The Basics:

  • Participles are based on verbs and express an action or a state of being.
  • The participle, modifier(s), and the (pro)noun that the participle modifies form the participial phrase.
  • Participial phrases are used as adjectives to describe (modify) nouns or pronouns.
  • Present participles end with -ing. (e.g. swimming)
  • Past participles end with -ed, -en, -d, -t, -n, or -ne. (e.g. walked, eaten, craved, dealt, seen, gone)


  • Present participle:

Ex: "We are going to the swimming pool."

Here, ‘swimming’ modifies the noun ‘pool.’

  • Past participle:

Ex: After the crime, Mark was a wanted man.

Here, ‘wanted’ modifies the noun ‘man.’

  • Participial phrase:

Ex: Seeing the violence on the basketball court, Jimmy stayed on the swings.

 Here the participle object prepositional phrase (modifier) clause being modified by the participial phrase

Punctuation Rules:

  • If your sentence begins with a participial phrase, it should be followed by a comma.

Ex: Watching a scary movie, Jill felt the need to get up and turn on the lights.

  • If a participial phrase is in the midst of a sentence, it should be surrounded by commas only if it is non-essential information.
  • Essential Information:

Ex: The boy wearing the red shirt is Jerry.

  • Non-Essential Information:

Ex: Jerry, seeing the teacher turn her back, threw a spitball.

  • If a participial phrase is at the end of a sentence, it should be preceded by a comma only if it modifies a noun that is not directly before the participial phrase.

Ex: The teacher often saw Jerry throwing spitballs.

(The participial phrase modifies ‘Jerry’)

Ex: The cook was seen by the man, making pizza.

(The participial phrase modifies ‘the cook’)

Note: Although participles are based on verbs, they are not treated as verbs in a sentence.

Ex: My father's walking stick is made of oak.