the participle system.

  • Thank you very much! Is there an inherent aspect of the primary suffix -tūr for the formation of the future active participle that makes this a bit more intuitive? I was speculating that it just might relate to the suffix -tōr for constructing a nomen agens …
    – k.stm
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 12:39
  • @k.stm I'm glad if it helped! I'm not aware of anything that would make it more intuitive. I would treat this as one of the weird things to just accept, but I'd be glad to learn if there's more structure behind it. You can always ask a separate question about etymology of the future participle. We might already have it on the site somewhere.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 12:44
  • 1
    A side note, probably already known to and irrelevant to asker and answerer alike: the gerundive of a deponent verb has the normal passive meaning (pretending to be from a non-deponent verb), e.g. Cicero: verendum est "it must be feared". The deponent gerund has an active meaning (just like the participles of present and future).
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 21:32
  • 1
    @Cerberus Just a qualification (perhaps a minor one for many people but perhaps not for you) related to your claim that "the gerundive of a deponent verb (like verendum est) has the normal passive meaning ('it must be feared')". For a recent criticism of the traditional passive analysis of the gerundive + esse construction, see this descriptive (not technical!) paper by Danesi et al. (2017) biblio.ugent.be/publication/8522423/file/8522426.pdf , published in Indogermanische Forschungen 122.1.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 5:37
  • 1
    See their conclusion on p. 24: "In conclusion, the GER+(NOM+)DAT construction is structurally and semantically very different from a passive construction. In fact, the passive analysis of the GER+(NOM+)DAT construction appears quite simplistic and not properly rooted in the actual properties of the construction itself. The passive analysis should therefore be abandoned as such, and following this, the traditional description of the dative argument as being “dative of agent”".
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 5:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.