I'm a little bit confused. I know that seen is the past participle of see, and that saw is the past simple. I know also that we use the past participle with the perfect tense.

In my case, I want to talk about an action in the past and so I feel the right sentence is:

.....the one seen at the beginning is ....

However, since I'm talking about a past action, I think that the right sentence may be:

.....the one saw at the beginning is ....

Thank you in advance for your help :)

  • it's irregular: I see, I saw, I have seen. The one seen at the beginning. The past participle is SEEN, not saw. But here, it's a passive tense: the one seen at the beginning [of the x by y]. Passives take the past participle. The agent of the passive verb: /seen at the beginning/ is implied. Saw can only be used with a pronoun or noun: We saw the boat in the harbor.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:59
  • As long as you use is you can't talk about an action in the past. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


In English there are two different voices that may be employed when making a statement: active voice and passive voice.

In the active voice the subject of the sentence is also the agent in the sentence; the subject performs the verb's action on the patient.

In the passive voice the patient becomes the subject of the sentence, getting acted on by the verb. A sentence in the passive voice uses the auxiliary verb be to indicate the tense and the main verb always becomes the past participle.

In your extract, the one is not the agent (the one doing the seeing), but is the patient (the one that is seen), so it is in the passive voice and uses the past participle form of the verb see. I.e. the first extract is the correct one:

.....the one seen at the beginning is ....

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