A participle is a word which is partly a verb and partly an adjective. English has two participles: the present participle and the past participle.
Forms like running, singing, walking and working are called present participles. Forms like worked, broken, gone, written and walked are called past participles.
Uses of participles
To form verb forms
Participles are used with the auxiliary verbs be and have to make progressive, perfect and passive verb forms.
- She was crying. (present progressive)
- I have written a novel. (present perfect)
- We have been waiting for ages. (present perfect progressive)
- They were having dinner when we called. (past progressive)
- He had left before I called. (past perfect)
- They were forced to give up their claim. (passive)
- It was broken in the storm. (passive)
Participles As adjectives
Participles can be used as adjectives before nouns, or after be and other copular verbs.
- Barking dogs seldom bite.
- A burnt child dreads fire.
- He looked tired.
- The village appeared deserted.
- The children were excited.
Not all participles can be used as adjectives before nouns – for example, we can say a lost dog, but not a found dog. It is not possible to give clear rules.
Participles As adverbs
Sometimes participles are used like adverbs.
- She came running into the room.
- He ran screaming out of the room.
To form clauses
Participles can combine with other words into clause-like structures.
- Driven by rain, they took shelter under a tree.
- Stricken with grief, she threw herself on the body.
- The thief admitted having stolen the money.
- Deceived by his friends, he lost all hope.