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Past Participle - The -ed Verb

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Every verb also has a past-participial form, which, for most verbs, you create by adding ‑ed, d, or ‑t. As with present participles, you’ll sometimes have to double up an ending consonant: The past participle of occur is occurred. Check the dictionary.

Naturally, I have named these verbs after me: They’re called the “‑ed verbs.” Unfortunately, many verbs form their past participles in an irregular way. They won’t add ‑ed; instead, they add something else or dream up an entirely new word to perform their past‑participial duties. There’s no rhyme or reason that tips you off to this irregularity. People brought up in grammatical households know the past participles of most verbs, because their moms and dads corrected them when they said, “I have drinked it” (I have drunk it).

One of the functions of past participles helps you identify their correct form. Past participles serve two roles in verb conjugation: They help you form:

1. the perfect tenses 2. the passive voice

Past Participle in the Perfect Tenses

You form the perfect tenses by coupling a form of the auxiliary verb to have with the past participle:

She has decided to go to Spain. When I arrived, she had finished dinner.

Past Participle, A Trick to Help Identify

You can identify the past participle of any verb just by completing this trick sentence in the present-perfect tense:

I have [insert correct verb form here].

Thus, here are some regular verbs, whose past participles are formed by adding ‑ed. You identify the past participle by completing the trick sentence:

Verb Trick I have Sentence Past Participle  
form I have formed the sentence. formed
decide I have decided this issue. decided
provide I have provided these examples. provided
remember I have remembered the clues. remembered


Here are some irregular verbs. You can identify their past participles by completing the I have trick sentence:

Verb Trick I have Sentence Past Participle
see I have seen the movie. seen
ride I have ridden the horse. ridden
drink I have drunk the coffee. drunk


Past Participle in the Passive Voice

As mentioned above, the past participle also serves to form the passive voice. Just join any form of the verb to be with the past participle, and you get the passive-voice form of the verb. We’ll study active and passive voice in detail in the eBook Developing a Powerful Writing Style. For now, take a look at these passive-voice constructions (all appear in the past tense):

Verb Passive-Voice Sentence Past Participle
decide The case was decided by the court. decided
build The stadium was built by Acme. built
ride The horse was ridden by Naoki. ridden
provide The test was provided by him. provided


When we discussed present participles above, we saw that they show up in a conjugated form: the progressive tense. Now we see that the past participle shows up in two conjugated forms: the perfect tense and the passive voice.

Past Participle as an Adjective

Above we saw that the present participle can also act as an adjective and as a noun (i.e. a gerund). Here, too, the past participle can act as an adjective. It cannot, however, act as a noun.

As an adjective, the past participle can show up as an adjective phrase, as in:

The bill passed by the House cut taxes.

Or it can act as a one-word adjective, as in:

the torn pocket the conjugated verb the Lost Colony

Hard Copy

You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.


Previous: Present Participle - The -ing Verb

Next: Past Tense vs. Past Participle

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    Identify the sentence with correct use of the past perfect continuous tense:
    A She had been studying for hours before the exam.
    B We were visiting the museum all day.
    C I have played the piano yesterday.
    D He had sings a song for the audience.

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