What Are Participles

Posted: February 27th, 2014, 3:44 pm   By: brittany.corners

“Here is Subzero! Now . . . plain zero!”—everyone’s favorite pun-crazy Governator, after dispatching of a hockey-themed assassin in the participially named documentary “The Running Man”

This week we examine the participle, a word formed from a verb and used as an adjective. How derivative, right?

Unfortunately, our society always reminds us that we live in derivative times:

  • Interchangeable news programs on indistinguishable networks cover an election between two guys we’ve voted on before.
  • Science proves the homogenization of pop music, certifying that we actually do hear the same song over and over (and over) again.
  • At the box office, we hungrily anticipate the sequel to a dystopian movie based on a series of post-apocalyptic books exactly like numerous books and movies about identical things.
  • The most magnificent show on television (and the most magnificent song about it!) is a spinoff.
  • Even complaining about unoriginality is unoriginal.

Because they emerge from a verb stem, participles fit right in our derivative world. Participles are not verbs, but they are verbals: forms of verbs functioning as other parts of speech. Specifically, participles function as adjectives to modify nouns and pronouns.

This will make more sense as we explore how to create the two main types of participles: present and past.


Present participles always end in ing.

Example: The meddling teenagers were transformed into jawsome shark-human hybrids.
*The participle meddling comes from the verb meddle and modifies teenagers.


Most past participles end in ed. Because of irregular verbs, however, we have a variety of endings—en, ne, d, n, and t—and no easy rules for making them. The best way to figure out the past participle for a given irregular verb is to consult your dictionary.

Example: The incredulous police realized their suspect had shattered the bounds of human achievement: He blew a 0.548%!!
*The participle amazed comes from the verb amaze and modifies police.

To Be Continued

We’ll have to save participial phrases and dangling participles for another day. For now, you’ve got the basics.

Now get out there and work it, smoochie!