A participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed.

  The term verbal indicates that a participle, like the other two kinds of verbals, is based on a verb and therefore expresses action or a state of being. However, since they functionas adjectives, participles modify nouns or pronouns

English verbs have two participles:

1. Present particple

 Called variously the present, active, imperfect, or progressive participle, it is identical in form to the gerund; the term present participle is sometimes used to include the gerund. The term gerund-participle is also used.


The present participle is formed by adding -ing to the base form of a verb. It is used in:



2. Past participle

 Called variously the past, passive, or perfect participle, it is usually identical to the verb'spreterite (past tense) form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ. 


The past participle is formed by adding -ed, -en, -d, -t, or -n to the base form: 



Here is a comprehensive list of irregular verbs.


To form verb forms

 Participles are used with the auxiliary verbs "be" and "have" to make progressive,perfect and passive verb forms.


·He was robbed a couple of days ago.(passive)
·They've just arrived.(present perfect)
·I'm leaving in five minutes.(present progressive)
·She was crying. (present progressive)
·I have written a novel. (present perfect)
·We have been waiting for ages. (present perfect progressive)
·They were having dinner when we called. (past progressive)
·He had left before I called. (past perfect)
·They were forced to give up their claim. (passive)
·It was broken in the storm. (passive)

Modifying a noun as an adjective

Participles can be used as adjectives before nouns, or after "be" and other copular verbs.


·The burning log fell off the fire.
·The crying baby had a wet diaper.
·A rolling stone gathers no moss.
·Barking dogs seldom bite.
·A burnt child dreads fire.
·He looked tired.
·The village appeared deserted.
·The children were excited.

Not all participles can be used as adjectives before nouns.

for example, we can say a lost dog, but not a found dog. It is not possible to give clear rules.

As noun-modifiers, participles usually precede the noun (like adjectives), but in many cases they can or must follow it:


·The visiting dignitaries devoured the baked apples.
·Please bring all the documents required.
·The difficulties encountered were nearly insurmountable.

Modifying a verb as adverb.

Sometimes participles are used like adverbs


·She came running into the room.
·He ran screaming out of the room.
·The water is boiling hot.
·The weather is freezing cold.

Modifying a sentence as adverb.

Participles can combine with other words into clause-like structures.


·Seen from this perspective, the problem presents no easy solution.
·Broadly speaking, the project was successful.
·Driven by rain, they took shelter under a tree.
·Stricken with grief, she threw herself on the body.
·The thief admitted having stolen the money.
·Deceived by his friends, he lost all hope.

 Active and Passive 

When present participles are used like adjectives or adverbs, they have similar meanings toactive verbs. 


·a rolling stone = a stone that rolls
·falling leaves= leaves that fall
·barking dogs = dogs that bark
·a meat-eating animal = an animal that eats meat

When past participles are used like adjectives or adverbs, they have passive meanings.


·a burnt child = a child who has been burnt.
·a broken mirror = a mirror that has been broken.
·the attached files = the files that have been attached.


A few intransitive verbs have past participles that can be used like adjectives with active meanings. 


·a fallen leaf = a leaf that has fallen
·developed countries = countries that have developed
·an escaped prisoner = a prisoner who has escaped
·a retired general = a general who has retired

 Participle clauses 

 Participles can combine with other words into participle clauses.

 We often use participle clauses after nouns in order to define or identify the nouns.Participle clauses are often very like relative clauses.


·I saw a girl standing at the gate.
(= I saw a girl who was standing at the gate.)

·We saw trees laden with fruits.
(We saw trees which were laden with fruits.)

·Most of the people invited to the party didn't turn up.
(= Most of the people who were invited to the party didn't turn up.)

·The child sitting in that corner is John.
(=The child who is sitting in that corner is John.)

·The books lying on the table are mine.
(=The books that are lying on the table are mine.)

 A common error with participles 

Participles are used in absolute phrases with a noun or pronoun going before them.


·God willing, we shall meet again soon.
·The sea being rough, they abandoned the Channel swim.
·The fog having lifted, the plane took off.

Each of these absolute phrases can be transformed into a subordinate clause. 


·If God is willing, we shall meet again soon.
·As the sea was rough, they abandoned the channel swim.
·When the fog had lifted, the plane took off.

A common error

Read the following sentence.

·Having bitten the postman, the farmer decided to shoot the dog.

This means that it was the farmer who bit the postman and not the dog!(笑) To avoid confusion, the sentence should be rewritten as follows.

·The dog having bitten the postman, the farmer decided to shoot it.

 The participle is a verbal adjective. It should be related to a proper subject of reference.

  If the subject is lacking or if a wrong subject is used, the whole sentence would be wrong. Other examples are given below.


·Being a rainy day, we had to abandon the match. (Wrong)
·It being a rainy day, we had to abandon the match. (Right)

·Being a small cot, he could not sleep on it. (Wrong)
·It being a small cot, he could not sleep on it. (Right)

·Being too costly for him, he could not buy the coat. (Wrong)
·It being too costly for him, he could not buy the coat. (Right)

Absolute phrase


 Usually (but not always, as we shall see), an absolute phrase (also called a nominative absolute) is a group of words consisting of a noun or pronoun and aparticiple as well as any related modifiers.

  Absolute phrases do not directly connect to or modify any specific word in the rest of the sentence; instead, they modify the entire sentence, adding information.

 They are always treated as parenthetical elements and are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or a pair of commas (sometimes by a dash or pair of dashes).

  Notice that absolute phrases contain a subject (which is often modified by aparticiple), but not a true finite verb.


·Their reputation as winners secured by victory, the New York Liberty charged into the semifinals.

·The season nearly finished, Rebecca Lobo and Sophie Witherspoon emerged as true leaders.

·The two superstars signed autographs into the night, their faces beaming happily.

When the participle of an absolute phrase is a form of "to be", such as "being" or "having been", the participle is often left out but understood.


·The season [being] over, they were mobbed by fans in Times Square.

·[Having been] Stars all their adult lives, they seemed used to the attention. 

 Another kind of absolute phrase is found after a modified noun; it adds a focusing detail or point of focus to the idea of the main clause.

This kind of absolute phrase can take the form of a prepositional phrase, an adjective phrase, or a noun phrase.


·The old firefighter stood over the smoking ruins, his senses alert to any sign of another flare-up.

·His subordinates, their faces sweat-streaked and smudged with ash, leaned heavily against the firetruck.

·They knew all too well how all their hard work could be undone ― in an instant

 It is not unusual for the information supplied in the absolute phrase to be the most important element in the sentence.

 In fact, in descriptive prose, the telling details will often be wrapped into a sentence in the form of an absolute phrase:


·Coach Nykesha strolled onto the court, her arms akimbo and a large silver whistle clenched between her teeth.

·The new recruits stood in one corner of the gym, their uniforms stiff and ill fitting, their faces betraying their anxiety. 

noun phrase can also exist as an absolute phrase:


·Your best friends, where are they now, when you need them?

·And then there was my best friend Sally ― the dear girl ― who has certainly fallen on hard times.

Participial phrase

 Present participles, verbals ending in -ing, and past participles, verbals that end in -ed (for regular verbs) or other forms (for irregular verbs), are combined with complements and modifiers and become part of important phrasal structures.

  Participial phrases always act as adjectives. When they begin a sentence, they are often set off by a comma (as an introductory modifier); otherwise, participial phrases will be set off by commas if they are parenthetical elements.


·The stone steps, having been worn down by generations of students, needed to be replaced. [modifies "steps"]

·Working around the clock, the firefighters finally put out the last of the California brush fires. [modifies "firefighters"]

·The pond, frozen over since early December, is now safe for ice-skating. [modifies "pond"]