Participle Definition and Examples

In today’s article we’re going to look at participles. Now this is a little bit more advanced grammar, but it’s very useful and it’s using everyday speaking, but especially for writing and reading, because you’re going to see participles everywhere.

What does participle do?

What participles do is they help you get sentence variety, to help you make your sentence shorter, if necessary,they give you a little bit of style.

What does participle mean in grammar?

There are two participles that we need to look at, they are called the active or passive participle. sometimes you’ll see them as present or past participle.

Past participles, you’re familiar with. Sometimes they called the verbs 3, so “eat”, past tense “ate”, past participle is “eaten”. so that’s the participle. Now, especially with the “ing” you have to be careful, because “ing” words, although they are verbs with “ing”, they can be pretty much anything. They could be a gerund, as you know, so they’re nouns; they could be part of the continuous verb, so “be going”, so: “I am going”,it is a continuous action; but “ing” words can also be adjectives and adverbs. When they are adjectives and adverbs, they are actually participles. So is very important to recognize them and know how to use them.

So what I want to do first is I want to look at the adjectives participles. Now what do you have to remember about adjectives participles, they are they are reduced adjective Clauses. You know an adjective Clause it’s meant to modify a noun. It identifies it or give extra information about a noun. A participle, and adjective participle is that adjective Clause minus the subject and the verb. Okay but I’m going to look at that in a second. So let’s look at this sentence first.


Dressed in his class-A uniform, the marine looked like a recruitment poster.

So this is the passive or the past participle ending in “ed”, it’s a regular verbs, so:”dressed”, “Dressed in his class-A uniform.” Now, if I rearrange the sentence, really, it says:

The Marine, who was dressed in his class a uniform, look like a recruitment poster.

But I can take that adjectives cause, I get rid of the “who was” or “who is”, depending on the tense. Get rid of that, and I’m left with a participle phrase. Now I can take that participle phrase and move it to the beginning of the sentence, just like I have here.

The key when you’re using participles at the beginning. A participle phrase at the beginning of a sentence, you must make sure that the subject, which is not there but it is understood: who was, who is the Marine, so the marine who was dressed in his class A, and then the subject of the independent clause must be the same subject. Okay, we’re going to look at a couple more examples.

Standing near the window, Marie could see the entire village.

Standing near the window, the entire village was in view.(incorrect)

So now what we’re going to do, I’m going to look at a few more examples and I want to show you that you can start the sentence with a participle phrase, but you can also leave it in the middle of the sentence. Let’s look at that.

The jazz musician, (who was/is) known for his tendency to daydream, got into a zone and played for an hour straight.

What we’re doing here, we’re giving you a little bit more information about the musician. We’re not identifying him. We’re giving you extra information, which is why we have the commas. Because If This Were a regular adjectives caused, it would be an non-identifying adjectives clause. and I would have “who was”.The tense is not important. “he is known” or “he was known”, depending on the situation.

The woman (who is) talking to Jeff is his sister.

Now, I’m identifying the woman so I don’t have a comma here, because it’s identifying adjectives clause, and I take out the relative pronoun subject, and again the “be” verb.

The station chief was fired, meaning (which means)  there’s an open position.

Before I mentioned that if you don’t have anything after… right? So if I have for example: “The broken window was fixed.” so imagine the window that was broken, “that” out, “was” out, all I have is “broken”. I don’t have a whole phrase. So when I have only one word participle, when I only have the one word left over after the reduction, then I just treated like a regular adjectives and I put it before the noun. And I can do it with an “ing” as well.


Okay, so now we’re going to look at participles used as adverbs. So, again, it’s very important to understand what’s the difference between an adjectives clause and an adverb clause. An adjective Clause modifies a noun, it gives you an extra information about it or it identifies it. An adverb clause shows you a relationship between the adverb clause itself and the independent clause. Same thing with the participle because an adverb participle phrase is also a reduced Clause. it’s a reduced adverb clause, but it works in the same way with sometimes can be a little bit confusing. So let’s look at the examples.

Given (If they were given, So this is a conditional adverb clause reduced to a conditional participle,adverb participle)the choice, most people would probably choose good health over good fortune.

(Most people who are given a choice would…..)

Realizing that the police were on to him, Bernie quickly moved his millions off shore.

This sentence, this participle (Realizing) could be and adjective or it could be an adverb. When it’s not entirely clear, most people will assume or will think of this as an adjectives participle.So

Bernie who realized that the police were on to him quickly moved his millions offshore.


As he realized or because he realized that the police were onto him Bernie quickly moved his Millie’s offshore.

Both of them are correct, both of them are okay. But if you ever want to make very sure that your advert participle is understood as an adverb participle, sometimes add the conjunction. You can have the participle but add the conjunction just to make sure.

While delivering his speech to the council, Frank had a heart attack.

Who was delivering his speech to the council had a heart attack but I don’t want you to understand that I’m saying something about Frank I’m not saying that I’m talking about what happened during the times but at the same time two things were happening a longer action in a quick action delivering his speech and had a heart attack so I would add the conjunction while to make sure you understand that I’m focusing on the adverb relationship not modifying Frank with an adjectives okay if you’re not sure use the conjunction.

She refused to cooperate while targeted by the media.

In this cases you have to include the conjunction. “she refused to cooperate targeted by the media” doesn’t make sense. Because if you have this (targeted) as an adjectives, then there must be a noun just before it, but here we don’t have a noun, we have a verb “cooperate”. So right away we understand it’s an adverb clause, but we have to use a conjunction because by itself it doesn’t work. It looks like it could be an adjectives. We want to make sure you understand it’s an adverb so we add the conjunction, and then we can use the participle.

I know there’re a little bit confusing and a little bit tricky, but they’re used all the time. And especially if you’re going to be doing readings, if you’re going to be doing a test, if you’re in school and you need to read, if you just want to read newspapers because newspapers use them a lot, they can make all their writing shorter, you have to understand how participles work and you have to know how to use them yourself.

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