What are Participles in English Grammar?

Participles are essential components of English grammar that can significantly enhance the quality and clarity of your writing.

In this article, we will explore the two types of participles: present and past, but also participle phrases. We'll then point you to our pages with more information about each. 

By gaining a better understanding of participles and how to use them effectively, you will be better equipped to communicate your ideas in writing.

Present Participles

Present participles are formed by adding "-ing" to the base form of a verb and they describe ongoing or continuous actions. Here are examples of verbs changed to present participles:

  • run = running
  • wait = waiting
  • go = going

They can be used as adjectives or in the formation of progressive verb tenses.

  • The running water soothed her weary feet. (adjective)
  • The singing birds woke her up in the morning. (adjective)
  • she was shopping when she saw her friend. (past continuous tense)

Learn more about present participles >>

Present Participle Phrases

Present participles can also be used to create present participle phrases. These consist of a present participle and any accompanying modifiers or objects 

These phrases are commonly used to add detail, clarify actions, or create vivid descriptions about a subject or action in a sentence.

  • The girl, dancing gracefully, caught everyone's attention.
  • The car, speeding down the highway, caused a traffic jam.
  • Barking excitedly at the approaching visitors, the dog wagged its tail.

Learn more about present participle phrases >>

Past Participles

Past participles are typically formed by adding "-ed" to the base form of regular verbs or other endings such as "-d," "-t," "-en," to irregular verbs. For example:

Regular Verbs:

Irregular Verbs:

  • start = started
  • walk = walked
  • jump = jumped
  • train = trained
  • wait = waited
  • go = gone
  • break = broken
  • sing = sung
  • write = written
  • build = built

They are used to indicate completed actions or states and are frequently used in the formation of perfect verb tenses or as adjectives.

  • The broken vase lay in pieces on the floor. (adjective)
  • I have read all of Shakespeare's plays. (perfect tense)

Learn more about past participles >>

Past Participle Phrases

Past participle phrases consist of a past participle and any accompanying modifiers or objects and provide additional information about a subject or action in a sentence.

They are often used to express past actions or states that have an impact on the present.

  • The books, written by renowned authors, filled the shelves.
  • Destroyed by the hurricane, The house was left in ruins.

Learn more about past participle phrases >>

Summing Up

By understanding the different types of participles and how to use them correctly, you can elevate your writing to a higher level. Participles are powerful tools for adding depth and precision to your sentences, enabling you to convey your ideas effectively.

As you continue to practice and explore the world of participles, your writing skills will undoubtedly improve, captivating your readers and making your message clearer than ever.

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