What do Participles Modify? A Basic Guide

A participle is a verb form that expresses an action or a state of being. It functions as a modifier and plays a role similar to an adjective. So, the question is, what do participles modify? Participles modify or provide further information about the noun, pronoun or a noun phrase in a sentence.

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    What Are Participles?

    Participles are a verb form that is adjectival in nature and acts as a modifier. They generally describe the subject or objects of the sentence. They can also be called verbal adjectives or verbal clauses.

    A participle is an adjective-like word that combines with a form of the verb to modify nouns and pronouns. While a present participle expresses a current action or state of being, a past participle describes a past action.

    Participles Vs Participial Phrases

    Participles are verbs that function as an adjective to modify the subject in a sentence. They most often end in -ing or -ed and modify nouns and pronouns.

    On the other hand, a participial phrase is a group of words consisting of a participle, modifier and, pronoun or noun phrases. Typically, a participial phrase forms when other words are added to a participle. Participles and participial phrases function as adjectives in sentences.

    What do Participles Modify?

    Most often, participles modify nouns or pronouns but can also modify verbs. A participle typically precedes the noun or pronoun it modifies.

    Participles must be placed close to the nouns or pronouns they modify to clearly convey the intended meaning. Participles that are far from the word they modify appear to modify a different part of a sentence and result in misplaced participle.

    Sometimes, the noun to be modified is mistakenly left out of the sentence, resulting in a dangling participle. This means that the participle is trailing in a sentence without an understandable link and modifies nothing. Dangling and misplaced modifiers are peculiar with unclear, incoherent, or unmemorable writing and should be avoided.

    Present participle as Modifier

    A present participle is a verb form with a similar function as an adjective. It is made up of the present tense of a verb stem and the -ing ending and modifies a noun or noun phrase. Examples of present participles include: running, jumping and crying.

    As a modifier, a present participle will typically describe or provide more information about the noun/subject of the sentence. Some examples of present participle as a modifier in sentences are:

    • Jerry put on his running shoes (the present participle ‘running‘ modifies the noun ‘shoes.’)
    • The math teacher gifted me a coloring book (the present participle coloring provides more information about the noun ‘book.’)
    • I gave a snack to the crying little boy (the present participle crying describes the noun ‘little boy.’).

    Past participle as Modifier

    A past participle is a verb form that typically ends in -ed. Past participle verbs are often adjectives or adverbial adjuncts (e.g., sat, was, or went). In English, the most common part participles are: walked, spoken, gone, and fallen.

    Examples of Past Participle as Modifier in Sentences

    • The fallen tree hindered the movement of cars (The past participle fallen modifies the noun ‘tree.’)
    • The spoilt food was given to the dogs (The past participle spoilt modifies the noun ‘food.’)
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    To Wrap Up

    Participles are a type of verb form that convey action. They typically play the role of adjectives and modify nouns or noun phrases in sentences.

    They are essential as they provide the reader with detailed information about the noun or pronouns in the sentence. Learning how to use participles properly can improve your writing in no time.

    What do Participles Modify? A Basic Guide

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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