Understanding the uses of participle

A participle is that form of the verb which takes the nature of both a verb and an adjective. Hence, a participle performs the functions both of the verb and the adjective. Therefore it is also called verbal adjective.

Kinds of Participles

A participle indicates an action in progress or an action that is completed. Thus participles are of three kinds:

  1. Present participle (verb + ing, e.g. running, dancing, playing, singing, etc.)
  2. Past participle (third form of the verb usually ending in –ed, –d, –t, –en, –n, e.g., tired, learned, burnt, broken, hurt etc.)
  3. Perfect participle (having + past participle, e.g. having completed, having seen etc.)

Forms of Participles

Participles have the following forms:

Active voicePassive voice
Present formlovingbeing loved
Perfect formhaving lovedhaving been loved

Uses of the Participle

Since the participle performs the same functions as the adjective, it can be used in three ways like the adjective.

Attributive use
Predicative use Absolute use (with a noun or pronoun going before)
Important Hint!  

Note that under the absolute use, the part containing the participle is quite independent of the main part.

How Participles Can Be Used

In English language Participles are used with auxiliary verbs to make verb tenses such as the present continuous and the past perfect:

Examples include:
  • We are relocating to Memphis. [present continuous]
  • The Johnson’s have relocated to Memphis. [past perfect]

Past Participles can be used in accompaniment with the auxiliary verb, to be, to form the passive voice of verbs:

Examples include:
  • Andy was asked to see the principal.
  • We were informed about the incident.

Participles can be used as adjectives:

Examples include:
  • The pavement was covered with broken glass.
  • He stared at me with bulging eyes.

Participles can be used as nouns:

Examples include:
  • She was a woman of good breeding.
  • Andy spent all day fishing.

When a present participle is used as a noun, as in the last set of examples, it’s also known as GerundOpens in new window:

Examples include:
  • Smoking is strictly forbidden.
  • Fishing is his hobby.