Both present and past participle phrases function as adjectives, providing more information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence.
The phrases start with either a present participle or past participle.
Participles are a significant part of English grammar. They are verb forms which function as adjectives, modifying nouns and pronouns. They fall into two main categories: the Present Participle and the Past Participle.
Present participles end in -ing and past participles have a variety of endings, e.g. -ed, -en, -t, -n etc. Here are some examples:
With present and past participle phrases, we are adding further information after the participle, thus making it a phrase.
Here are some examples using some of the previous participles.
Present Participle Phrases are groups of words that begin with a present participle and modify nouns or pronouns.
They can appear after or before a noun, and anywhere in a sentence. In the sentences below, the participle phrase is in red and the modified noun in blue.
It's also common to place them at the front of the noun, in which case they are called fronted present participle phrases:
They are still giving more information about the noun (i.e. the subject in these cases) even though they appear before it. For instance in the first one, John (the subject) was doing the action: walking home after school.
Past Participle Phrases start with a past participle and also function as adjectives. Here are five examples, which can be placed after the noun or as fronted past participle phrases, where the phrase (in red) is modifying the subject (in blue).
A key distinction between past and present participle phrases is that with the former, they are written in the past tense, indicating that the action in the phrase has happened before the rest of the sentence.
We can see the order (1, 2) by looking at two of the above sentences:
Past and present participle phrases are often actually reduced relative clauses.
There are various rules on how to do this, so check out the lesson on reduced relative clauses to learn more.
Punctuation with participle phrases varies depending on their placement within a sentence.
If you are unsure of the difference between essential and non-essential information, check out this lesson on defining and non-defining relative clauses, as the same principles are being followed.
A common error when using participle phrases is the dreaded dangling modifier. This happens when you start a sentence with a participle phrase, intending for it to modify a certain subject, but then the subject is not in the sentence at all, confusing the reader.
Here, 'my bag' wasn't doing the running, so the phrase is dangling. The past participle phrase "Exhausted from the long journey" is intended to modify the person arriving, but it incorrectly appears to modify the hotel room, resulting in a dangling modifier.
They could be corrected by adding in a subject that is being modified by the present and past participle phrases:
With misplaced modifiers, the noun being modified is in the sentence, but the participle phrase is not in the correct position to clearly modify that noun.
This sentence could be read to suggest that 'I' have been 'burnt to a crisp', rather than the pizza. In the second one, the essay was not writing.
Correct placement or re-organisation would be:
Using present and past participle phrases correctly and understanding "participles" and "adjectives", can significantly improve your English grammar, allowing you to express a more extensive range of sentiments and render your writing richer and more nuanced.
Now test yourself on what you've learned in this present and past participle phrases exercise.
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