How well do you know your past participles?

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

Hello everyone! It’s Ms Siow here again. Excuse the bad joke to introduce today’s blogpost. If you’re a grammar nerd like me, I hope you enjoyed that.

Those of you who have caught on earlier might have already guessed that today’s post will be related to tenses! While we are all familiar with the past, present and future tenses, the little less known but equally important tense is the past participle.

How well do you know your past participles?

What is the past participle?

In English grammar, the past participle is the third principal part of a verb, typically created by adding -ed, -d or -t to the base form of the regular verb (otherwise known as the infinitive).

For example:

Examples of third principal part of a verb

So based on the earlier example, it seems fairly straightforward. Isn’t the past participle just like the simple past tense? 

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When the past participle share the same form as the past tense verb, we call them regular verbs. However, there is a group of words in English which we classify as irregular verbs. For words that fall under the ‘irregular verbs’ category, it is less intuitive to derive the past participle forms as there are no rules governing the formation

For example:

Irregular verbs

As such, when it comes to learning tenses of irregular verbs, you are left with only one option - memorise and practise them.

Where can I go to learn and practise irregular verb forms?

There are several websites that provide comprehensive lists of common irregular verbs in English. 

When you feel like you have learnt them well, challenge yourself with our free quiz at the end of this blog post!

Why do I need to know my past participle?

Without knowledge of your past participle, you will not be able to form the correct tenses for the following:

  1. Present Perfect Tense (has / have + past participle)
  2. Past Perfect Tense (had + past participle)
  3. Future Perfect Tense (will have + past participle)
  4. Third Conditional (would have + past participle)
  5. Passive Voice (was + past participle)

These tenses above can in turn be tested in Grammar MCQ, Synthesis and Transformation, Comprehension Cloze and Editing.

Above all, as a learner of the English language, you want to use the correct verb form to prevent misunderstanding in your sentences.

Why do I need to know my past participle?

How do I know when I need to use the past participle?

Unlike the simple past tense, the past participle rarely appears on its own. Usually, it is used to form a variety of tenses as shown above.

Perhaps the most obvious instance of needing to use the past participle is when you need to form the past perfect tense. Many of you should be aware that knowledge of your past perfect tense is extremely crucial for tackling reported speech questions.

For example:

How do I know when I need to use the past participle?

If you do not know your past participle, you are likely to struggle with getting the correct past perfect tense.

When do I need to start learning my past participle?

By Primary Five, the present perfect tense, past perfect tense, future perfect tense, third conditional and passives will be gradually introduced and you will start to see them frequently in your work.

I strongly recommend parents to start exposing your child to learning his / her past participles from as early as Primary Three. This will ensure that he / she has an awareness of how to change the verb forms accurately, especially when tested on irregular verbs. 

So if you’re ready to give yourself a short quiz, let’s go!

Ms Delia Siow

About the Author: Ms Delia Siow is a dedicated teacher who is committed to providing an environment where a child can grow and thrive. She enjoys developing strategies to help students learn in a fun and meaningful way. Through her lessons, she hopes to help students lay a sound foundation in grammar and gain independence in their work. She strongly believes that good grammar is essential in students to gain proficiency in the language and finds joy in watching the bricks of their strong grammar foundation take form.

Delia Siow

Ms Delia Siow is a dedicated teacher who is committed to providing an environment where a child can grow and thrive. She enjoys developing strategies to help students learn in a fun and meaningful way. Through her lessons, she hopes to help students lay a sound foundation in grammar and gain independence in their work. She strongly believes that good grammar is essential in students to gain proficiency in the language and finds joy in watching the bricks of their strong grammar foundation take form.