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Participles and Participial Phrases


Participles and Participial Phrases 

Example of participles and participial phrases in English grammar - explaining present and past participles usage.


A participle is a verb form that can be used as an adjective.

There are two kinds of participles: present participles, which always end in –ing, and past participles.
Regular verbs have past participles that end in –d or –ed.
Irregular verbs have irregularly formed past participles.

  • the exciting news 
  • a surprising outcome 

[Adding –ing to the verbs excite and surprise makes them present participles that function as adjectives.] 

  • a welcomed guest 
  • polished windows 
  • the worn book 

[Adding –d to the verb welcome and –ed to the verb polish makes them regular past participles.
Worn is the irregular past participle of the verb wear.
All three past participles function as adjectives.]


You will often see participles in verb phrases, such as have been welcoming or is worn.
If a participle appears with these helping verbs, it is not an adjective. It is part of the verb phrase.

Participial Phrases

A participial phrase consists of a participle and any modifiers or complements the participle has. The entire phrase is used as an adjective.

Like single-word adjectives, participial phrases modify nouns and pronouns.

  • Watching thoughtfully, Kent noticed a change in the solution’s temperature. [The present participle Watching is modified by thoughtfully. The whole phrase modifies the proper noun Kent.]
  • The moviegoers, concerned for the hero’s safety, sat on the edges of their seats. [The past participle concerned is modified by the prepositional phrase for the hero’s safety. The whole phrase modifies the noun moviegoers.]

Participles and Participial Phrases Quiz

Participles and Participial Phrases Quiz

Using the verb suggested in the parentheses, add a participle to create a participial phrase.
Hint: If you are not sure whether to use a present participle (–ing) or a past participle (–d, –ed), try both forms and choose the one that makes sense in the sentence.

Participles and Participial Phrases Quizizz Quiz

FAQ: Understanding Participles and Their Uses in English Grammar

1- What is the difference between a participle phrase and a verb phrase?
A participle phrase is a group of words that includes a participle (a verb form used as an adjective) and any modifiers or complements it may have. It acts as an adjective to provide more information about a noun. For example, in "The running water," "running" is a participle describing "water."

On the other hand, a verb phrase is a combination of a main verb and its auxiliaries (helping verbs) within a sentence. It expresses action or state of being. For example, in "She is running," "is running" is a verb phrase that describes the action of the subject.

2- What is the difference between a participle phrase and a prepositional phrase?
A participle phrase, as mentioned, contains a participle and functions adjectivally to modify a noun or pronoun. It adds detail or describes a condition. For instance, in "The book lying on the table is mine," "lying on the table" is a participle phrase modifying "book."

A prepositional phrase, however, begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun (the object of the preposition), along with any modifiers. It can function as an adjective or adverb. For example, in "He sat on the chair," "on the chair" is a prepositional phrase indicating location.

3- What is the difference between a participle clause and a participle phrase?
The terms "participle clause" and "participle phrase" are often used interchangeably, but there can be a subtle difference based on the context. A participle phrase typically consists of a participle and its modifiers, acting as an adjective. For example, "Barking loudly, the dog chased the postman."

A participle clause, while similar in structure to a participle phrase, often implies a clause that is dependent on the main clause of the sentence and provides additional information about time, reason, condition, or manner. The distinction is more apparent in more complex sentences or when the phrase/clause provides essential context to the action.

4- What are participles, with examples?
Participles are verb forms that function as adjectives, modifying nouns or pronouns. There are two types of participles:

Present Participle: Ending in -ing and indicating ongoing action or state. For example, "running" in "a running stream" describes the stream.

Past Participle: Often ending in -ed, -d, -t, -en, or -n, used to indicate a completed action or state when used as an adjective. For example, "broken" in "a broken vase" describes the vase.

Examples of participial phrases in sentences:
  • Surprised by the sudden noise, the cat leaped from the windowsill, its eyes wide with alarm.
  • The children, frightened by the thunderstorm, huddled together in the living room, listening intently to their grandmother's comforting stories.
  • Wearing a brightly colored dress, she danced through the crowd, her laughter mingling with the music.
  • Telling tales of old legends, the old man captured the imagination of everyone around the campfire.
Participles can be very versatile, acting as parts of verb phrases to form different tenses or as modifiers to nouns in participle phrases, adding detail or describing characteristics related to the action of the verb. Mastering using participial phrases in sentences would perfect your writing skills.
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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