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In linguistics, a participle is an adjective derived from a verb.


Participles in Modern English

In the English language, there are two types of participle:

  1. the present participle, which is formed by adding the suffix "-ing" to a verb (the form is the same as that of a gerund, but the usage differs); and
  2. the past participle, which is formed by adding the suffix "-ed".

The present participle in English is an active participle; the past participle is usually, but not always, a passive participle. In particular, an adjective derived in this way from an intransitive verb cannot be a passive participle; eg. one may refer to one's "fallen comrades".

Most irregular verbs do not follow this pattern for forming past participles. Only modal auxiliary verbs fail to form present participles in English. All others form present participles by adding "-ing"; even the most irregular verbs do not vary from that pattern.


  • "talk" becomes "talking" and "talked" (regular)
  • "do" becomes "doing" and "done" (irregular)
  • "eat" becomes "eating" and "eaten" (irregular)

Many adjectives are formed from participles; as in "I saw a talking horse", "It was the done thing" and "She sold the crashed car at a loss".

A present participle is often confused with a gerund, a noun form of a verb with "-ing".

Participles in other languages


Other languages have different sorts of participles. E.g. Latin has:

  • active present participle: educans "teaching"
  • passive perfect participle: educatus "having been taught"
  • passive future participle: educandus "about to be taught"
  • active future participle: educaturus "about to teach"

Old English

Old English ended present participles with -ind. In the East Midlands dialect, it merges with -ing, which originally only named actions.


The present participle ends in ant. The past participle endings vary according to the verb category, but most often end in or i. It is treated as an adjective and can require agreement.


In Esperanto each transitive verb has two present participles (active and passive), two past participles, two future participles, and two conditional participles. The conditional participles were not planned, but are universally understood. Intransitive verbs of course cannot have passive participles.

See also

Last updated: 07-29-2005 19:38:06
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