A participle is a word formed from a verb, usually by adding -d, -ed, or -ing.

There are two kinds of participle in English, as follows:


The present participle

The present participle ends with -ing, e.g.:

We are going to Italy.

The company is building new headquarters in the UK.


The past participle

The past participle ends with -d or -ed for regular verbs, e.g.:

She had decided to go to Italy.

Fans had camped outside the studio.


and with -t or -en or some other form for irregular ones, e.g.:

New houses are still being built.

The glass is broken.


Using participles

Participles are used:

with auxiliary verbs to make verb tenses such as the present continuous and the past perfect:

We are going to Italy. [present continuous]

She had decided to go to Italy. [past perfect]


to form the passive voice of verbs (the past participle only is used, along with the auxiliary verb to be:

We were ordered to sit down.


as adjectives, e.g.:

The pavement was covered with broken glass.

He stared at me with bulging eyes.


as nouns, e.g.:

She was a woman of good breeding.

Len was ordered to cut down on his drinking.


When a present participle is used as a noun, as in the last two examples above, it’s known as a verbal noun or a gerund. Here are two more examples of verbal nouns:

Smoking is strictly forbidden.

Camping attracts people of all ages.


Read more about:

Dangling participles

Active and passive verbs

Verb tenses

Auxiliary verbs

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