Glossary: participle


Verbs in English have two participles, called present participle (e.g. walking, taking) and past participle (e.g. walked, taken).

Unfortunately, these terms can be confusing to learners, because:

  • they don’t necessarily have anything to do with present or past time
  • although past participles are used as perfects (e.g. has eaten) they are also used as passives (e.g. was eaten).
  • He is walking to school. [present participle in a progressive]
  • He has taken the bus to school. [past participle in a perfect]
  • The photo was taken in the rain. [past participle in a passive]

The present participle is sometimes called the -ing participle or gerund participle. The past participle is also called the -ed participle. A present participle clause (also called an -ing-clause) is a clause with a present participle as its Head verb. Example:

  • Chewing on a sandwich, Pete tried to make a phone call at the same time.

A past participle clause (also called an -ed clause) is a clause with a past participle as its Head verb. Example:

  • Kate flung herself onto the sofa, exhausted by a long day's work.


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