Every verb has a past participle, which we form by adding ‑ed for regular verbs and some other ending for irregular verbs. For the ‑ed verbs, we sometimes have to double up an ending consonant (occurred) (check the dictionary).
Past participles show up in two places in verb conjugation. When coupled with the primary auxiliary have, they form the perfect tense:
The committee has decided this issue.
When coupled with the primary auxiliary to be, they form the passive voice:
The tapes were hidden by the President of the United States.
But in addition to these conjugated forms, the past participle forms the past-participial phrase. It invariably serves as an adjective, not as an adverb, and not as a noun.
Look at these examples:
|Enacted in 1964, the Civil Rights Act moved power from the states to the federal government.||adjective modifying Civil Rights Act|
|The woman’s stamina, improved by her running five miles a day, enabled her to battle the disease.||adjective modifying stamina|
|The package delivered by UPS contained the child’s birthday present.||adjective modifying package|
|Thus armed, James granted a dispensation to the Curate of Putney . . . .*||adjective modifying James|
* Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, p. 392 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1960) (vol. 2).
Three comments: First, notice that these adjective phrases can either precede or follow the nouns they modify. Second, notice that commas surround a nonrestrictive phrase (improved by her running five miles a day) but don’t appear with a restrictive phrase (delivered by UPS). And third, notice that the past-participial phrase is really the remnant of a chopped-down passive-voice clause; these would read:
. . . stamina, which was improved by her running five miles a day,
. . . package that was delivered by UPS.
We’ll learn in the Grammar eBook Developing a Powerful Writing Style that phrases usually produce a cleaner style than clauses.
You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.
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