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Present and Past Participles in English Grammar

Published on April 29th, 2019 | Last updated on November 7th, 2019 by | Category: English Grammar Lessons with Videos | 14 Comments on Present and Past Participles in English Grammar | 170 Views | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Present and Past Participles in English Grammar

Present and Past Participles in English Grammar

Present participles

Both present and past participles are also called verbal adjectives because, on the one hand, they are used to describe a noun; and on the other hand, they look like a verb.

Present participles are in fact adjectives that are formed by adding -ing to the end of the verb. The following are present participles:

interesting, amusing, confusing, amazing, boring, exciting, shocking, intriguing, humiliating, surprising, etc.

Note that present participles have an active role compared to past participles. Pay attention to the following example:

I couldn’t study well due to that irritating noise.

In the example above, irritating is a verbal adjective as a present participle which describes the noun noise.

The teacher talking to my father is Mr. Smith.

In the previous example, “talking” is the present participle because it describes “the teacher” and it’s formed by adding -ing to the verb “talk”.

Past participles

Past participles are adjectives formed by adding -ed to the end of the verb if it is a regular one. Note that past participles take a passive role in the sentence.

The shocked girl couldn’t utter even one single word.

In this example, “shocked” is the past participle as the verbal adjective that is formed by adding -ed to the verb “shock”, and it describes the girl. Consider the following example with an irregular verb form:

My broken arm was aching so badly.

In this example, “broken” is the past participle adjective for the noun “arm” which is formed from the irregular verb “break”.

Present and past participles in participle phrases

You can reduce a clause to a phrase with present or past participles. Pay attention to the following examples:

The white cat drinking milk is my friend’s pet.

Bored with the TV show, John turned off the TV and left home.

In the first example above, drinking milk is a participle phrase that holds the present participle (drinking) + milk. In any participle phrase, you can see the trace of a relative pronoun, such as which, that, who, etc. but the relative pronoun has been omitted. In the first example, the original and unabridged sentence has been something like this:

The cat that is drinking milk is my friend’s pet.

In the second example, bored with the TV show is the participle phrase including the past participle, bored. Like the first example, in this sentence, too, a clause has been reduced to a phrase with the help of a relative pronoun. Pay attention to the unabridged form of the sentence:

John, who was bored with the TV show, turned off the TV and left home.

Watch this video on YouTube.

14 comments on “Present and Past Participles in English Grammar”

  1. Past perfect: it modifies noun or noun
    equivalent.(the broken heart)
    Past per. Tense: It indicates the action in past
    time. ( I have broken my leg)

    • * The first part of your comment should read: “past participle” and NOT past perfect.
      * “I have broken my leg” is in the present perfect tense, and NOT past perfect tense. You need to change to “I had broken my leg” to make it past perfect tense.

    • Participles can also be used to modify the verb phrase of a sentence. In the video it is mentioned that the present participles in a verb phrase forms the progressive tenses like past progressive, and the past participles can be used to form a perfect tense such as past perfect tense.

      • The two other names are participial adjectives and verbal adjectives.
        You should know that a past perfect tense is not a verbal adjective. They are completely different issues.

    • “past participles” can be made by adding -ed at the end of the simple form of a regular verb. Clearly, each irregular verb has its own past participle form which definitely does not consist of the verb+ed format.

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