Participles - Participial Phrases
A participle is a verbal which is used as an adjective and usually ends with -ing or -ed
What is a participle?
A participle is a verbal which is used as an adjective and usually ends with -ing or -ed. (The term verbal indicates that a participle is based on a verb and expresses action or a state of being) However, as they function as adjectives, participles modify nouns or pronouns. There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles.
Participles may also be identified with a particular voice: active or passive. In English the present participle is essentially an active participle, while the past participle has both active and passive uses. The following examples illustrate this:
I saw John eating his dinner. (here, eating is an active participle)
I have eaten my dinner. (here, eaten is an active participle here)
John was eaten by lions. (here, eaten is a passive participle)
Present participles end in -ing.
Past participles of regular verbs end in -ed, whereas past participles of irregular verbs can end with -en, -d, -t, -n, or -ne (for example, eaten, saved, dealt, seen, and gone).
The crying baby had a wet nappy.
Shaken, he walked away from his wrecked car.
The smouldering log fell onto the floor.
Smiling, she hugged the panting dog.
A participial phrase is a group of words consisting of a participle and the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s) or noun phrase(s) that function as the direct object(s), indirect object(s), or complement(s) of the action or state expressed in the participle, such as:
Removing his coat, Paul rushed to the river.
(Here, the participial phrase 'Removing his coat' acts as an adjective, which modifies the noun 'Paul'.)
Susan noticed her cousin walking along the street.
(Here, the participial phrase functions as an adjective which modifies the noun 'cousin'.)
Children interested in music when they are young develop strong intellectual skills.
(Here, the participial phrase functions as an adjective modifying the noun 'children'.)
Having been a gymnast, Annabel knew the importance of exercise.
(Here, the participial phrase functions as an adjective, modifying Annabel.)
In order to avoid confusion, a participial phrase must be placed as close to the noun which it modifies as possible, and the noun must be clearly defined.
When a participial phrase begins a sentence, a comma should be placed after the phrase.
Arriving at the store, I found that it was closed.
Washing and polishing the car, Frank developed sore muscles.
If the participle or participial phrase comes in the middle of a sentence, it should only be separated with commas if the information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Malcolm, watching an old movie, drifted in and out of sleep.
The church, destroyed by a fire, was never rebuilt.
If the participial phrase affects the meaning of the sentence, no commas should be used:
The student earning the highest grade point average will receive a special award.
The guy wearing the chicken costume is my cousin.
If a participial phrase comes at the end of a sentence, a comma is usually placed before the phrase if it modifies an earlier word in the sentence but not if the phrase directly follows the word it modifies.
The local residents often saw George wandering through the streets.
(The phrase modifies 'George', not 'residents'.)
Peter nervously watched the woman, unsettled by her silence.
(The phrase modifies 'Peter', not 'woman'.)