A present participle is a verb in the “-ing” form. It can be used in three ways:
- With the auxiliary verb to be. Example: I am explaining the use of the present participle.
- As an adjective. Example: The grueling workout exhausted me.
- In a phrase. Example: Boarding the bus, the passenger tripped and fell. (“Boarding the bus” is a phrase that describes the passenger.)
The “-ing” form of a verb is called a gerund when it functions as a noun. As a noun, the gerund can be a subject, direct or indirect object, or an object of a preposition. It is important to be able to distinguish between a gerund and a present participle in English because often the form of a gerund in another language will differ from that of the present participle. Here are some examples of gerunds:
- I’m thinking about going to the concert. (thinking = present participle; going=gerund, object of the preposition “about”)
- Reading is my favorite hobby. (reading = subject)
- She likes singing so much. (singing = direct object)
A past participle is a verb form that follows an auxiliary verb. Past participles take many forms: written, said, cooked, gone, been, etc. Here are some contextualized examples with the auxiliary verbs to have and to be:
- I have been to Germany many times. (Present perfect)
- The class already had studied the material. (Past perfect)
- I had learned to ski, but now I have forgotten everything I knew. (Past perfect and present perfect)
- They say that history is written by the winners. (Passive voice with to be)
- What time will the work be done? (Passive voice with to be)
Lastly, the past participle can also be used as an adjective:
- The confused man walked the wrong way.
- She will eat cooked green beans, but not raw ones.