Participles and Their Usage in Writing

What are Participles and How to Use Them

Participles are forms of verbs that can be used in sentences to modify verbs, nouns, noun phrases and verb phrases. Participles can take the position of an adverb or adjective (they can act as). Participles can either be active (e.g., taking) or passive (e.g., taken). They end with -ed or -ing except for irregular verbs. It is very essential to understand different participles because it helps you perfect your command in English. Let us see some of these participles with examples.

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Types of participles

Participles are identified with certain verbal tenses. In English, there are two major types of participles. These are present participle and past participle and not so common the perfect participle. In this article, we will take a look at all the three types of participles.

  • Present participle.

What is a present participle? The present participle shows that the action being done is continuous. We add -ing to the infinitive of a verb to show its present participle form. To form the continuous tense, ‘to be’ can be added to an auxiliary verb. For present participles -ing takes the form of the verb; this is the same for irregular verbs too. We can say that almost all verbs with an -ing ending are present participles.

The present participle can be used in many ways in a sentence. They include;

  •    Usagein progressive tenses.

This shows that the activity is in progress and is happening at the time of speech.

An example in sentence:

He is running along the road. (running is part of the continuous verb phrase ‘is running’)

He was reading along the road. (reading is part of the continuous verb phrase ‘was reading’)

  •    A present participle can be used as a gerund.

A gerund usually functions as a noun but behaves like a verb in a given clause, i.e., it has the -ing ending. When a present participle acts as a noun it can be the subject, direct object, indirect object, objects of prepositions and subject complements in sentences.

An example in sentence:

Running along the road makes tom tired. (running is the subject of the verb tired.)

Mike likes running along the road because it makes him burn calories. (Running the direct object of the verb burn.)

She gave reading Tom a chance. (reading is the indirect object of the verb gave.)

Tom sat down instead of kneeling when he was asked by his maths teacher to do so. (Kneeling is the object of proposition instead of.)

James’ favourite field track is racing because he won the last Olympics. (racing is the subject complement of the verb is)

  •    Adjective

A verb can act as an adjective telling us more about the noun in the sentence.

An example in sentence:

Look at the running man doing some exercises in the field. (running is used as an adjective)

I am a talking woman in our family (talking is used as an adjective)

  •    It can also be used together with other words.

Example in a sentence:

He was almost knocked running along the road.

We saw him running when the police officers were chasing him.

  • Past participle

In a sentence, the past participle is used to show the passive form of action. An -ed is added to the infinitive of any regular verb. For irregular verbs, their past participles can be formed with endings such as -en, -t, -d and -n. For example, taken, might, heard, found. For other irregular verbs, their past participles remain the same as the base form, such as shut and read.

Uses of past participles in a sentence.

  •    Used in the perfect tense

A perfect tense indicates that an action has been completed.

Example in sentences:

She has written the thank you note but has not given it to her uncle yet.

She had written the note a week before she went back to her hometown.

  •    Used in a passive voice.

A verb is said to be in its passive form when the subject experiences the action by the verb.

Example in sentences:

Schools are built by the government because it is their duty.

Schools were built for the public by the government.

  •    Adjective

A verb in its past participle form can act as an adjective telling us more about the noun in the sentence.

Example in a sentence:

The washed car is on display today. (washed is the adjective telling us more about the car on display.)

  •    Past participles can also be used with other words.

Example in sentences:

The house painted yesterday is a mansion.

She had her house painted.

  • Perfect participle.

An active sentence can be formed with a past participle form of a verb. In perfect participle, there is always a time space between the action being partaken that indicates that the action was perfected in the past. A past participle can be used with having to show that one action happened after the other.

Example in a sentence:

Having eaten their lunch, the kids went to the playground.

In present participle form.

The child came running out of the house. In this sentence, the actions both happened at the same time.

Examples of participles.

One can recognize a participle in a sentence. There are regular and irregular verbs. We shall look at examples of both and their participles.

Regular verbs

Verb Present participle Past participle
help helping helped
cry crying cried
cook cooking cooked
jump jumping jumped
criticize criticizing criticized
mangle mangling mangled

Irregular verbs

Verb Present participle Past participle
learn learning learnt
break breaking broken
throw throwing thrown
shake shaking shaken
stand standing stood
weep weeping wept


Irregular verbs whose past participle remains the same as the base

Verb Past participle  
shut shut
run run
hit Hit
Hurt hurt
cut cut
cost cost

Examples of perfect participle

Having learned

Having eaten

Having prayed

Participles in sentences

  •     The present participle has been used as a continuous form of the verb.


They have been working on the project since last year January.

I will be staying over for the night.

They were singing melodiously until the congregation in church applauded.

  •    Present participles can be used after the verb of motion or position.


She lay staring at the sky the whole afternoon.

She went jogging the entire morning, and she is not back yet.

I came running towards the house.

  •    Present participle after verbs of perception

The pattern for writing such sentences is verb + object + present participle


I heard someone screaming at our neighbour’s house yesternight

She watched the airplane flying away with amusement.

  •    The present participle as an adjective


They were trapped in the burning car, and no one dared go near to help them.

The dog barked in the sinking boat when the fishermen jumped off.

  •    Present participle showing two actions taking place at the same time.


Smiling to herself, she walked towards the crowds.

The child came out of the house screaming for help.

  •    Present participle to explain reason.

Instead of using words such as, since or because to show reason, the present participle can be used. In this instance, the participle is used to explain the reason for action.


She screamed, thinking somebody was in the house.

Sensing danger, he ran very fast to the police station to take cover

She was hiding under the bed to avoid being punished.

Past participle

-ed is added to a verb to form its participle.

Examples of past participles in sentences include:

  •    Present perfect.

She has not found her keys yet.

They have not finished their projects due to the short time they had been given.

  •    Past perfect

James was punished as he had not finished his homework.

  •    Future perfect

They will have eaten by the time their mother comes home from work.

  •    Conditional perfect

If faith had not eaten the spoilt apples, she would not be sick.

If we had not lost our map, we could have found our way out of the forest.

  •    Passive voice

The cars were stolen last night from the car repair shop.

  •    Past participles as adjectives.

The stolen cars were found at the port by unknown people.

Eric’s wound on his leg was properly treated as he did what the doctor had ordered him.

It is good to understand that it is participles that determine tenses and if you cannot use the right tenses in your sentences then you are definitely going to break grammar rules and your work will read poor. It is good to go through various applications of participles in sentences so that you can be able to understand when and how to use them in your writings.

Your proficiency is sure to increase when you go though this guide step by step because all the participles have been explained and examples given to ensure you understand it well.

You can find out more about the definition and use of infinitive.

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