Past Participle – How and When to use it

Past Participle

Past participle


You will often hear about Past participles during your English classes in school, or being used in movies or while talking to native speakers. But what is it exactly?. This article will address Past participles in the simplest way possible and will provide basic examples.


What is the Past Participle?

The past participle is the 3rd form of any verb, referring to the past, we use past participles to form passive and perfect sentences. We also use Past participles as adjectives in some cases.


PresentPast (simple)Past participle
Am / is / areWas / wereBeen

How and when to use the past participle?

We have 3 main cases where we use the past participle:
  • Perfect sentences
  • Passive sentences
  • Adjectives

Perfect sentences

We have 6 Perfect tenses:
  • Past perfect
  • Past perfect continuous
  • Present perfect
  • Present perfect continuous
  • Future perfect
  • Future perfect continuous

The way these tenses work, requires the use of Past participles. Because past participles always follow verb “have” when it is a helping verb. We have 2 types of ways of using verb “have”

  • Main verb
  • Helping verb

As a main verb, “have” denotes the ownership of something.

For example
  • I have a car
  • He has a brother

However, “have” as a helping verb, helps change the meaning of a sentence in many different cases, and the Past participle always follows

For example
  • we have “seen” the movie before
  • Mike has “done” my homework
  • I have “hidden” it somewhere safe

The word “have” here in those sentences does not mean “I own “it just helps with the meaning of the sentence

How to differentiate between HAVE as a “main” or “helping” verb

Main verb:

As a main verb, the nous always follows : I have friends / I have a car

Helping verb:

As a helping verb, Past Participles always come after “have” as a helping verb, in other words a verb in the past: I have seen / I have done.

Passive sentences

What are passive sentences?

Passive sentences focus more on the object rather than the subject, since the object has more significance in the matter. For instance, a situation happened where a robbery occurred. What’s important in the matter is what got stolen. So, we would say in this case “The Diamond was “stolen” by the robber” hence giving more importance to the diamond itself, not the robber or the doer of the action.

Passive sentences contain Past participles. They always follows verb (be).

For example
  • The phone was “stolen
  • Food is “cooked” fresh everyday
  • The iPhone will be “Manufactured” in the USA


We use Past Participles to describe things or people in a different way than a regular adjective would. It usually describes an action or verb that happened to someone or something. An example would demonstrate the meaning easier.

For example
  • He is ‘devastated’ by the events
  • He is “famished
  • I am ‘bored
  • I am “frightened

Keep in mind that past participle is a huge part of English and is all over the language, so it is really important to learn, to help you improve your language quickly and reach your goals.

A language lover and enthusiast. I grew up with my Egyptian family in England. So, speaking more than 1 language has always been a part of my life. I am a native speaker of both English and Arabic, and It does not just stop at 2 languages. I also teach myself and help others learn. I am an English teacher and a language learner. I teach people using the way I would like to be taught.

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