Participles: Verbs in Disguise

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10559

Did you know verbs can disguise themselves as adjectives? Learn all about participles by playing online games, completing a participle search, and writing your very own participle story.


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


comic with verb and adjective

  • Did you ever have a hero, or someone whom you really admired?
What do you do when you admire someone? Do you dress in the same style as he or she? Maybe you try to do the same things he or she does.

Let's look at Verb and Adjective above.

  • What does it look like Verb is trying to do?
  • What about Adjective?

Adjective seems annoyed by Verb, as though this isn't the first time Verb has done whatever it is that is getting on Adjective's nerves.

Maybe you have a younger brother or sister who is always getting into your things and trying to be just like you. If that is the case, did anyone ever tell you that imitation is the highest form of flattery?

At one point or another, we all become tired or bored with our daily routines. There are even times when we may think that we would rather be someone else or at least try spending a day in his or her shoes.

That is exactly what Verb is doing.

Verb admires Adjective for making nouns sound fancy, so Verb likes to occasionally do a little noun modifying himself.

Sometimes, a verb can get dressed up with either an -ing or -ed or any irregular past tense)and change from an action word into a describing word. These dressed-up verbs are called participles. Participles modify and describe nouns just like adjectives, however, since they are not as experienced as adjectives, they tend to describe feelings and emotions. 

We've All Used a Participle Now and Then 

There are two types of participles: 

  1. The Present Participle (ending in -ing) 
  2. The Past Participle (ending -ed, -d, -t, -en, or -n)

Participles commonly described feelings, moods and emotions. Here is one way to remember that concept and to tell the difference between the past and present participle: 

  • The Present Participle is the cause or source of the feeling. The Present Participle is giving the emotion to the past, so think of giving presents. 
  • The Past Participle is the receiver of the feeling. The past received what the present was offering. 

Here are a few examples:  

The Verb  

The Past Participle  

The Present Participle  

To bore 

the bored student 

the boring class 

To confuse  

the confused traveler 

the confusing map 

To frighten 

the frightened child 

the frightening costume 

To love 

the loved puppy 

the loving boy 

Looking at the examples in the table above, you can see that there is a cause and effect relationship between the Present and Past Participles. The Present Participle gives the emotion or state of being. Because of the emotion or state of being, the Past Participle is impacted. 

  • The map is confusing; so the traveler, who is trying to follow that map, is confused. 
Let's Take a Closer Look  

You know that the present participle and the past participle of a verb can be used as an adjective. Remember that adjectives answer the questions: what kind? how many? which one? 

As long as a verb is acting as a participle, it will do the same thing as an adjective.


  • The walking path is covered with mud.
        Walking is the participle describing the noun path.
  • The tired animal walked slowly across the highway.
        Tired is the participle describing the noun animal.  
     In both of these sentences, the question "Which one?" is answered. 

A participle can come before or after the noun or pronoun it modifies.   


  • The depressing news on the television made us sad. 
  • Most of the news on television is depressing
     In both of these sentences, depressing is modifying the noun news. It answers the question "What kind?" 

Irregular verbs can also become past participles. 


  • burnt toast (What kind of toast?) 
  • forgotten memories (What kind of memories?) 
  • fallen leaf  (Which leaf?) 
  • broken heart  (What kind of heart?) 
  • shattered vase (Which vase?) 

Read the sentence below to learn just how much Gary dislikes participles: 

  • The mangled pair of sunglasses, bruised face, broken arm, and bleeding knees meant Gary had taken another spill on his mountain bike.
         *  Which pair of sunglasses? The mangled pair.
         *  Which face? The bruised one.
         *  Which arm? The broken one.
         *  Which knees? The bleeding ones. 

Don't Leave Me Hanging! 

Here are a few important points to remember before you go any further with the participle: 

  1. A Participle is only ONE word. It is just the verb with the present or past tense ending. Anything beyond that one word makes up a Participle Phrase, which we will discuss in a moment. 
  2. The ONE WORD Participle can be found at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.  
  3. The Participle can come before or after the noun or pronoun it modifies.


Like prepositions, you can’t leave a participle without something to modify.  


  • If I use the word leaking to describe a pen I am about to toss in to the trash, I should write: "I finally threw out the pen that has been leaking in my bag for days."

  Example of dangling participle:

  • Leaking ink inside my entire bag and ruining my new checks, I finally threw away that purple pen. 

Sticking Together 

Participle Phrases  

Sometimes adjectives work with other words to form adjective phrases. It is also common to see participles in participle phrases.

Participle phrases consist of that ONE WORD (our dressed-up verb) plus modifiers (all the words that refer to that participle). Those modifiers can consist of an article (a, an, the) and a noun or an entire prepositional phrase. 


  • The girl carrying the books is my sister.
       The participle phrase carrying the books describes the girl
  • She showed us an ice cream cone crammed with pistachio ice cream.
       The participle phrase crammed with pistachio ice cream describes the ice cream cone
  • Stunned by the bee sting, Mike quickly gathered his senses and searched frantically for his mom.
       The participle phrase stunned by the bee sting describes Mike.

How Does One Find a Good Participle These Days? 

YouTube? Instagram? Twitter? Of course! Participles and participle phrases are everywhere. You probably even used a few today and didn't even notice! 

So, how do you find them? Read the sentence thoroughly. 

  1. Find the subject.
  2. Locate the real verb
    Ask yourself, "What is the subject doing?" or "What action is being taken against the subject?"
    Just because you see a word that looks like a verb doesn't mean it's acting like a verb. It may be a particle disguised as a verb.  
  3. Look for other words that look like verbs (words ending with –ing, -ed, -t, nt, -n) but aren't directly performing an action. 

  Participle Example: The pouring rain drove us inside for the party.  

  1. Rain is the subject.
  2. Drove is the real verb.
  3. Pouring has an –ing ending, and it describes rain. 
  4. We have found the present participle. 

  Participle Phrase Example: The marine biologist, diving near a reef, saw a shark.  

  1. Biologist is the subject. 
  2. Saw is the real verb.
  3. Diving has an –ing ending, and it tells which biologist. 
  4. Near a reef tells where the diving took place; this phrase modifies diving.
  5. Diving near a reef is the participle phrase. 

Let's Start Practicing with Participles!

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