Participles and Participial Phrases
A participle is a verb form used as an adjective. Take the following verbs : break,
freeze, and tire.
In the following sentences, break and freeze are used as transitive verbs; tire is used as an
1. I hope I never break my leg.
2. Please freeze these ripe bananas.
3. When I don’t sleep well at night, I tire easily the next day.
The past participle form of the verbs break, freeze, and tire are often used as adjectives as in
the following sentences:
1. His broken leg is healing quickly.
2. After that last ski run, my face feels frozen.
3. I’m tired today.
Notice that the sentence pattern in sentences 2 and 3 is pattern 5 (S LV PA). Predicate
adjectives are commonly participles as in these sentences.
Present participles (those ending in –ing) are also often used as adjectives. Check out the
following sentences in which the present participle form of the verbs swim, hike, and write are
all used as adjectives:
1. My little sister is taking swimming lessons.
2. I bought some new hiking gear.
3. I have almost completed my writing assignment.
Find the participles in the following sentences:
1. Our family just returned from a skiing trip.
2. Did he understand that he had just purchased a stolen item?
3. Please return your borrowed books.
The participles in the above sentences were single-word adjectives. Sometimes participles
occur in phrases that function as adjectives. A participial phrase is a phrase containing a
participle and any objects or modifiers of that participle. Check out the participial phrases
italicized in each sentence below.
1. Sneaking around like a thief, my brother found the secret password.
2. The group trekking across the forest is a Boy Scout troop.
3. Hysterically laughing like a hyena, the student was making a complete fool of himself.
Participial phrases usually begin with a participle, as in sentences 1 and 2 above. However, they
sometimes begin with a modifier of that participle, as in sentence 3.
Participles and participial phrases are always adjectives. The noun or pronoun they modify is
usually very close to the phrase. Notice in sentences 1 and 3 above that the participial phrases
precede the noun they modify; however, in sentence 2 the phrase immediately follows the
noun it modifies. These two placements are the most common placement of participial phrases
in sentences. Participial phrases also often function as predicate adjectives in sentences written
in pattern 5.
See if you can locate the participial phrases in the following sentences. In addition, identify the
noun or pronoun that each participial phrase modifies.
1. When my phone fell from the top bunk onto the floor, it was damaged beyond repair.
2. Your paper was misplaced sometime between lunch and 4th period.
3. Participial phrases also often function as predicate adjectives in sentences written in
Now it’s time to work on your homework assignment from the text book.