HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS
Adjectives and Adverbs: Using Participles as Adjectives
1. A participle is a verb form which can be used as an adjective to
describe a noun.

     an interesting book
     an interested student

2. When the present participle (-ing from) is used, the noun it describes is (or was) the
   performer of the activity named by the participle.  For example, in the sentence
   "The dog barks," the dog is the performer of the action (bark). It is a barking dog.

3. When the past participle (-ed, -en form) is used, the noun it describes is (or was)
   acted upon.  For example, in The child is frightened by the dog, the child is the
   receiver of the action and is described as a frightened child.

4. The use of the present or past participle does not depend on the verb tense of the
   sentence, but rather on the performer/receiver situation.
The dog barks It is a barking dog
The dog barked It was a barking dog
The dog frightens the cat. It is a frightening dog.
The dog frightened the cat. It was a frightening dog.
The problem confuses the students. It is a confusing problem.
The students are confused by the problem. They are confused students.
The story amused the children. It was an amusing story.
The children were amused by the story. They were amused children.
The class bores the students. It is a boring class.
The students are bored by the class. They are bored students.
5. The use of participles is not restricted to the subject of a
sentence. In other words, the same statement can produce both a
present (active) and a past (passive) participle.

Examples:
The dog frightens the cat. The frightening dog runs after
the cat.
The frightened cat runs away.
The problem confuses the students. The confusing problem
frightens the students.
They are confused students.
The story amused the children. It was an amusing story.
The amused children laughed a
lot.
The class bores the students. What a boring class it is!
The bored students have
stopped listening to the
teacher.

6. Participles used as adjectives often come after the noun they modify, following a linking verb like

Be, Become, or Seem


Mathematics is interesting.


My friends are interested in sports


You seem comfused


Problems often become frustrating.


I am fascinated by my children.


My children quickly became tired at school.


School can be tiring for young children



[Adapted from: Alt & Kirkland, Steps to Composition Azar, Understanding and Using English Grammar]

Back to on-line resource file
Back to RWC home

Last updated Monday, 01-March-99 12:36:00 EDT.
All pages Copyright © 1998 Hunter College Reading/Writing Center.
Please contact WebMaster with any questions or comments.