Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What are Participles in Grammar? Know Types & Examples

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Published on: Jun 15, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 20, 2024

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Participles are versatile elements in the English language that can greatly enhance the depth and complexity of sentences. They are often misunderstood or overlooked, but once understood, they can be a powerful tool for writers. 

In this guide, we will explore the definition of participles, their types, and provide numerous examples to illustrate their usage.

Participle Definition

A participle, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "a word having the characteristics of both verb and adjective; especially: an English verbal form that has the function of an adjective and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense and voice and capacity to take an object".

Participles primarily serve two main purposes: providing descriptive information about nouns and modifying verbs or adjectives within a sentence.

Types of Participles

There are two main types of participles:

  • Present Participles: Formed by adding "-ing" to the base form of a verb, present participles typically describe ongoing actions or activities.
  • Past Participles: These participles are formed in various ways depending on the verb, often ending in "-ed," and they typically describe completed actions or states.

What are Present Participles?

Present participles are verb forms that end in "-ing" and are used to describe actions that are currently happening or ongoing. They are formed by adding "-ing" to the base form of the verb. However, there are some variations in forming present participles for certain types of verbs.

  • Verbs ending in –c: 

When a verb ends in "-c," the "c" is usually changed to "ck" before adding "-ing" to maintain the pronunciation.

Example:

Picnic ? Picnicking

Traffic ? Trafficking

  • Verbs ending in -ie:

Verbs ending in "-ie" typically change the "-ie" to "-y" before adding "-ing."

Example:

Die ? Dying

Lie ? Lying

  • Verbs ending in a silent -e:

For verbs ending in a silent "-e," the "-e" is dropped before adding "-ing."

Example:

Make ? Making

Write ? Writing

  • Verbs ending in one vowel and one consonant:

When a verb ends in one vowel followed by one consonant, and the stress is on the last syllable, the final consonant is usually doubled before adding "-ing."

Example:

Run ? Running

Stop ? Stopping

These variations in forming present participles help maintain the correct pronunciation and spelling conventions in English.

Using Present Participle in Continuous Tenses

Present participles are essential in forming continuous tenses, which express actions that are ongoing or in progress at a specific time.

Present Continuous Tense

In the present continuous tense, the present participle is combined with the verb "to be" (am, is, are) to indicate actions happening at the moment of speaking.

Structure: [Subject] + [am/is/are] + [present participle]

Example:

She is reading a book.

They are playing basketball.

I am writing an email.

Past Continuous Tense

In the past continuous tense, the past form of "to be" (was, were) is used with the present participle to describe actions that were ongoing at a specific time in the past.

Structure: [Subject] + [was/were] + [present participle]

Example:

He was studying when the phone rang.

We were watching TV when the power went out.

She was cooking dinner while he was cleaning the house.

Using Present Participle in Perfect Continuous Tenses

Present participles are also used in forming perfect continuous tenses, which indicate actions that started in the past, continued up to the present moment, and may continue into the future.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

In the present perfect continuous tense, the present perfect form of "to have" (have/has) is combined with "been" and the present participle.

Structure: [Subject] + [have/has] + [been] + [present participle]

Example:

She has been studying for three hours.

They have been working on the project since morning.

He has been waiting for the bus for half an hour.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

In the past perfect continuous tense, the past perfect form of "to have" (had) is combined with "been" and the present participle.

Structure: [Subject] + [had] + [been] + [present participle]

Example:

She had been practicing piano for years before she gave her first concert.

They had been living in that house for ten years before they moved.

He had been working on the report for weeks before he submitted it.

What are Past Participles?

Past participles are verb forms that typically end in "-ed," "-d," "-t," "-en," or other irregular endings. They are used to indicate actions or states that have been completed or happened in the past. 

Past participles are commonly used in various verb tenses, passive voice constructions, and as adjectives.

  • Regular Verbs 

For regular verbs, the past participle is formed by adding "-ed" to the base form of the verb.

Example:

Walk (base form) ? Walked (past tense) ? Walked (past participle)

Jump (base form) ? Jumped (past tense) ? Jumped (past participle)

  • Verbs ending in "-e"

For verbs that end in a silent "-e," the "-e" is usually dropped before adding "-d" to form the past participle.

Example:

Bake (base form) ? Baked (past tense) ? Baked (past participle)

Close (base form) ? Closed (past tense) ? Closed (past participle)

  • Verbs ending in a consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) pattern:

For verbs that end in one vowel followed by one consonant (CVC) and the stress is on the last syllable, the final consonant is usually doubled before adding "-ed" to form the past participle.

Example:

Stop (base form) ? Stopped (past tense) ? Stopped (past participle)

Plan (base form) ? Planned (past tense) ? Planned (past participle)

  • Irregular Verbs:

Irregular verbs have past participles that do not follow the regular "-ed" pattern. They must be memorized individually.

Example:

Go (base form) ? Went (past tense) ? Gone (past participle)

Eat (base form) ? Ate (past tense) ? Eaten (past participle)

Using the Past Participle in Passive Voice

In passive voice constructions, the past participle is used to indicate that the subject of the sentence is receiving the action rather than performing it. The passive voice is formed by using a form of the verb "to be" (such as "is," "am," "are," "was," "were," "has been," "have been," "had been," etc.) followed by the past participle of the main verb.

Structure: [Subject] + [Form of "to be"] + [Past Participle] + [Optional: by + Agent]

Example:

Active Voice: The chef bakes the cake.

Passive Voice: The cake is baked by the chef.

How to form a passive voice with past participles:

  • Identify the subject that is receiving the action.
  • Determine the appropriate form of "to be" based on the tense of the sentence (present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, etc.).
  • Use the past participle of the main verb to indicate the action that has been done to the subject.
  • (Optional) Include the agent (the doer of the action) preceded by "by."

Using the Past Participle in Perfect Tenses

In perfect tenses, the past participle is used to indicate actions that were completed before a certain point in the past, present, or future. Perfect tenses are formed by using a form of the auxiliary verb "to have" (such as "have," "has," "had," "will have," etc.) followed by the past participle of the main verb.

  • Present Perfect Tense:

Structure: [Subject] + [has/have] + [Past Participle]

Example:

She has eaten lunch already.

  • Past Perfect Tense:

Structure: [Subject] + [had] + [Past Participle]

Example:

They had finished the project before the deadline.

  • Future Perfect Tense:

Structure: [Subject] + [will have] + [Past Participle]

Example:

He will have completed the assignment by tomorrow.

  • How to form perfect tenses with past participles:

Identify the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb "to have" based on the tense (present, past, future).

Use the past participle of the main verb to indicate the action that was completed.

Arrange the sentence according to the tense being used.

Gerund vs. Participle

A gerund is a verb form that functions as a noun in a sentence. It ends in "-ing" and represents an action or activity.

Gerunds are used as subjects, objects, or complements in a sentence.

Example of Gerund:

Swimming is my favorite hobby. (Correct - "Swimming" is the subject of the sentence.)

He enjoys reading books. (Correct - "Reading" is the object of the verb "enjoys.")

A participle is a verb form that functions as an adjective or adverb in a sentence. It also ends in "-ing" (present participle) or "-ed," "-d," "-t," "-en," etc. (past participle).

Participles modify nouns or pronouns, providing additional information about them.

Example of Participle:

The running water filled the room with a soothing sound. (Correct - "Running" modifies the noun "water.")

She noticed the broken window. (Correct - "Broken" describes the window.)

Participial Phrase

A participial phrase consists of a participle (present or past) and any modifiers or complements associated with it. Participial phrases function as adjectives, modifying nouns or pronouns in a sentence.

Example of Participial Phrase:

Running quickly, she caught the bus. (Correct - "Running quickly" modifies the subject "she.")

Painted by the artist, the portrait was admired by many. (Correct - "Painted by the artist" modifies the noun "portrait.")

Dangling Participle

A dangling participle occurs when the participle in a participial phrase is not clearly or logically related to the noun it is intended to modify. This often leads to confusion or awkwardness in the sentence.

Example of Dangling Participle:

Walking down the street, the trees looked beautiful. (Incorrect - It suggests that the trees are walking down the street.)

Having finished my homework, the TV was turned on. (Incorrect - It implies that the TV finished the homework.)

Perfect Participles

Perfect participles, also known as perfect participle constructions, are formed with "having" followed by a past participle. They indicate that an action was completed before another action or a specific point in time.

Example of Perfect Participles:

Having completed the project, she submitted it to her boss. (Correct - Indicates that the completion of the project preceded the submission.)

Having been repaired, the car ran smoothly again. (Correct - Indicates that the repair occurred before the car ran smoothly.)

Test your knowledge with the following practice exercise:

Practice Exercise - Identifying Participles

Identify the participles in the following sentences, as well as the functions they perform:

  1. The broken vase lay shattered on the floor, its pieces scattered everywhere.
  2. Watching the sunset, Sarah felt a sense of peace wash over her.
  3. He gazed at the painting, captivated by its intricate details.
  4. Running late for the bus, Alex sprinted down the street.
  5. The lost keys were eventually found under the couch cushions.

Answer Key: 

  1. "Broken" is the past participle, used as an adjective to describe the vase.
  2. "Watching" is the present participle, used as an adverb to describe Sarah's action.
  3. "Captivated" is the past participle, used as an adjective to describe the state of the subject (He).
  4. "Running" is the present participle, used as an adjective to describe the state of the subject (Alex).
  5. "Lost" is the past participle, used as an adjective to describe the state of the keys.

Wrapping Up!

Understanding participles is essential for grasping English grammar. We've covered the definition of participles, explored their types, and provided clear examples for better comprehension. By incorporating participles effectively, you can enhance the clarity and richness of your writing.

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to grammar. Keep experimenting with participles in your writing to become more proficient in their usage. 

If you are in need of assistance with grammar or language skills, our Grammar Checker can provide instant feedback and help you improve your writing skills for better communication.

Try this amazing tool for free!

And if you ever find yourself wondering "I need someone to write my essay", visit our website to get your task done in no time! 

Continue Learning

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Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics, Masters)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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