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Capstone Multilingual Writing Tips: Blog

October 2019: Verb Forms 3: Past Participles

by Paul Lai on 2019-10-01T06:00:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

The last two months we’ve looked at verb forms, and more specifically, gerunds and infinitives. Another part of verb forms to focus on is past participles.

How do you form a past participle?

  • In a regular verb, the past participle is formed by adding -ed. However, there are many irregular verbs in English as well, and these past participle forms must be memorized.

When do you use a past participle? There are four common uses:

  • The past participle is used with have auxiliaries (helping verbs) in the active voice. Also see the webpage on verb tenses for more information. For example,
    • I have finished categorizing the results into themes.
    • She had worked in the field for 10 years before accepting a management position.
  • The past participle is used after be auxiliaries in the passive voice. Be sure to check the webpage on the active vs. passive voice for more information on appropriate usage. For example,
    • Participant 5 was born in 1980.
    • Participants were given a $5 gift card for their time.
  • The past participle is sometimes used in a phrase to supply additional information. These participial phrases come from relative clauses with a passive meaning. For example,
    • The ideas presented at the conference are important to remember. (The ideas that were presented at the conference are important to remember.)
    • The article found through Business Source Complete served as a baseline for my doctoral study. (The article that was found through Business Source Complete served as a baseline for my doctoral study.)
  • The past participle is sometimes used as an adjective. For example,
    • Interested participants could access the survey.
    • The requested copyright permission did not arrive on time.

Sometimes both the past participle (-ed) and the -ing forms can function as adjectives. However, each form has a different meaning. The past participle adjective (-ed) refers to a person while the -ing adjective refers to a thing. For example,

  • The rules are confusing. (This refers to the rules themselves.)
  • I am confused. (This refers to the person.)


  • The conclusion was satisfying. (This refers to the conclusion itself.)
  • I am satisfied with the results. (This refers to how I feel about the results.)

Revision Tip: Look back through your most recent draft of your capstone document and check for correct past participle usage. If you are not sure, look up the phrase including the past participle in a corpus; see the SMRTguide on Using a Corpus to Review for Grammar and Scholarly Voice. Make revisions as needed.

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