Present and Past Participles | Grammar Usage and Examples

Learn how to form Present and Past Participles in English.

What is a participle?

A participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed. They function as adjectives, thus participles modify nouns or pronouns.

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

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.

Present and Past Participles | Grammar Usage and Examples

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 participles of all regular verbs end in -ed. Irregular verbs, however, have various past participle endings – for instance, thrown, ridden, built, and gone.

The Past Participle is used:

A tired group

Spoken words cannot be revoked.

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.

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