All about Participles

Present and Past ParticiplesThe present or past participle is an incomplete verb.The ending for the present participle is -ing: walking, “talking story.”

  • It is a half verb.

The regular ending for the past participle is -ed: walked, “talked story.”

  • Many past participles have irregular endings.Irregular Past Participle Endings
    • Here is a partial list of irregular endings.
    • They will help you to identify past participle phrases.
      • A participle phrase may have a participle and a subject.Example: (present participle)Members of Hawaii’s rainbow population sharing stories about their diverse cultures.Example:(past participle)

        Asian immigrants in the last century pushed by hardships in their homelands to come to America in search of a better life.

      • A participle phrase may have a participle and no subject.Example: (present participle)Being an actor in the role of making history.Example: (past participle)

        Asked to become vocal and visible.A participle phrase will not be a fragment if a helping verb is added to it.

          Example: (present participle)Members of Hawaii’s rainbow population enjoyed sharing stories about their diverse cultures.Example: (past participle)

          Asian immigrants in the last century were pushed by hardships in their homelands to come to America in search of a better life.A participle phrase will not be a fragment if it is added onto a main clause.

            Example: (present participle)Being an actor in the role of making history, each member of the community had an important story to tell.Example: (past participle)

            Asked to become vocal and visible, plantation laborers felt a need to talk about life in the cane fields.Words that end in -ing are not always present participles.

            • A word that ends in -ing can be the subject or gerund of a sentence or clause.Example:At first, coming to America meant looking for a new beginning.

            • A word that ends in -ing can be an adjective or noun modifier in a sentence.Example:Thinking about themselves as temporary migrants with a desire to earn money and return to their homelands, many people ended up staying and sent for their wives and children (in spite of harsh living conditions).Although there is a present and a past participle verb form, the half verbs do not indicate the tense you are writing in.

              The first verb word that follows the subject determines the tense of the clause.

              • As an illustration, let’s examine the verb go.
              • It has a present participle going and an irregular past participle gone.
              • In the first three examples, the present participle going is used in sentences that are written in past, present, and future tenses.Examples:past tense:

                In 1835, a young man from Boston by the name of William Hooper was going to change the face of Hawaii’s landscape by cultivating sugar for profit.present tense:

                Reading about how men and women from other countries were hired to work for Hawaii’s sugar industry is probably going to cause you to see store-bought sugar in a different light.future tense:

                You will be going back in time to see how nineteenth-century working conditions led up to your ability to go to a store to buy granulated crystals of sugar to sweeten the foods you eat.

              • In the next three examples, the past participle gone is used in sentences that are written in past, present, and future tenses.Examples:past tense:

                In 1877, an Island newspaper had gone public to say that sugar was “King” in Hawaii.present tense:

                For the past 120 years, the Islands have gone out of their way to recruit workers from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines to supply the “King’s” insatiable appetite for a constant supply of laborers.future tense:

                Throughout the years, the plantation managers will not have gone through an equal number of Kanakas or Hawaiian laborers because they preferred to survive on fish they could catch or crops they could grow on

              • their own piece of land.

                • from progressive / continuous tenses (e. g. Present Progressive) – I am speaking.
                • as an adjective form – The film is interesting.
                • as a gerund – He is afraid of flying.
                • from perfect tenses (z. B. Present Perfect Simple) – I have spoken.
                • from passive voice – The letter was written.
                • as an adjective form – I was bored to death.
                • … one action (the one where the perfect participle is used) is completed before the next action starts.

                  Example: She bought a bike and cycled home. – Having bought a bike, she cycled home.

                • … one action has been going on for a period of time when another action starts.

                  Example: He had been living there for such a long time that he didn’t want to move to another town. – Having lived there for such a long time, he didn’t want to move to another town.

                • active voice: having + past participle (Having cooked, he set the table.)
                • passive voice: having been + past participle (Having been cooked, the food looked delicious.)
                • Both clauses should have the same subject.
                • The less important part becomes the participle clause. Important information should always be in the main clause.
                • Make sure, you use the correct participle form (see above).
                • The conjunctions as, because, since and relative pronouns who, which are left out.
                • The conjunctions before, when are used in the participle clause.
                • The conjunctions after, while can be used or left out.
              • Participles

                There are three kinds of participles in English: present participle, past participle and perfect participle. You probably know the first two from certain tenses and adjective forms. Apart from that, participles are also used to shorten sentences.

                Present Participle

                The present participle is the ing-form. You surely know this form:

                Not the exceptions in spelling when adding ‘ing’:

                Exception Example
                final e dropped (but: ee is not changed) come – coming (but: agree – agreeing)
                final consonant after short, stressed vowel is doubled sit – sitting
                final consonant l after vowel is always doubled (in British English) travel – travelling
                final ie becomes y lie – lying

                The present participle can be used to describe the following verbs:

                come, go, sit

                Example: The girl sat crying on the sofa.

                The present participle can also be used after verbs of the senses if we do not want to emphasise that the action was completed. (see Infinitive or Ing-Form)

                feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch

                Example: Did you see him dancing?

                Furthermore, the present participle can be used to shorten or combine active clauses that have the same subject.

                Example: She left the house and whistled. – She left the house whistling.

                Past Participle

                The past participle is the participle that you find in the third column of lists with irregular verbs. You surely know this form:

                For irregular participle forms see third column of irregular verbs. Regular verbs form the past participle by adding ed, however, note the following exceptions in spelling:

                Exceptions when adding ed Example
                after a final e, only add d love – loved
                final consonant after a short, stressed vowel
                or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled
                admit – admitted
                travel – travelled
                final y after a consonant becomes i hurry – hurried

                The past participle can also be used to shorten or combine passive clauses that have the same subject.

                Example: The boy was given an apple. He stopped crying. – Given an apple, the boy stopped crying.

                Perfect Participle

                The perfect participle can be used to shorten or combine clauses that have the same subject if …

                The perfect participle can be used for active and passive voice.

                Use of Participle Clauses

                If a clause is shortened using a participle construction, the clause is called participle clause.

                Example: Watching TV, she forgot everything around her.

                In English, participle clauses are mainly used in writing in order to put a lot of information into one sentence.

                When shortening or combining clauses with a participle construction, keep the following rules in mind:

                Participle Clauses with different Subjects

                Sometimes participle clauses can be used even if the clauses to be combined do not have the same subject. This is the case for example if the main clause contains one of the following verbs + object:

                feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch

                Example: I heard him playing the guitar.

                Here, the participle clause must directly follow the object it is relating to. (Note: Some of the verbs mentioned here can also be used with the infinitive. For further information see Infinitive or Ing-Form)

                A participle construction is also possible, if both subjects are mentioned (often the word ‘with’ is put before the subject in the participle clause). This is very formal, however, and not often used.

                Example: Mrs Jones went to New York. Mr Smith took up her position.
                (With) Mrs Jones going to New York, Mr Smith took up her position.

                Incorrect Participle Clauses

                Apart from the exceptions mentioned above, participle clause and main clause should have the same subject. Otherwise the sentences might sound rather strange.

                Example: I was driving on the motorway, when the baby started to cry.
                → Falscher Partizipialsatz: Driving on the motorway, the baby started to cry.

                In this example you get the feeling that the baby has driven the car. So these participle clauses are considered wrong in standard English. In colloquial English, these ‘incorrect participle clauses’ are usually okay, and you can even find an example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

                Now, Hamlet, hear. ’Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me.

                As the text goes, it is said that Hamlet’s father was bitten by a snake. Strictly speaking, however, the snake was asleep when it bit Hamlet’s father.

                Exercises and Tests

                Present Participle

                Past Participle

                Perfect Participle

                Participle Mix

    • -ade -en -it -one -ound -ung
      -aught -ent -old -orn -own -unk
      -eld -ewn -ome -ost -um -ut

      A participle phrase that stands alone creates a fragment.

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