English Participles


English participles have several different functions in the English language. So let's make them clear and easy to understand.

What does "participle" mean?
What is a participle?

The word participle comes from a Latin word which means "a sharing, partaking" (or in other words, participation).

Participle definition

A participle is a form of the verb that is used together with another verb to form certain tenses.

For example:
  • Present participleI am eating an apple.

    EATING is a form of the verb EAT.

    It is used together with another verb (AM) to make the present progressive tense.

    So EATING is a participle.



  • Past participleI have washed the dishes.

    WASHED is a form of the verb WASH.

    It is used together with another verb (HAVE) to make the present perfect tense.

    So WASHED is a participle.



In English there are mainly two kinds of participles: the present participle and the past participle.

Present participle

The present participle ends in "-ing".

Examples of present participles:
  • Walking

  • Helping

  • Drinking

  • Taking
The present participle is used together with the verb BE to form the progressive tenses:

Example sentences:
  • They are dancing together right now.

  • John was painting the wall all morning.

  • I will be sleeping by the time you come back.

Click here to read the full article on the present participle.


Past participle

The past participle ends in "-d" or "-ed", in case of a regular verb, or differently, in case of an irregular verb.

Examples of past participles:
  • Walked

  • Helped

  • Drunk

  • Taken
The past participle is used together with the verb HAVE to form the perfect tenses:

Example sentences:
  • They have danced together in the past.

  • John had painted the wall before he sold the house.

  • I will have fallen asleep by 8 o'clock tomorrow.
The past participle is also used together with the verb BE to form passive sentences.

Example sentences:
  • The wall was painted by John.

  • The apple was eaten by me.

  • We were given some good advice.


Participles as adjectives

Both the present participle and the past participle can be used as adjectives.

For example:

Present participle Past participle        
Boring

Interesting

Confusing

Amazing

Annoying

Exciting
Bored

Interested

Confused

Amazed

Annoyed

Excited


Example sentences:


Present participle Past participle
The movie was very boring.

That book was so interesting.

His message was a bit confusing.

What an amazing speech!

You really are annoying . . .

James has an exciting job.
Why do you look so bored?

She is very interested in music.

I feel quite confused.

We were quite amazed to see her.

The audience became annoyed.

We are so excited!

Participles are used together with helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs).

Click here for the English Helping Verbs e-mail course.



Present Participle Practice

Read the following story. The present participles are underlined.

After reading, you can do the exercises.

At a Wedding

Bob and his mother are at his sister's wedding. His mother seems worried and keeps asking him questions.

Bob: Isn't this wonderful, Mom? Ann is getting married today.

wedding

Mom: Yes, yes. It is.

Bob: Aren't you excited?

Mom: Of course. I'm also feeling anxious. What if something goes wrong?

Bob: What could go wrong?

Mom: Well, where is the minister?

Bob: He's standing by the door talking to Uncle Pete.

Mom: Ok. Well, what about, Dan, the groom? Where is he hiding?

Bob: Remember, he is waiting in the room next door. He will come in when the music starts.

Mom: Fine. Maybe I'm just worrying too much. But I just want today to be perfect for your sister.

Bob: It will be. Relax. Look, everyone is here. Aunt Sara and Uncle Mike are talking to John and Pam over there. Sally and Louise are standing in the corner laughing about something. Even Grandpa Mike is enjoying himself. See? He is sitting in the front row smiling.

Mom: I suppose you're right.

Bob: I am. Just relax. And just think, after this, we will get to go to the reception and everyone will be able to have fun.

Mom: Oh! The reception. Oh dear. I should have called the caterer (person bringing food) and checked to be sure they had everything they needed.

Bob: I'm sure they are ok. They are professionals. They do this all the time.

caterer

Mom: But what if the ovens aren't working and the food gets cold?

Bob: They are bringing lots of food warmers to keep the food hot, remember?

Mom: Oh, right. And what about the drinks? What if the bartender (person who makes drinks) is having trouble finding the reception?

Bob: He works at the hotel where we are having the reception. I'm sure he knows how to get there.

Mom: And the dance floor. What if it is too small?

Bob: People will manage. Not everyone dances at the same time.

Mom: What if nobody dances?

Bob: People always dance at weddings, Mom.

dancing

Mom: I guess you're right. Maybe I should just relax.

Bob: Yes. Relax and enjoy the day. Your only daughter is getting married. This is exciting.

Mom: I know. But I'm going to miss her.

Bob: She's not going anywhere. She and Dave are staying in town. They'll be living ten minutes from you.

Mom: But if she's married, I don't want to bother her. I won't call her as much as I do now.

Bob: Mom, you aren't bothering her when you call. She loves talking to you.

Mom: Are you sure?

Bob: Yes, I'm sure. She told me this morning how much she loves you and how happy she is to be living close to you.

Mom: Really?

Bob: Yes.

Mom: Well, that makes me very happy to hear.

Bob: It should. Not all daughters enjoy being with their mothers.

Mom: This is true. Oh! The music is starting. That must mean that it's time for the wedding to start.

Bob: It does. Look, here comes Ann now. She looks beautiful!

Mom: Yes, she does!


And now, practice:

At a Wedding - Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

1. What does "anxious" mean?

a) nervous

b) sad

c) happy

d) angry

2. What does "caterer" mean?

a) a person who makes drinks

b) a person who plays music

c) a person who brings food

d) a person who works at weddings

3. What does "professional" mean?

a) happy

b) expert

c) understanding

d) unsure


Grammar Questions

1. He is sitting in _________ front row smiling.

a) a

b) the

c) an

d) that

2. They _________ lots of food warmers to keep the food hot remember?

a) bring

b) are bringing

c) brought

d) have brought

3. He works _________ the hotel where we are having the reception.

a) in

b) at

c) on

d) of


Comprehension Questions

1. Who is getting married?

_______________________________________________________________

2. What worries Bob's mother about the food?

_______________________________________________________________

3. What worries Bob's mother about the dance floor?

_______________________________________________________________

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