Module 9, Verbals and Phrases, Lesson 2:

Participles and Participial Phrases



A participle is a form of a verb that needs a helping verb. There are two participles, the present participle and the past participle.
Present Present Participle
(needs to be)
Past Past Participle
(needs have)
dance(s) dancing danced danced
eat(s) eating ate eaten
become(s) becoming became become
  • The present participle of all verbs ends in ing.
  • The past participle of regular verbs ends in ed.
  • The past participles of irregular verbs have different forms.

In order to work as a verb in a sentence, all participles must have a helping verb. A participle without a helping verb is being used as either a participle or a gerund. (We'll get to gerunds later.)

Used as a verb:
We were singing as we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter was laughing and fell out of his chair.
Used as a participle:
Singing, we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter, laughing, fell out of his chair.

Past participles and present participles can be used as adjectives in sentences. When used as adjectives, we identify them as participles instead of verbs.

The burning sun beat down on us. (burning tells what kind of sun)
The broken flowerpot lay on the ground. (broken tells what kind of flowerpot)
The museum was closed when we got there. (closed is a predicate adjective describing museum)

Participial Phrases

A participial phrase is made up of the participle along with its objects and modifiers.
Singing a silly song, we walked along the sidewalk.
Peter, laughing at Allie's joke, fell out of his chair.

Participial phrases act as adjectives because they modify nouns.

Singing a silly song, we walked along the sidewalk.
(Singing a silly song describes "we".)

Peter, laughing at Allie's joke, fell out of his chair.
(Laughing at Allie's joke describes Peter.)

Practice What You've Learned

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Part 1

Click first on a participle then the noun it modifies. Repeat for each participle in the sentence. Don't include participles that are part of verb phrases.
The old, abandoned house on the hill seemed to be haunted.
The photographs, faded and crumbling, showed what fashions had been like during the Civil War.
It took a long time to complete that reading assignment.
The eagerly awaited movie finally opened and was attended by devoted fans of the series.
My little brother acts like he has jumping beans in him.
Singing, we left music class and went to our drawing class.
The scrubbed and polished floors are still wet, so be careful.
The raging storm crippled the Northwest with its towering mountains of snow.
The sweating students waited impatiently for the repair man to fix the ailing air conditioner.
The tired students handed their finished assignments to the teacher.

Part 2

Click on all the words in the participial phrase(s) in each sentence.
The red car driving beside us belongs to a friend of my parents.
When living in captivity, many animals survive longer than those living in the wild.
Hidden away by Merlin, Arthur grew up unaware of his true identity.
Invited by the group, the new student joined the others at the movies.
The stand selling my favorite cookies is only two blocks away.
Standing in the tall grass, the zebras seemed to disappear.
The director, gesturing to the actors, indicated where he wanted them to stand.
Pouncing and tumbling in the snow, the red pandas entertained the zoo guests.
The vines growing along the back fence will produce blackberries in the summer.
Bombed during the war, many European churches had to be rebuilt.