Participles are verb forms that function as adjectives, nouns or as part of a compound verb tenses. There are three kinds of participles in English grammar: present participle or -ing form, past participle and perfect participle. We can use participles to form participle clauses which shorten complex sentences.
Learn about participle forms in English grammar with Lingolia’s grammar lesson. In the interactive exercises, you can put your knowledge to the test.
I often go walking in the countryside.
Yesterday, I watched some sheep grazing on the meadow. At first they were only interested in grazing, but after a while they were just standing there wagging their tails. Having eaten so much grass, they were full up. I saw them pooing on the grass!
Called by me, three sheep slowly came over. Having run around on the meadow all day, they were tired, but I seemed to be interesting for them.
The present participle is the ing-form. We use this form:
after verbs of sensation (feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch) + object, in order to emphasise the progress of an action or a value judgement such as admiration or disapproval (see also table).
I watched themgrazing.
illustrates the progress of an action (they were grazing the whole time)
I saw thempooing on the grass!
depending on accentuation, can express disgust or disapproval
after go/come, in order to express an activity (see also table) go dancing/shopping/swimming/walking/…
I often gowalking in the countryside.
in order to shorten an active clause that is attached to another clause that shares the same subject (see Participle Clauses)
The sheep were just standing there. They were wagging their tails. → The sheep were just standing there wagging their tails.
Infinitive or Present Participle
Some verbs can be used with either the infinitive or the present participle.
meaning with infinitive
meaning with present participle
verbs of sensation + object:
feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch
the complete action was observed
I sawone sheep poo on the grass.
I want to emphasise that I saw the entire action take place.
part of the action was observed
I sawone sheeppooing on the grass.
I want to express that I caught it in the act of pooing on the grass.
expresses the goal or purpose of an action
The sheep have cometo see if I have food for them.
in connection with activities
Let’s gowalking to the meadow.
When conjugating the present participle, we must pay attention to a few irregularities:
-e at the end is removed but -ee remains unchanged
come – coming but agree – agreeing
final consonant after a short stressed vowel is doubled
sit – sitting
In British English, an -l as final consonant after a vowel is always doubled
travel – travelling
-ie at the end of a word becomes -y
lie – lying
The Past Participle is the third verb form in the tables of irregular verbs. We use this form: