ABE English Tutorials/simple sentences/Verb Participles

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Verb Participles

Tutorial.png Simple Sentences 

Intro to writing skills | Intro to a sentence | Helping verbs | Adding modifiers | Kinds of sentences | Writing simple sentences | Finding objects and phrases | Here and There | Spelling: Part 1 | Spelling List 1 | Writing with objects and phrases | Verbs that change with Number | Verbs that change with Time | Irregular Verbs | Verb Participles | Writing with verb tenses | Compound Subjects | Subject-Verb Agreeement | Understanding sentence lists | Sentence Fragments | Writing sentence lists | Review for Unit 1 |


When you looked at the list of irregular verbs, you no doubt noticed another type of verb: the past participle. The past participle is another kind of past tense. But when do we use just the "past" tense, and when do we use the "past participle"? Usually we use these correctly without thinking:

I swam yesterday: Means that we did swim yesterday; the action is over and done with.


I have swum every summer of my life: Means that we swam many times in the past, and are likely to do it again. The past participle implies more of a continuing action. Fortunately, most verbs form their past participle in a very regular way:

Present Tense Past Tense Past Participle
I work I worked I have worked
He looks He looked He has looked
They repair They repaired They have repaired

As you can see, most past participles are formed by just using "has" or "have", plus the usual past tense of the verb. But the list of irregular verbs shows some of the verbs which use an irregular past participle.

Common mistake: A "participle" is only part of a verb. It needs to have a "helper" verb in order to make it complete. For example, you can't say:

I sung in the choir, because "sung" is only a participle. You must have the helper verb "have" in order to have a complete and proper verb:

I have sung in the choir.

Or, you could say:

I sang in the choir.

But how can you tell whether a sentence needs the "plain" past tense, and when it needs the past participle? Check to see if the verb you need already has a helper verb in place. If it does, you need a participle. Here's an example:

(draw) The young boy _________ a picture of a dinosaur. In this case, we would use just the usual past tense:

The young boy drew a picture of a dinosaur.

Here's another example:

(draw) The toddler has ____________ a picture of his mother. In this case, we can see that the sentence already has a helper verb, the word "has". This is a clue that the blank must be filled with a participle. The past participle of "draw" is "drawn". So we must write:

The toddler has drawn a picture of his mother.

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Now try these:Check the list of irregular verbs if you are unsure of the correct word.
  1. (live) Linda has _________ in Valemount for most of her life.
  2. (eat) Tim _______ his breakfast on the way to work.
  3. (catch) The cat ________ the mouse under the basement.
  4. (take) Someone has _______ the last piece of cake.


  1. lived (same for past tense and past participle)
  2. ate (you only need the past tense because there is no helper verb in this sentence)
  3. caught (this is an irregular verb, but it is the same for the past tense and past participle)
  4. taken (you need the past participle because the helper verb "has" is already there)