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Past Participles in English Grammar

FrozenA Past Participle is a verb form which indicates a past or completed action or time.

If you see some, you’ll recognize them:

walked
frozen
done
watched
typed
cleaned

Quite often you’ll hear people talking about the past participle as the -ed Form. This is because with regular verbs that’s how it’s formed; however be careful with this as irregular verbs don’t make it by adding -ed to the end and it can lead to confusion. With your TEFL class, stick to using the term: Past Participle.

Using the Past Participle

So once you have your past participle, what can you do with it?

perfect verb forms

First off, you need to use the past participle to make perfect verb forms (both active and passive):

I had eaten before you arrived.

She has cleaned the car.

They’ve done it!

The water has been frozen.

as an adjective

The past participle can also be used as an adjective.

The ruined castle stood in silhouette on the hill.

I ran my fingers through her tousled hair.

Have you got that laminated flashcard?

He cut himself on a broken window.

as a participle phrase

It can be used to form a participle phrase. These are really just adjective phrases with a past participle.

Annoyed by his incompetence, I sacked him on the spot.

Burnt to a crisp, I couldn’t eat the meat.

Forming the Past Participle

Most verbs in English are regular and to make the past participle it’s usually no more than just adding –ed or -d to the end:

walk > walked

annoy > annoyed

love > loved

However, with the irregular verbs in English it’s just a matter of learning them. There’s no easy rule to create the past participle.

eat > ate

do > done

come > came

fly > flew

The Past Participle and TEFL

If you are teaching English then it’s often useful to teach the past participle along with the verb as and when they arise. Verbs are often referenced with their 3 forms (i.e. infinitive, past form, past participle):

walk – walked – walked

freeze – froze – frozen

do – did – done

go – went – gone

read – read – read

is – was – been

climb – climbed – climbed

Useful Links

Perfect Verb Forms in English Grammar – an overview of making perfect verb forms

Participles‏‎ in English Grammar – a look at all participles in English

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