Lesson 14: Participles

A participle is a verbal adjective; that is, it is both a verb and an adjective. Like infinitives and gerunds, participles have tense and voice but no person and number. There are five participial forms of most transitive verbs: present active (carrying), present passive (being carried), present-perfect active (having carried), present-perfect passive (having been carried), past participle (carried). Participles can function both as attributive adjectives and as predicate adjectives. They can also serve as objective complements. They have an essential role in nominative absolutes, and they have an independent use. Letís examine these uses of participles.

Participles as attributive adjectives: Participles and participial phrases can modify subjects, predicate nominatives, direct objects, indirect objects, objects of prepositions, appositives, objective complements, and adverbial objectives. Here are several examples:

Lost, the puppy wandered from house to house in search of food. A past participle modifies a subject.

Having run all the way from Marathon to Athens, the messenger died. A participial phrase introduced by a present- perfect participle modifies a subject.

Having been shot, he was rushed to a nearly hospital. A present-perfect passive participle modifies a subject.

The first thing they saw was a uniformed man riding a white horse. A participial phrase introduced by a present active participle modifies a predicate nominative.

Do you know the person being arrested? A present passive participle modifies a direct object.

They gave the girl sleeping in the corner an award for honesty. A participial phrase introduced by a present participle modifies an indirect object.

The children found all the eggs except the one hidden in an old flower pot. A participial phrase introduced by a past participle modifies an object of a preposition.

Maryís life was saved by her sister, the woman standing next to her. A participial phrase introduced by a present participle modifies an appositive.

Thomas Heywood considered Mistress Frankford a woman killed with kindness and so titled his play. A participial phrase introduced by a part participle modifies an objective complement.

The finished product did not seem to be worth the time and effort invested in it. A participial phrase introduced by a past participle modifies a compound adverbial objective.


Participles as predicate adjectives:

The children came running. The intransitive verb came functions as a linking verb in this sentence.

You were seen lying on a park bench across from the train station. The passive verb were seen acts as a linking verb.

Participles as objective complements:

They feel themselves being drawn through a tunnel.

Each morning the neighbors heard him whistling the same tune.

Participles in nominative absolutes: A nominative absolute is a grammatically independent expression consisting of a noun or a pronoun modified by a participle. Here are two examples (the underlined expressions are nominative absolutes):

Their funds exhausted, they knew one of them had to find a job fast.

Victory having been accomplished at a terrible price, the homecoming was bittersweet at best.

While careful speakers of English avoid a dangling participle like the plague, they typically allow themselves to dangle the present participle speaking. Here is an example of this participle used independently:

Speaking of food, itís time to head home and light the grill. The participle speaking has nothing to modify.



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