Past Participles: Definition and Examples

Past participles are forms primarily used to indicate a completed action or condition, acting as essential components of our language.

These forms are typically constructed by adding endings like -ed, -d, -en, or -t to the base form of the verb. For instance, 'played', 'loved', 'eaten', and 'slept' are all past participles.

Forming the Past Participle: Regular and Irregular Verbs

Past participles' endings can differ substantially between regular and irregular verbs.

Regular verbs typically take the -ed or -d ending, such as 'looked' and 'paused'. They have the same form as the past simple but should not be mistaken for this.

Past Participle Regular Verb Examples 

Base Verb

Past Participle




She had walked to school every day.



The children had played in the park all afternoon.



The conference was attended by several hundred people.



The excited children rushed to the playground.

However, irregular verbs do not follow the "-ed" pattern to form their past participles. Instead, each irregular verb has its own unique ending, like 'seen', 'known', 'flown', and even those that don't change, like 'put' or 'cut'.

Past Participle Irregular Verb Examples 

Base Verb

Past Participle




They had gone to the store before it closed.



The food had been eaten by the time we arrived.



The broken record was thrown in the bin.



They had put the food in the fridge earlier.



The song had been sung by the choir.



She had known him for three years.

Uses of the Past Participle


In use of past participles as adjectives, they describe a quality or condition derived from an action:

Past Participles as Adjectives

  • The broken vase was swept up.
  • Her baked cookies were a hit at the party.
  • Faded jeans were back in style.
  • Stolen jewelry was found hidden across town.
  • The gifted violinist played beautifully.
  • The wilted roses were thrown in the trash.
  • We bypassed the crowded market.
  • They heard the recorded message.
  • The torn book was discarded.
  • She welcomed their unexpected guest.

Verb Tenses

Beyond their use as adjectives, past participles are vital in forming different verb tenses, crucially the 'perfect' tenses. Perfect tenses represent actions or states of being that are completed relative to the present, past, or future.

The past participle 'been' is always used to make the perfect continuous tenses (followed by the present participle '-ing').

Below, the particular verb tense is underlined with the past participle shown in red.


  • Past Perfect: I had studied the material before the examination.
  • Past Perfect Continuous: She had been practicing for hours before the recital.


  • Present Perfect: She had left the city.
  • Present Perfect Continuous: She has been working here for five years.


  • Future Perfect: We will have finished the project before the deadline.
  • Future Perfect Continuous: They will have been waiting for three hours by the time she arrives.

Passive Voice

The passive voice is formed using a form of the verb "to be" followed by the past participle of the main verb.

This construction shifts the focus from the subject performing the action to the action itself or the object of the action. For instance, 'cook' in this example is replaced by the past participle of this verb (cooked) to make it passive:

  • Active Voice: The chef cooks the meal.
  • Passive Voice: The meal is cooked by the chef.

Here are more example sentences demonstrating how past participles are used to form the passive voice:

Past Participles to Make the Passive Voice

  • Active Voice: The workers built the new bridge.
  • Passive Voice: The new bridge was built by the workers.

  • Active Voice: The students completed the project.
  • Passive Voice: The project was completed by the students.

  • Active Voice: They will deliver the package tomorrow.
    Passive Voice: The package will be delivered tomorrow.

  • Active Voice: The company released the new software update.
  • Passive Voice: The new software update was released by the company.
  • Active Voice: They sang the national anthem perfectly. 
  • Passive Voice: The national anthem was sung perfectly.

You'll note that some of the verbs are the same but this is simply because regular past simple verbs have the same form as past participles - it doesn't mean they are both participles.

For instance, with "The company released...", 'released' is a regular past simple verb. In the past simple passive sentence, "...was released...", 'was' is the past simple verb while 'released' is a past participle. 

Past Participle Phrases

Past participles also pitch in big-time for past participle phrases or clauses. These usually act as modifiers or complete verb phrases. 

In these examples, the past participle phrase is underlined and the past participle is in bold.

  • Burned by the sun, he wished he had applied sunscreen.
  • Driven by her ambition, she achieved her goals.
  • Carved in stone, the message was clear.
  • Followed by his fans, the celebrity was overwhelmed.
  • Tied to the post, the boat refused to drift.
  • The travelers admired the landscape painted by the setting sun.
  • The book written by the famous author was sold out within hours.
  • She wore the dress designed by her favorite fashion designer.
  • The bridge constructed last year has greatly improved traffic flow.
  • The speech delivered by the politician sparked a heated debate.

Summing Up

In summary, understanding past participles are crucial to mastering English grammar. We hope that each section outlined here has fortified your understanding of past participles.

Keep studying and keep improving!

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