What’s a Participle?

A participle is a form of a verb that can be used as an adjective or combined with the verb to be to construct different verb tenses.

Present Participles

In English, all present participles end in -ing. In most cases, if the base form of a verb ends in a consonant, you simply add -ing. Walk becomes walking, eat becomes eating, think becomes thinking, and so on. If the verb ends with a silent -e, the -e is usually dropped before -ing is added. Move becomes moving, consume becomes consuming, meditate becomes meditating. For verbs that end in -ie, the -ie usually changes to -y before the -ing is added.

Present participles are also sometimes called gerund participles.

Past Participles

Most past participles are formed by adding -ed to the base form of a verb (or just -d if the verb already ends in -e. Walk becomes walked, move becomes moved, and so on. However, there are a handful of verbs with irregular past participles. Some common ones include think/thought, eat/eaten, go/gone, do/done, and feel/felt.

Combining Participles with to Be

Present participles combine with the verb to be to form certain verb tenses. The past continuous, present continuous, and future continuous tenses combine the verb to be with present participles:

I was walking. (past continuous) I am walking. (present continuous) I will be walking. (future continuous)

Past participles combine with the verb to be to create the passive voice. In a passive voice construction, the grammatical subject of the clause receives the action of the verb. Someone or something else performs the action.

The pie was eaten by Rodney. The test was passed by the whole class. The movie was watched by people around the country.

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