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Past Participle

Past Participle is the form of a verb, typically ending in -ed in English, that is used in forming perfect (such as the present perfect tense) and passive tenses and sometimes as an adjective, e.g., looked in have you looked? and lost in lost property.

Understanding past particples

A given verb has two participle forms. One is the present participle, and the other is the past participle. 

The past participle form of a verb is generally the same as its simple past tense form.

With the past participle, though, it is important to keep an eye out for irregular verbs. For example, the past participle of "drink" would be not "drank" but rather "drunk". 

Using past participles correctly

Here is an example of the past participle being used correctly within a given sentence.

"After he had drunk an entire bottle of wine, he felt that he was finally able to forget about the girl who had been on his mind." 

In this sentence, "had drunk" is a correct past participle construction of the base verb "to drink". 

Now, here is an example of the past participle being used in an incorrect way

"The child had swimming after eating a large meal; and he felt sick, just as his parents had warning him he would."

In this sentence, swimming should be swum, and warning should be warned. These would be the correct past participle forms of these verbs.  

In case you are still a little confused about the correct use of the past participle, here are a couple basic rules that you can follow. 

  1. The past participle is used with one or more helping verbs in order to formulate certain past, present, and future tense constructions. Certain tenses make use of the past participle, whereas others make use of the present participle. What you really need to get the hang of is simply when it is appropriate to use the one participle, and when it is appropriate to use the other. 
  2. There are several irregular past participle forms, even with verbs that are generally regular in other respects. There are no easy rules for comprehensively capturing all of the irregular verbs that are irregular in this way. Or, if there are rules, learning them would probably be more complicated than developing practical understanding through simple experience. 

Additional rules to know

The past participle is often used with what are called the perfect tense. For example, in the present, you could say that the man "has spoken"; and in the future, you could say that he "will have spoken". In both these constructions, "spoken" is the past participle of the main verb "to speak". The present participle is instead used to express progressive and not perfect tenses. A progressive tense expresses ongoing action; a perfect tense expressed completed action.

In general, verb tenses in English can be modified in one of two ways. The first is to change the helping verbs; and the second is to choose between the past participle and the present participle. The various combinations (in addition to the simple tense forms) account for several of the possible tenses within the English language: the simple tenses, the progressive tenses, and the perfect tenses, in the past, present, and future. The past participle is thus clearly a major grammatical structure within the English language. 

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