What Is a Past Participle? | Definition & Examples

A past participle is a word derived from a verb that can be used as an adjective, to form perfect verb tenses, and to form the passive voice. It is one of two types of participles, along with present participles.

  • The past participles of regular verbs are usually formed by adding the suffix “-ed” (e.g., “learn” becomes “learned”).
  • The past participles of irregular verbs have numerous endings like “-en,” “-n,” “-ne,” and “-t” (e.g., “kneel” becomes “knelt”).
Examples: Past participles in a sentence
The children played with the excited dog.

The injured cyclist was helped by a passerby.

The train will have left by the time you arrive.

I had expected more people to come to the party.

How to form past participles

The past participles of regular verbs are typically formed by adding the suffix “-ed” (or “-d” if the word already ends in “e”). The past participle of a regular verb is identical to its past simple form (e.g., “canceled” and “canceled”).

Examples: Past participles of regular verbs
The respected novelist has been nominated for an award.

Encouraged by his friends, Reynold signed up for the race.

I have parked the car in a nearby garage.

The past participles of irregular verbs don’t follow a specific pattern and can have numerous endings, including “-en,” “-n,” “-ne,” and “-t.” The past participle of an irregular verb may not be the same as its past simple form (e.g., “stole” and “stolen”).

Examples: Past participles of irregular verbs
Haley is looking for her lost dog.

Hidden in the forest, the cabin is quite difficult to find.

Prita has bought me a gift.

Note
The past participles of some words are formed differently depending on whether you’re writing US or UK English:

  • In UK English, the past participles of two-syllable words that end in “l” are typically formed by doubling the “l” and adding “-ed” (e.g., “label” becomes “labelled“).
  • In US English, the “l” is doubled only when the final syllable is stressed (e.g., “control” becomes “controlled,” but “label” becomes “labeled”).

Using a past participle as an adjective

Past participles can be used (by themselves or as part of participial phrases) as adjectives to modify a noun or pronoun.

Examples: Past participles as adjectives
Joseph threw the burned toast in the bin.

The man was clearly agitated.

Rose swept up the shattered vase.

Participial phrases

A participial phrase is a phrase headed by a participle that modifies a noun or pronoun in the main clause of a sentence.

In order to avoid a dangling participle when you use a participial phrase at the start of a sentence, place the noun phrase being modified immediately after the participial phrase.

Examples: Participial phrases in a sentence
Surrounded by police officers, the bank robber gave up.

The audience, moved by the performance, applauded the actor.

Flights canceled due to the storm will not be reimbursed.

Note
If a participial phrase occurs at the beginning of a sentence, it should be followed by a comma. If a participial phrase comes in the middle of a sentence, it should be set off by commas unless it gives essential information.

Past participles and perfect verb tenses

The perfect verb tenses are formed using a past participle along with a conjugated form of the auxiliary verb “have.”

There are three perfect tenses:

  • Past perfect (used to describe something that happened before another past event)
  • Present perfect (used to describe an event that began in the past and continues in the present)
  • Future perfect (used to describe an event that will be completed by a specific time in the future)
Examples: Past participles and perfect verb tenses
When Ada woke up, she saw that it had rained overnight.

I have planned a road trip with my friends.

Tanya will have cleaned the house by the time you arrive.

Note
The perfect continuous tenses (e.g., “I had been swimming,” “she has been working”) are formed using a conjugated form of the verb “have,” the past participle of the verb “be” (i.e., “been”), and a present participle.

Past participles and the passive voice

A passive sentence is a sentence in which the subject is acted upon, instead of being the person or thing that performs the action. Passive sentences are typically formed using a conjugated form of the verb “be” along with a past participle.

Examples: Past participles and passive voice sentences
The pages of the book were torn by the child.

All the food is being eaten by the guests.

The parcel will be delivered before noon.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

 

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Frequently asked questions

What is the past participle of “go”?

The past participle of the verb “go” is “gone.” As an irregular verb, “go” doesn’t form its past participle by adding the suffix “-ed.” The past simple form of “go” is “went.”

What is the past participle of “drink”?

The past participle of the verb “drink” is “drunk.” As “drink” is an irregular verb, its past participle is not formed by adding “-ed” to the end of the word. The past simple form of “drink” is “drank.”

What is the past participle of “get”?

The past participle of the irregular verb “get” can be either “gotten” or “got,” depending on whether you’re using UK or US English.

  • In US English, “gotten” is standard, but “got” is considered acceptable.
  • In UK English, “got” is correct.
What is the past participle of “give”?

The past participle of the verb “give” is “given.” “Give” is an irregular verb, so it doesn’t form its past participle by adding the suffix “-ed.” The past simple form of “give” is “gave.”

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Ryan, E. (2023, February 06). What Is a Past Participle? | Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/verbs/past-participles/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.