Learn how to form Present and Past Participles in English.
You can jump to any section of this lesson:
What is a participle?
Types of Participles | Present and Past Participles
There are two participles: The present participle and the past participle. They can both be used as adjectives.
Present Participles | Present and Past Participles
Present participle, always ending in -ing, is created from the form of a verb used with the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, been) as an auxiliary verb (progressive tense).
The Present participle is used:
- As a part of the continuous form of a verb
I’m leaving in five minutes.
The girl is swimming
- As an adjective
A dying man
Your mother is a charming person
- As a gerund
He is afraid of flying.
- After verbs of perception
I saw them crossing the street.
I could hear them playing in the garden.
- With the verbs: Spend & Waste: verb + time/money expression + present participle
They’ve spent the whole day shopping.
I wasted money buying this game.
- With the verbs Catch & Find: verb + object + present participle
(With catch, the participle always refers to an action which causes annoyance or anger. This is not the case with find, which is unemotional.)
I caught him going through my bag.
They found their mother sitting in the garden.
- For two actions at the same time
He left the room laughing.
NOTE: You may be thinking that present participles look just like gerunds because they are verbs ending in -ing, but the big difference is that gerunds are used like nouns, while present participles are used as adjectives to modify nouns or pronouns.
Past Participles | Present and Past Participles
The Past Participle is used:
- As an adjective
A tired group
Spoken words cannot be revoked.
- With the auxiliary verb “have” to form the perfect aspect
The gas station has closed
They‘ve just arrived.
- With the verb “be” to form the passive
He was robbed a couple of days ago.
The letter was written.
- To make one of the past forms for the modal verbs (modal auxiliaries). These forms use a modal + have + the past participle.
He could have got stuck in traffic.
I should have gone to bed early.
- Used to replace a “subject+passive verb” construction
She entered, accompanied by her daughters.
- Used after Want, Make, Have and Like+direct object
I want this text translated by noon.
He made his presence felt.
What is the Difference: The Present Participle vs. The Past Participle
- The present participle has an active meaning:
He found the house burning.
The past participle has a passive meaning:
He found the house burned.
The past participle is active in such examples:
A retired teacher
The fallen angels
An escaped prisoner.
- The present participle is used to replace constructions of the type “subject+active verb”:
He opens the door and looks inside → Opening the door, he looks inside.
The past participle is used to replace constructions of the type “subject+passive verb”:
She entered and she was accompanied by her daughters → She entered, accompanied by her daughters.
- In nominative absolute constructions:
The present participle is used if the absolute phrase is active:
The weather being fine, nobody wanted to stay at home.
The past participle is used if the absolute construction is passive:
All things considered,/This done, I think we should start immediately.