Past participles, or -en participles, are a nonfinite verb form in English that perform verbal and adjectival functions. The following sections explain how to form past participles of regular English verbs and how to use past participles in English and include examples to illustrate form and function. Past participles are also referred to as -en participles, passive participles, and perfect participles. Regular verbs are verbs in Germanic languages whose simple past tense and past participle are identical in form. Regular verbs are also referred to as weak verbs.
Forming Regular Past Participles
The past participles form of regular English verbs is identical to the simple past tense form. To form the past participle of most regular verbs in English, simply add the suffix -ed to the base form of the verb. The base form of a verb is defined as the infinitive without the p-word to functioning as an infinitive marker. For example, the following list includes the infinitive, base form, and past participle of some common English verbs:
- to call – call – called
- to google – google – googled
- to pass – pass – passed
- to walk – walk – walked
Some regular English verbs require some slight spelling changes between the base form and the past participle. For verbs that are spelled with a “silent” e on the end of the word, remove the “silent” e and then add the -ed suffix. For example:
- to bake – bake – baked
- to dance – dance – danced
- to include – include – included
- to serve – serve – served
For verbs spelled with a final y preceded by a consonant, change the y to an i and then add the -ed suffix. For example:
- to carry – carry – carried
- to deny – deny – denied
- to supply – supply – supplied
- to worry – worry – worried
For one-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant other than w and y, double the last consonant and then add the -ed suffix. For example:
- to beg – beg – begged
- to drop – drop – dropped
- to grin – grin – grinned
- to stop – stop – stopped
For two-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant in which the second syllable is stressed, double the last consonant and then add the -ed suffix. For example:
- to admit – admit – admitted
- to format – format – formatted
- to prefer – prefer – preferred
- to regret – regret – regretted
For the few verbs spelled with a letter c at the end of the word, add a k after the c and then add the -ed suffix. For example:
- to frolic – frolic – frolicked
- to mimic – mimic – mimicked
- to panic – panic – panicked
- to traffic – traffic – trafficked
For the rules for forming the past participles of irregular English verbs, please read Past Participles of Irregular English Verbs.
Using Past Participles
Past participles are prototypically used within perfect aspect, perfect-progressive aspect, and passive voice verb phrase constructions. For example, the following italicized verbs are past participles:
- She has always walked to school. (active present perfect)
- My award-winning cookies have been devoured. (passive present perfect)
- The mail was delivered early today. (passive simple past)
- The politician was being mimicked by the comedian. (passive past progressive)
Past participles also perform three adjectival functions and one nominal function in English grammar. The four other functions of English past participles are:
- Noun phrase modifier (adjectival)
- Subject complement (adjectival)
- Object complement (adjectival)
- Appositive (nominal)
- The cat tossed from the roof survived the fall. (noun phrase modifier)
- The mistake discovered by the editor could have been disastrous. (noun phrase modifier)
- The car destroyed in the storm belongs to my neighbor. (noun phrase modifier)
- Some more boiled eggs are in the refrigerator. (noun phrase modifier)
- The milk is spoiled. (subject complement)
- The pasta is already boiled. (subject complement)
- The craftsman made the chair stained. (object complement)
- The man, exhausted from his job, took a nap. (appositive)
- The town, pillaged and destroyed, was once a booming metropolis. (appositive)
Some past participles that perform adjectival functions may also be analyzed as adjectives.
Past participles of regular verbs in English are formed by adding an -ed suffix to the end of the base form of the verb. Some English verbs also require slight spelling changes to create the -en participle. Past participles are used in perfect, perfect-progressive, and passive verb phrases as well as perform four other grammatical functions.
See also -ed Suffix for a printable that explains the formation of the simple past tense and past participle of regular (weak) verbs in English grammar.
Past participles are a nonfinite verb form in English that perform verbal and adjectival functions.
Past participles are also referred to as -en participles, passive participles, and perfect participles.
The past participles form of regular English verbs is identical to the simple past tense form. To form the past participle of most regular verbs in English, simply add the suffix -ed to the base form of the verb.
Some regular English verbs require some slight spelling changes between the base form and the past participle.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.