A participle is a verb form that always acts as an adjective. There are two types of participles: (a) The past participle – it is usually formed by adding –d, or -ed to the present tense.


Fooled, the shopkeeper bought fake products. (Fooled is a past participle modifying the noun shopkeeper)

Shaken, he dashed to the police station. (Shaken is a past participle modifying the pronoun he)

The participles of irregular verbs, however, do not follow the above rule: run-run, throw-thrown.

(b) The present participle – it is usually formed by adding -ing to the present tense of any verb.



Smiling, the conman stepped out of the shop. (Smiling is a present participle modifying the noun conman).

Using participles is a simple way of adding information to sentences and to vary sentences beginnings.

A participial phrase consists of a present or past participle and its modifiers, objects, or complements.

It always functions as an adjective.



Rounding the corner, the conman met two policemen. (Rounding the corner is a present participial phrase modifying the noun conman).

Surprised by the appearance of the conman, the policemen started blowing their whistles. (Surprised by the appearance of the conman is a past participial phrase modifying the noun policemen).

A participle or participial phrase is not always at the beginning of a sentence.

Sometimes it may appear in the middle but it should be near the noun or pronoun it modifies.



The skilled policemen arrested the conman.

The conman, losing control, fought the policemen fiercely.

Points to Note

Both the gerund and the present participle are created by a adding -ing to the present tense of a verb.

BUT how can you tell whether a word is a gerund or a participle? It all depends on how the word is used in a sentence.

(i) A participle is used as a modifier in a sentence.



Gaining courage, the conman attempted to escape. (Gaining courage is a participial phrase modifying conman).

(ii) A gerund is used as a noun in a sentence.


Gaining courage made the conman look aggressive. (Gaining courage is a gerund phrase, the subject of the verb made).



Underline the participial phrases in the following sentences, indicating whether it is a past or present participial phrase and the noun or pronoun it modifies.

  1. Defying all odds, Kisoi Munyao attempted to climb to the highest peak of Mt. Kenya for seven times.
  2. Failing each time, he refused to give up.
  3. Seeing his passion to scale the peak, the government offered him financial assistance.
  4. The climber ascended slowly, making steady progress.
  5. Pleased with his progress, he camped at eleven thousand feet.
  6. The climber, determined to hoist the Kenyan flag, progressed on the following morning.
  7. Slipping on the snow, Munyao fell on a dry tree trunk.
  8. A rope worn from too many climbs then broke.
  9. One of his hot water bottles, slipping to the bottom of the cliff, broke into pieces.
  10. Munyao, overcome with joy, finally hoisted the flag at Point Batian.




  1. Defying all odds – present participial phrase – Kisoi Munyao
  2. Failing each time – present participial phrase – he
  3. Seeing his passion to scale the peak – present participial phrase – government
  4. Making steady progress – present participial phrase – climber
  5. Pleased with his progress – past participial phrase – he
  6. Determined to hast the Kenya flag – past participial phrase – climber
  7. Slipping on the snow – present participial phrase – Munyao
  8. Worn from too many climbs – past participial phrase – rope
  9. Slipping to the bottom of the cliff- present participial – bottles
  10. Overcome with joy – past participial phrase – Munyao


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