I do not recall ever seeing esse in any form used with active present participles (like faciens). One could imagine something similar to the English distinction between "he does" and "he is doing" in Latin: facitfaciens est. I do not claim that one could use faciens est like "he is doing"; I just guess that if faciens est can be used at all, it might have a roughly similar meaning. Or perhaps it would simply be a synonymous alternative to facit.

Was esse ever used with active present participles in Latin? If yes, how did it differ from a plain indicative (eg. dicens sum vs. dico)? If you think such use never existed, please explain why you think so.

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    This is quite common in the Vulgate: "erat praedicans" < "ἦλθεν κηρύσσων", "erat docens" < "ἦν διδάσκων". The Latin is probably just imitating a Greek construction, which is talked about in this article – brianpck Mar 28 '17 at 15:09
  • @brianpck That comment would work well as an answer, too. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 29 '17 at 20:26

My first instinct was that this is, at the very least, not common in classical Latin, and should only happen with participles that are basically adjectives and have lost some of their verbal semantics, like sapiens or patiens. The reason I think that, is that a present participle is perfectly capable of standing on its own in Latin, it doesn't need an actual conjugated form to accompany it and signal its verbal status.

Anyway, I'm a corpus guy, and I'd love to be able to just query for this kind of thing. But since I'm not exactly there yet with my scanning engine, I have looked for nominative participles + esse in raw data by just going over part of my verse corpus manually for a minute or two.

The first two results seem to corroborate my intuitive hypothesis (which are fancy words for "hunch"). The last ones, if properly read, seem to be examples of what you're looking for. So yes, it does occur sporadically, but the question remains how much of the verbal meaning is left over. Are these adjectivized verbs, or adjectives derived from verbs ?

nostra nocens anima est. ego te, miseranda, peremi, (Ov. Met. IV, 110)

verticibusque frequens erat atque inpervius amnis. (Ov. Met. IX, 106)

non poteram, longi patiens erat ille laboris. (Ov. Met. V, 611)

conveniens Venus est annis temeraria nostris. (Ov. Met. IX, 553)


Esse could indeed be paired with a present participle, at least in Medieval Latin. Like Greek, this forms a periphrastic tense, which is pretty much the same as the English progressive, as far as I know. Similar to word order, its use was usually a matter of preference.

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