Past participle: Wikis


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In linguistics, a participle (adjective participial, from Latin participium, a calque of Greek μετοχη "partaking") can be a verb or an adjective (participial phrase). It is a derivative of a non-finite verb, which can be used in compound tenses or voices, or as a modifier. Participles often share properties with other parts of speech, in particular adjectives and nouns.


Participles in Modern English

English verbs have two participles:

  1. called variously the present, active, imperfect, or progressive participle, it is identical in form to the gerund; the term present participle is sometimes used to include the gerund. The term gerund-participle is also used.
  2. called variously the past, passive, or perfect participle, it is usually identical to the verb's preterite (past tense) form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ.

Examples of participle formation include:

to talk talked talking regular
to hire hired hiring
to do did done doing irregular
to say said saying
to eat ate eaten eating
to write wrote written writing
to beat beat beaten beating
to sing sang sung singing

The present participle in English is in the active voice and is used for:

  • forming the progressive aspect: Jim was sleeping.
  • modifying a noun as an adjective: Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • modifying a verb or sentence in clauses: Broadly speaking, the project was successful.

The present participle in English has the same form as the gerund, but the gerund acts as a noun rather than a verb or a modifier. The word sleeping in Your job description does not include sleeping is a gerund and not a present participle.

The past participle may be used in both active and passive voices:

  • forming the perfect aspect: The chicken has eaten.
  • forming the passive voice: The chicken was eaten.
  • modifying a noun, with active sense: our fallen comrades
  • modifying a noun, with passive sense: the attached files
  • modifying a verb or sentence, with passive sense: Seen from this perspective, the problem presents no easy solution.

As noun-modifiers, participles usually precede the noun (like adjectives), but in many cases they can or must follow it:

  • The visiting dignitaries devoured the baked apples.
  • Please bring all the documents required.
  • The difficulties encountered were nearly insurmountable.

Participles in other languages


Sireniki Eskimo

Sireniki Eskimo language, an extinct Eskimo-Aleut language, has separate sets of adverbial participles and adjectival participles. Interestingly, adverbial participles are conjugated to reflect the person and number of their implicit subjects; hence, while in English a sentence like "If I were a marksman, I would kill walruses" requires two full clauses (in order to distinguish the two verbs' different subjects), in Sireniki Eskimo one of these may be replaced with an adverbial participle (since its conjugation will indicate the subject).


The Arabic verb has two participles: an active participle (اسم الفاعل) and a passive participle (اسم المفعول ), and the form of the participle is predictable by inspection of the dictionary form of the verb (see Arabic grammar). These participles are inflected for gender, number and case, but not person. Arabic participles are employed syntactically in a variety of ways: as nouns, as adjectives or even as verbs. Their uses vary across varieties of Arabic. In general the active participle describes a property of the syntactic subject of the verb from which it is derived, whilst the passive participles describes the object. For example, from the verb كتب kataba, the active participle is kaatibun كاتب and the passive participle is maktuubun مكتوب. Roughly these translate to writing and written respectively. However, they have different, derived lexical uses. كاتب kaatibun is further lexicalized as writer, author and مكتوب maktuubun as letter.

In Classical Arabic these participles do not participate in verbal constructions with auxiliaries the same way as their English counterparts do, and rarely take on a verbal meaning in a sentence (a notable exception being participles derived from motion verbs as well as participles in Qur'anic Arabic). In certain dialects of Arabic however, it is much more common for the participles, especially the active participle, to have verbal force in the sentence. For example, in dialects of the Levant, the active participle is a structure which describes the state of the syntactic subject after the action of the verb from which it is derived has taken place. Aakel, the active participle of akal (to eat), describes one's state after having eaten something. Therefore it can be used in analogous way to the English present perfect tense (i.e.,Ana aakel انا آكل meaning I have eaten, I have just eaten or I have already eaten). Other verbs, such as raaH راح (to go) give a participle (raayeH رايح) which has a progressive (is going...) meaning. The exact tense or continuity of these participles is therefore determined by the nature of the specific verb (especially its Aktionsart and its transitivity) and the syntactic/semantic context of the utterance. What ties them all together is that they describe the subject of the verb from which they are derived. The passive participles in certain dialects can be used as a sort of passive voice, but more often than not, are used in their various lexicalized senses as adjectives or nouns.


Compared with English, Latin has an additional future tense participle:

  • present active participle: present stem + -ns (gen. –ntis) E.g. educāns "teaching"
  • perfect passive participle: participial stem + -us, -a, -um E.g. educatus "(having been) taught"
  • future active participle: participial stem + -ūrus, -ūra, -ūrum E.g. educātūrus "about to teach"
  • future passive participle: present stem + -ndus, -nda, -ndum E.g. educāndus "about to be taught". This form is often called the Gerundive and normally has a modal sense of obligation.

Old English

  • In Old English, regular, or weak, present participles ended in -ende or -iende depending on verb class. In Middle English, various forms were used in different regions: -ende (SW, SE, Midlands), -inde (SW, SE), -and (N), -inge (SE). This latter form eventually fell together with the suffix -ing, used to form verbal nouns.
  • Strong, or irregular, past participles were marked with a ge- prefix, as are most strong and weak past participles in Dutch and High German today.


Among Indo-European languages, the Lithuanian language is unique for having thirteen different participial forms of the verb, that can be grouped into five when accounting for inflection by tense. Some of these are also inflected by gender and case. For example, the verb eiti ("to go, to walk") has the active participle forms einąs/einantis ("going, walking", present tense), ėjęs (past tense), eisiąs (future tense), eidavęs (past frequentative tense), the passive participle forms einamas ("being walked", present tense), eitas (“walked“ past tense), eisimas (future tense), the adverbial participles einant ("while [he, different subject] is walking" present tense), ėjus (past tense), eisiant (future tense), eidavus (past frequentative tense), the semi-participle eidamas ("while [he, the same subject] is going, walking") and the participle of necessity eitinas ("that which needs to be walked"). The active, passive and the semi- participles are inflected by gender and the active, passive and necessity ones are inflected by case.


There are two basic participles:

  • Present active participle: formed by dropping the -ons of the nous form of a verb(except with être) and then adding ant: marchant "walking", étant "being"
  • Past participle: formation varies according to verb group: vendu "sold", mis "placed", marché "walked", été "been", and fait "done". The sense of the past participle is passive as an adjective and in most verbal constructions with "être", but active in verbal constructions with "avoir", in reflexive constructions, and with some intransitive verbs.[1]

Compound participles are possible:

  • Present perfect participle: ayant appelé "having called", étant mort "being dead"
  • Passive perfect participle: étant vendu "being sold, having been sold"


  • Present participles are used as qualifiers as in "un insecte volant" (a flying insect) and some other contexts. They are never used in forming tenses. The present participle is used in subordinate clauses, usaully with en; "Je marche, en parlant".
  • Past participles are used as qualifiers for nouns "la table cassée" (the broken table), to form compound tenses such as the perfect "Vous avez dit"(you have said) and to for the passive voice "il a été tué"(he/ it has been killed).


In Spanish, the present or active participle (participio activo or participio de presente) of a verb is traditionally formed with one of the suffixes -ante, -ente or -iente, but modern grammar does not consider it a verbal form any longer, as they become adjectives or nouns on their own: e.g. amante "loving" or "lover", viviente "living" or "live".

The continuous is constructed much as in English, using a conjugated form of estar (to be) plus the gerundio (sometimes called a verbal adverb or adverbial participle as it does not decline) with the suffixes -ando (for -ar verbos) or -iendo (for both -ir and -er verbs): for example, estar haciendo means to be doing (haciendo being the gerundio of hacer, to do), and there are related constructions such as seguir haciendo meaning to keep doing (seguir being to continue).

The past participle (participio pasado or pasivo) is regularly formed with one of the suffixes -ado, -ido, but several verbs have an irregular form ending in -to (e.g. escrito, visto), or -cho (e.g. dicho, hecho). The past participle is used generally as an adjective meaning a finished action, or to form the passive voice, and it is variable in gender and number in these uses; and also it is used to form the compound tenses (as in English) in which it has only one form, the singular male one. Some examples:

As an adjective
  • las cartas escritas "the written letters"
In the passive voice, accompanied by the verb "ser" (to be) and "por" (by)
  • Los ladrones fueron capturados por la policia "The thieves were caught by the police."
To form compound tenses
  • Ella ha escrito una carta. "She has written a letter."


Verb: tehdä (to do)

Present active: teke
Present passive: tehtävä
Past active: tehnyt
Past passive: tehty
Agent participle (passive): teke (done by...)

Negative participle: tekemätön'


Verb: слышать slyšat' (to hear, imperfective aspect)

Present active: слышащий slyšaščij "hearing", "who hears"
Present passive: слышимый slyšimyj "being heard", "that is heard", "audible"
Past active: слышавший slyšavšij "who heard", "who was hearing"
Past passive: слышанный slyšannyj "that was heard", "that was being heard"
Adverbial present active: слыша slyša "(while) hearing"
Adverbial past active: слышав slyšav "having been hearing"

Verb: услышать uslyšat' (to hear, perfective aspect)

Past active: услышавший uslyšavšyj "who has heard"
Past passive: услышанный uslyšannyj "that has been heard"
Adverbial past active: услышав uslyšav "having heard"


Verb: правя pravja (to do, imperfective aspect)

Present active: правещ pravešt
Past active aorist: правил pravil
Past active imperfect: правел pravel (only used in verbal constructions)
Past passive: правен praven
Adverbial present active: правейки pravejki

Verb: направя napravja (to do, perfective aspect)
Past active aorist: направил napravil
Past active imperfect: направел napravel (only used in verbal constructions)
Past passive: направен napraven

Kinds of participles in various languages

Adverbial and adjectival

In some languages, a distinction between adverbial participle and adjectival participle can be made. See причастие and деепричастие in Russian grammar, határozói igenév and melléknévi igenév in Hungarian grammar, or imiesłów in Polish grammar. Also many Eskimo languages make such a distinction, see for details e.g. the sophisticated participle system of Sireniki Eskimo.

Perfect passive participle

The perfect passive participle is the past participle expressed in the passive voice, for example

  • The dog, having been praised by its master, was happy, or more commonly, The dog, praised by its master, was happy.

Perfect participles of deponent verbs

Deponent verbs are typically passive in form but active in meaning and their participles thus take the form but not the meaning of the perfect passive participle. In Latin:

  • precatus "having prayed" (from the verb precor, precari, precatus sum)

Compare with a non-deponent equivalent:

  • laudatus "having been praised" (from the verb laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatus)

See also

External links


  1. ^ Maurice Grevisse, Le Bon Usage, 10th edition, § 776.


  • Participles from the American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996).

Redirecting to Participle

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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