The Participle

The Participle :

Participle is a non-finite verb form that can be used in compound forms of the verb or as an adjective.

English has two participle forms.

1. The Past Participle
2. The Present Participle

According to English Grammar, the form of a verb ending in ING is often called Present Participle. When these forms are used like nouns, they are called Verbal Nouns or Gerunds.

Present Participles….Past Participles

1. Seeing….seen
2. Moving….moved
3. Breaking….broken
4. Walking….walked
5. Going….gone
6. Drinking….drunk
7. Making….made
8. Beginning….begun
9. Opening….opened
10. Eating…..eaten

Note :

The Past Participles of regular verbs end in ED just like the past tense. Present Participle and Past Participle are not very good names. It is not correct also. Because both forms can be used to talk about the past, present or future.

Hearing the sound, the man came out.

The word HEARING qualifies the noun MAN as an Adjective does. It is formed from the verb HEAR and governs an object. So, the word HEARING partakes of the nature of both a verb and adjective and is called a participle. A participle is a word which does the function of both a verb and an adjective.

Hearing the sound is a phrase. It is called a Participle Phrase.

Here, it does the work of an adjectival phrase.

Study the following examples of participles.

1. We met a woman, carrying a basket.
2. Ringing the door bell, he asked for admission.
3. The boatman, thinking all was safe, tried to cross the flooded river.
4. Who is the man, talking to Miss Mary?
5. Deeply shocked, I decided never to speak to her again.

Analysis :

Carrying a basket - Participle Phrase.
Carrying - Present participle qualifies "woman"
a basket - object of "carrying"

Ringing the door bell - Participle Phrase.
Ringing - Present participle qualifies "he"
The door bell - object of "ringing"

Thinking – Participle - qualifies "The boat man"
"all was safe" - Noun clause object of "thinking"

talking - present participle - qualifies "the man"

Deeply shocked - (past) participle phrase
shocked - past participle - qualifies "I"
Deeply - adverb - modifies "shocked"

Participles cannot always be used as adjectives before nouns. When a participle is placed before a noun, it expresses some permanent characteristic of the noun. It is more like an adjective than a verb.

An interesting book…

Here, "interesting" is present participle and qualifies "the book".

It gives to understand, the book will interest any and everyone. It indicates more or less a permanent characteristic of the book.

'Screaming children" - children who always scream
Did you hear that child screaming?
Here, "screaming" indicates a single action of the child.

Study the following.

1. The only place left - the only place that was left
2. The men taking part - the men who were taking part
3. The people concerned - the people who were affected
4. The solution adopted - the solution that was agreed upon
5. Those taking part - Those people who were taking part
6. A spent swimmer - a swimmer who is exhausted
7. A burnt child - a child that is burnt
8. A painted picture - a picture that is painted
9. A rolling stone - a stone that rolls
10. A sparkling water - water that sparkles
11. A creaking door - a door that creaks

Note :

Both the past participles and the present participles are used adjectively. The past participle is passive in meaning and present participle is active in meaning.

There are some past participles that can be used aa adjectives with an active meaning.

1. a retired officer
2. a grown-up daughter
3. a fallen angel
4. vanished civilizations

1. a well read person
2. a much-travelled man
3. recently-arrived immigrants

These are past participles with an adverb or adverb participle.

A perfect-participle represents an action as completed some past-time.

1. Having done my shopping, I returned home.
2. Having rested, they continued their journey.
3. Having failed to qualify as a doctor, I took up teaching.
4. Having finished all my work, I went out.

Study the following examples.

1. Being unable to help in any other way, I gave her some cash.
2. Considering everything, it was not a bad holiday.
3. I found him, drinking whisky.
4. Do you think you can get the radio working?
5. A rolling stone gathers no mass.
6. My tattered coat needs mending.
7. She looks worried.
8. It was said that he is the most learned man of this time.
9. Coming home, Bob met Ann.
10. Blown down by the storm, the tree lay in the road.

A Participle is a verbal adjective.

He played a losing game.
[losing - present participle & qualifies game]

Like a verb, participle may govern a noun / pronoun.

Hearing the noise, the child woke up.
[the noun, noise is the object of the participle hearing]

A participle, like a verb, may be modified by an adverb.

Beautifully dancing, she also began to sing.
[Beautifully - adverb - modifies the participle "dancing"]

Like an adjective it may be compared.
World peace is the most pressing need of our time.

The weather being fine, I went out.
[In the sentence, the participle phrase is used absolutely. It has no inter-action with the sentence. It stands separate.]

1. God willing, we shall have another good monsoon.
2. The Prime Minister having arrived, the function began.
3. The wind being favourable, the ship set sail.
4. The sea being smooth, we went for swimming.
5. The proprietor being absent, the sales came down.

It may be noted, the participle phrases stand apart from the main sentences. They do not give particular meaning: The meaning is general. At the same time, the phrase has its own effect, applicable to the sentence. They are absolute phrases.

1. Being a very cold day, I didn't stir-out. (not correct)
2. It being a very cold day, I didn't stir out. (correct)

1. Entering the room, the light was not quite enough. (not correct)
2. Entering the room, I found the light was not quite enough. (correct)

1. Sitting on the parapet, a scorpion stung him. (not correct)
2. While he was sitting on the parapet, a scorpion stung him. (correct)

Note :

In the above sentences, it may be found that the participle phrases do not agree with the subject in the case of “not correct” sentences.

It may be noted, since the participle is a verb – adjective, it must be attached to some noun or pronoun. It must always have a proper subject reference.

The following sentences are correct as usage permits them.

1. Taking everything into consideration, the Supreme Court ordered for the setting up of the river tribunal.

2. Considering his capabilities, he might have done bettet.

3. Roughly speaking, the population of the town may be one lakh.

Note :

The participles in these sentences are left without proper subject of reference. Yet they give some kind of necessary meaning to the sentence.

1. Dagger (being) in hand, the accused rushed on magistrate.
2. Supper (having been) over, the guests went out for a walk.

Note :

The participles in the above sentences are understood.

Participle Clauses

1. I saw a girl standing in the pond.
2. I saw a girl who was standing in the pond.

1. Most of the people invited to the reception were old friends.
2. Most of the people who had been invited to the reception were old friends.

1. When he saw the policeman, he hid behind a fence.
2. Seeing the policeman, he hid behind a fence.

1. Spring advancing, the swallows appear.
2. When spring advances, the swallows appear.

1. God willing, it may rain.
2. If God is willing, it may rain.

Note :

Absolute phrases or participle phrases can be changed into subordinate clauses and vice versa.

The participle phrase is usually adjectival. There are three main structures in which it is used.

The pattern is….

Adjectival + Subject + Verb + the rest of the sentence
Going into the chemist's / I / met / Mrs. Booma.

(Being) covered in mud / the footballers / played / on.
Surprised by the sudden rain, / she / quickened / her pace.

The participle phrase comes at the end.

The pattern is…

Subject + Verb + Adjectival

1. Nicola sat in the sun wondering what the future would bring.
2. I walked slowly on aching in every joint.
3. The child was lying there trying to get up.

The participial phrase may also come in the middle of the sentence.

The pattern is….

Subject + Adjective + Verb

1. My car + skidding wildly + crashed into a tree.
2. The damage + caused by the storm + was dreadful.
3. The coffee + served after dinner + was black and strong.

Sometimes the participial phrase is adverbial. It then usually expresses reason.

This adverbial phrase can come in the same three positions as the adjectival. But the commonest position is at the beginning of the sentence.

1. Having lost his purse once, Reagan became more cautious.
2. Thinking she must be late, Mrs. Booma took a taxi.
3. Not wishing to make a noise, I took off my shoes.
4. Feeling ill, my wife decided to go to bed.
5. Tired by a hard day's work, Mr. West stayed at home.

Study the following. Study the participial phrases in the sentences below.

1. Generally speaking, we receive what we deserve.
2. Having gained truth, keep truth.
3. The fat of the body is fuel laid away for use.
4. Encouraged by his wife, he persevered.
5. Mr. Davis, looking beautifully sunburnt, told us about his holiday on the Rivieria.
6. We lay in the tent listening to the rain, falling on the light canvas.
7. The train, arriving at platform four, is the fast one to Delhi.
8. The person, climbing up the cliff, looks as if he will fall.
9. Surprised by the sudden rain, the little girl ran for shelter.
10. Anu could not move the table screwed as it was to the floor.

Study the following. Note the Participial Phrases and the clauses.

1. While I was walking along the street one day, I met with an accident.

2. Walking along the street one day, I met with an accident.

1. Having done my day's work, I came out to look at the sunset.

2. After I had done my day's work, I came out to look at the beautiful sunset.

1. Following my advice, you will reach your target.

2. If you follow my advice, you will reach your target.

1. Possessing all the advantages of education, wealth and status, he failed to make a name in life.

2. Even though he possessed all the advantages of education, wealth and status, he failed to make a name in life.

1. Having finished her shopping, Mrs. Jones went home.

2. Mrs. Jones had finished her shopping. She went home.


  1. The Past Participle
  2. The Present Participle
  3. Verbal Nouns
  4. Participle Phrase
  5. An Adjectival Phrase
  6. Participle Clauses
  7. Participial Phrases

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