Past Participle

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A past participle is a word derived from a verb that can be used as:

  • an adjective,
  • to form perfect verb tenses,
  • and to form the passive voice.

It is one of two types of participles, along with present participles.

See examples of 50 sentences of active and passive voice.

Grammar of past participle

The past participle is one of the most important parts of English grammar. It’s used to express perfect tenses and to form the passive voice. It’s also a useful tool for writing sentences that describe actions that started in the past and are still happening today.

Formation of the past participle

The past participles of regular verbs are typically formed by adding the suffix “-ed” (or “-d” if the word already ends in “e”). The past participle of a regular verb is identical to its past simple form (e.g., “worked” and “worked”).

Examples:

Verb Simple Past Past Participle
work worked worked
accept accepted accepted
blink blinked blinked

The past participles of irregular verbs don’t follow a specific pattern and can have numerous endings, including “-en,” “-n,” “-ne,” and “-t.” The past participle of an irregular verb may not be the same as its past simple form (e.g., “rose” and “risen”).

Verb Simple Past Past Participle
fly flew flown
rise rose risen
feel felt felt

Perfect tenses

The past participle is generally used with an auxiliary (or helping) verb: has, have, or had, to express the perfect aspect, a verb construction that describes events occurring in the past that are linked to a later time, usually the present.

Verb tenses that use the Past Participle

The past participle is used in several tenses, especially perfect forms. For example,

  • the Present Perfect – You’ve met David before.
  • the Past Perfect – We had finished the work.
  • the Future Perfect – She’ll have finished by 10:00.
  • the Third Conditional – If I had worked harder I would have passed the exam.
  • modals in the past – She could have studied more.
  • the Passive form – I was invited to a conference

Adjectives

Another way that past participles are used in a sentence is as adjectives. These can be difficult to distinguish from other types of adjectives, but they are helpful when it comes to describing an action or emotion. You can use a past participle as an adjective to modify a noun (or noun equivalent).

Example:

  • We were exhausted after cleaning up the shed.
  • I was bored, waiting for the bus.

Participial phrases

A participial phrase is a phrase headed by a participle that modifies a noun or pronoun in the main clause of a sentence. A participle phrase acts like an adjective. In the examples below, the participle phrases are shaded and the past participles are in bold:

  • Flights canceled due to the storm will not be reimbursed.
  • Surrounded by police officers, the bank robber gave up.
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