Participles and Participial Phrases

May 22, 2021

ParticiplesDefinition: A participle is a form of a verb that needs a helping verb. There are two participles, the present participle and the past participle.

PresentPresent Participle
(needs to be)
PastPast Participle
(needs have)
dance(s)dancingdanceddanced
eat(s)eatingateeaten
become(s)becomingbecamebecome
  • The present participle of all verbs ends in ing.
  • The past participle of regular verbs ends in ed.
  • The past participles of irregular verbs have different forms.

In order to work as a verb in a sentence, all participles must have a helping verb. A participle without a helping verb is being used as either a participle or a gerund. (We’ll get to gerunds later.)Used as a verb:

We were singing as we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter was laughing and fell out of his chair.

Used as a participle:

Singing, we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter, laughing, fell out of his chair.

Past participles and present participles can be used as adjectives in sentences. When used as adjectives, we identify them as participles instead of verbs.

The burning sun beat down on us. (burning tells what kind of sun)
The broken flowerpot lay on the ground. (broken tells what kind of flowerpot)
The museum was closed when we got there. (closed is a predicate adjective describing museum)

Participial PhrasesDefinition: A participial phrase is made up of the participle along with its objects and modifiers.

Singing a silly song, we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter, laughing at Allie’s joke, fell out of his chair.

Participial phrases act as adjectives because they modify nouns.

Singing a silly song, we walked along the sidewalk.
(Singing a silly song describes “we”.)

Peter, laughing at Allie’s joke, fell out of his chair.
(Laughing at Allie’s joke describes Peter.)


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