Past Participles in English Grammar

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Irregular English test on table with pencil
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In English grammar, the past participle is the third principal part of a verb, created by adding -ed, -d, or -t to the base form of a regular verb. (The past participle forms of regular verbs—such as looked, worked, and wished—are identical to the past tense.) Also called the "ed" form or "ed" participle.

The past participle forms of irregular verbs have various endings, including -d (said), -t (slept), and -n (broken).

(You'll find the past participle forms of the most common irregular verbs listed at Principal Parts of Irregular Verbs.) Another term for the past participle of an irregular verb is "-en" form

The past participle is used with the auxiliary has, have, or had to express the perfect aspect. In addition, the past participle is used with a form of the auxiliary be to express the passive voice.

"All that had occurred was that Psmith, finding Mr Cootes's eye and pistol functioning in another direction, had sprung forward, snatched up a chair, hit the unfortunate man over the head with it, relieved him of his pistol, leaped to the mantlepiece, removed the revolver which lay there, and now, holding both weapons in an attitude of menace, was regarding him censoriously through a gleaming eyeglass."
(P.G. Wodehouse, Leave It to Psmith, 1923)

Past Participles of Regular Verbs

  •  "The spotless white concrete room was filled with sunlight."
    (Flannery O'Connor, "Greenleaf." The Kenyon Review, 1957)
  • "Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like."
    (Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid. HarperCollins, 2007)
  • "I'm always amazed that people will actually choose to sit in front of the television and just be savaged by stuff that belittles their intelligence."
    (Alice Walker, quoted by Brian Lanker in I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, 1989)
  • "Frowned upon as unspeakably common by some gardeners, the gnome is often viewed as a rather crude decoration, which has not been helped by the introduction of mooning gnomes and even naked gnomes."
    ("Notes on a Small Island: The Things That Really Make Britain Great." The Independent, Aug. 28, 2008)
  • "A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory."
    (Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha. Knopf, 1997)
  • "Though many have tried, no one has ever yet explained away the decisive fact that science, which can do so much, cannot decide what it ought to do."
    (Joseph Wood Krutch, The Measure of Man, 1956)

Past Participles of Irregular Verbs

  • "Underwear should be worn on the inside."
    (Bart Simpson, The Simpsons)
  • "The real-estate agent had red hair, a round bottom, and a mask of make-up worn as if to conceal her youth."
    (John Updike, "Gesturing." Playboy, 1980)
  • "Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder."
    (Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)
  • "Sunk in the grass of an empty lot on a spring Saturday, I split the stems of milkweed and thought about ants and peach pits and death and where the world went when I closed my eyes. I must have lain long in the grass, for the shadow that was in front of me when I left the house had disappeared when I went back."
    (Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)

    Meanings and Forms of Past Participles

    "The past participle can indicate past, present, and future meanings.The past participle has both perfect and progressive forms:(Vincent F. Hopper, et al., Essentials of English, 5th ed. 2000)

    1. Thus deceived, he will be outraged. [both actions in the future]
    2. Baffled by your attitude, I cannot help you. [both actions in the present]
    3. Baffled by your attitude, I could not help you. [both actions in the past]
    4. Having been discovered, the thief confessed.
    5. Being watched, he could only pretend to be nonchalant.

    Tense Endings in American English and British English: -ed and -t

    "verbs: past tenses -t/-ed Both forms of ending are acceptable in British English, but the -t form is dominant—burnt, learnt, spelt—whereas American English uses -ed: burned, learned, spelled. Contrarily, British English uses -ed for the past tense and the past participle of certain verbs—quitted, sweated—while American English uses the infinitive spelling—quit, sweat.

    Some verbs have a different form of past tense and past participle, e.g., the past tense of dive is dived in British English but dove in American English."
    (The Economist Style Guide, 10th ed. Profile Books, 2010)

    Nonstandard Forms of Past Participles

    "In ​somenon-standard dialects, some past tenses and past participles which are not identical in standard English are the same. In such dialects, for example, one can say I seen it and I done it. These meanings would be expressed in standard English as I saw it and I did it. There is probably a historic drift slowly taking place in the language, by which past tense forms and past participles are becoming identical. Few people noticed, for instance, that the title of a . . . popular movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, used what would once have been thought of as a past participle, shrunk, in place of a past tense form, shrank."

    (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994)

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Past Participles in English Grammar." ThoughtCo, Mar. 26, 2018, Nordquist, Richard. (2018, March 26). Past Participles in English Grammar. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Past Participles in English Grammar." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 27, 2018).