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Participle Phrase-Types of Participle Phrase

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In this article, you’ll learn what participle phrases are, their functions, and types of participle phrases with examples.

But wait, if you are confused about the word participle, we will briefly discuss it and its types to make understanding participle phrases easier for you.

What is a Participle?

A verbal or a form of verbs that usually end in ‘ed’ ‘d’, ‘t’ ‘n’ or ‘ing’ and are used to form continuous and perfect tenses is called a participle. Participles are often used as verbal adjectives.

Participles are divided into two types: the present participle and the past participle. You may also have heard the word-perfect participle, which isn’t a third type of participle.


The past participles are formed when the words’ d’, ‘ed,’ ‘t,’ ‘n’ is added to a verb’s base form.

The following are some examples of participles.

Participles end in ‘d’ Bid, Held, Rid, Read, etc.
Participles end in ‘ed’: Played, Enjoyed, Displayed, Prayed, etc.
Participles end in ‘t’: Bust, Burst, Bet, Cut, Cost, etc.
Participles end in ‘n’: Run, Won, Awoken, Arisen, Beaten, etc.
Participles end in ‘ing’: Changing, Studying, Sleeping, Catching, etc.

Remember that present participles are made by adding -ing to a verb, and most past participles are made by adding -d or –ed.

The following sentence contains participle.

Every child in my neighborhood is afraid of the barking dog. 
(In this sentence, ‘barking’ is the present participle that modifies the noun dog) 

What is a Participial Phrase?

Participle Phrase Definition

A participial phrase is a group of words headed by a participle (present or past) and includes other parts of speech such as noun phrases, nouns, or other modifiers. 

The participle (present or past) usually introduces the phrase, and the entire phrase function as an adjective to modify a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun. Participles can be turned into participial phrases simply by adding some words.

Examples
  • Participle: walking
  • Participial phrase: walking to the beach
  • Participle: talking
  • Participial phrase: talking about her younger brother success
  • Participle: tainted
  • Participial phrase: tainted by the bacteria

When you study English, you’ll see participle phrases everywhere. Using participle phrases helps us make our sentences shorter and get different sentence varieties. We also use it to reduce the adjective clauses in a sentence. for instance

The soldier, who wore the red dress, looked like a shopping mall representative.

We can make this sentence shorter by using the participle phrase.

Worn the red dress, the soldier looks like a shopping mall representative.
(In this sentence ‘worn the red dress” is the past participle phrase)

Modifiers or Complements in Participle Phrases

A participle phrase is made when any modifier or complement combine with a participle. The complement can be a noun or noun phrase, pronoun, or other words that can function as the direct or indirect object.

Example-1
Riding the cycle all day, Ahmad got to bed very early last night.

Riding (the present participle)
the cycle act as the direct object of the action expressed by the present participle.
Riding the cycle is the participial phrase that modifies the noun, Ahmad.

Example-2
I saw his brother playing in the park all day.

In this sentence, the word playing is the present participle, and the prepositional phrase in the park does the work of an adverb is the direct object. The participial phrase modifies the noun brother.

Example-3
Students interested in physical sciences often have very strong mathematical skills.

Here the participle phrase modifying the noun students.
interested is the past participle
‘physical sciences’ object of the action expressed by the participle.

Example-4
Having been a teacher, she knows the importance of education.

Having been is the participle.
A teacher is the subject complement for the pronoun she.
Having been a teacher (participle phrase) in this sentence that modifies the pronoun she.

Types of Participle Phrase

There are two types of participle phrases. The present and the past participle phrases. Every participle phrase starts with a participle.

The Present Participial Phrase

Participles end in -ing is a present participle. When the present participle makes a phrase, it is called the present participle phrase. When it modifies a noun in a sentence, that noun is usually the agent of the action expressed by the participle. 

Examples of Present Participial Phrase

  • The boy playing the game in the ground is his son.
  • The boy playing the piano is named Saleem.
  • We completed our homework sitting in the hotel room.
  • The man, walking around the garden, is our English teacher.
  • Scrolling the Facebook page, I saw his post.
  • Entering the room, I found her asleep.
  • The girl standing by the bus is dumb.
  • Climbing the mountain, I face difficulty in breathing very much.

The Past Participial Phrase

The past participle phrases are made using the past participle and its modifiers. In a past participle phrase, the past participle may end in -d, -ed, -t, or n, etc. When we form past participial phrases, the noun modified by the phrase is usually passive in meaning.

  • His brother, died in the accident yesterday, was taken to the hospital by the police.

In this sentence, the noun phrase his brother is described by the past participial phrase died in the accident yesterday

  • The little boy cried loudly when he saw his mother.
  • I sometimes use a cane made of wood.
  • She gifted me a ring made of gold.
  • I have read the book written by George Orwell.
  • Excited about his brother’s result, Ahmad ran toward his father while he was sleeping.
  • Frightened by the dog barking, the baby cried all day.

What is the Perfect Participle Phrase?

The perfect participle phrases start with “Having,” followed by the past participle and modifiers. They describe completed actions. The noun, which is modified by the perfect participle phrases, is the agent of the action, which is expressed using the participle. The following is the formula for the perfect participle phrase.

Having + past participle + any modifiers

Examples of Perfect Participle Phrases

  • Having visited the church before, I don’t want to go there again.
  • Having seen the storm approaching, we immediately leave the ground.
  • Having selected him captain, every player gave him his loyal support.
  • We were exhausted, having studied all night.

How to Punctuate Participle Phrases?

A participle may come at the start, middle, or end position in a sentence. A comma should be placed after a participle phrase that separates it from the rest of the sentence if it comes at the start. for example

Knocking at the door loudly, the man demanded water.

In the sentence knocking at the door loudly is the participle phrase that begins that participle phrase, so a comma is needed.

When a participle phrase comes in the end position in a sentence, a comma isn’t needed. For example
Many of my students have seen this man watering the plants.
(The Phrase modifies the noun man, and it appears immediately after the noun.)

A participial phrase that comes in the middle position in a sentence should be set off with a comma only if the information is not important to the meaning of the rest part of the sentence. But if it is essential to the sentence’s meaning, no comma should be placed. 
For example 
The man, wounded in the accident, was never recovered.
The dog barking at the man is mine.

Dangling Modifiers and Common mistakes with Participle Phrases

When we write a participle phrase at the beginning of a sentence, we don’t mention the subject, but it is understood. It is essential to ensure that the understood subject in the participle phrase and the subject of the independent clause are the same. Examine the following two sentences

Looking out the window, you could see the whole region.
Looking out the window, the whole region was in view.

The first sentence is correct because the pronoun ‘you’ refers to a person that can do the action expressed by the participle phrase. This means the understood subject in the participle phrase and the subject ‘you’ in the independent clause is the same.

The second sentence is wrong because the subject in the independent clause and in the participle phrase, which is ‘region,’ isn’t the same. 

Dangling Modifier
When a participle phrase modifies which doesn’t make correct sense or modifies other nouns which are missing from a sentence, such modifiers are called dangling modifiers. This usually occurs with sentences that start with a participle phrase. To avoid making this mistake, the noun that we need to modify by the participle should be placed closer to a participle phrase that is modifying it.

Walking around the garden, the cat was killing a mouse.

This sentence doesn’t state who is walking around the garden. It seems it was the cat which isn’t correct. So, we need to include another noun or pronoun described by the participle phrase and place close to the participle phrase to correct the error of the dangling modifier.

Walking around the table, Sara saw the cat killing a mouse.

This sentence is now correct. The participle phrase describes the noun, Sara.

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