When I talk about participle are there 3 different types of participle?

  1. present participle
  2. past participle
  3. perfect participle

And how is the usage of these three types?

For example: I go shopping and I went shopping. Is that a present participle form?

I always thought participle (eg.) from go is gone

Thx for help :-)

  • A typical example of a "perfect participle" construction would be, for example, Having shopped ['til I dropped], I took a taxi home. Jul 22, 2017 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


When you talk about participles in English, there are two.  The traditional names for these forms are "present participle" and "past participle"

Unfortunately, those names are misleading and confusing.  The so-called present participle has nothing to do with the present tense but everything to do with the continuous aspect.  Likewise, the so-called past participle has nothing to do with the past tense but everything to do with the perfect aspect.  Even "perfect aspect" is a misleading, confusing name, as it has nothing to do with the completeness of the verb's action but everything to do with the results of the verb's action.*


Here's a revised list:

1) Traditional name: present participle.  Purpose: marks the continuous aspect (or progressive aspect, especially if the verb's meaning involves change).  Form: -ing. Examples: being, going, breaking, sleeping, changing, ringing

2) Traditional name: past participle.  Purpose: marks the perfect aspect.  Form: -en, -t, -ed, and others; or, a changed vowel.  Examples: been, gone, broken, slept, changed, rung

The variety of past participle forms is simply an accident of history.  Your best option is to learn each verb's forms separately.  This is why the past participle is one of the principle parts of verbs.


As you already know, the participles of "to go" are "going" and "gone".  In the sentence "I went shopping", "went" is not a participle at all.  "Went" is simply the past-tense form.  However, "shopping" is what we call a present particle form.

As should be obvious, the phrase "went shopping" can't represent a verb form.  There are two words in the verb.**  There are two forms.  On the other hand, the two forms combine into one construction -- a verb in the active voice, past tense, continuous aspect and indicative mode, often called the "past continuous" for short.

There are quite a few verb constructions in English, many of which include participles. For instance, "I was hoping to be gone shopping by now" contains a predicate with a past-tense finite verb, a continuous participle, an infinitive, a past participle, and finally a continuous participle.


*  We can see this clearly in a sentence like "I have eaten a lot, but I have not finished eating."  Such a sentence would be senseless if the perfect "eaten" truly meant that the action were complete.

**  or two verbs in the phrase. The name "verb" is quite confusing on its own. It would be helpful to have an easy, clear way to distinguish between verb-as-a-part-of-speech and verb-as-a-part-of-the-sentence.


Participles are non-finites, that is, verbal forms that cannot stand alone as the main verb of a clause or sentence (other non-finites are the infinitive and the gerund).

Main verbs are tensed or conjugated and can contain participles, but the participles alone are not tensed or conjugated verbs: they can only form part of these.

  1. The present participle is formed by adding -ing to the verb and can form part of continuous or progressive tenses and be adjectival or adverbial.

1.a. The present participle forming part of a continuous or progressive verb: The girl is shopping with her friends.

1.b. Adjectival: the present participle describes or defines a noun, and is usually an abridged form of a relative clause: The girl (who is) shopping with her friends is spending all her savings.

1.c. Adverbial: the present participle refers to an action previous to, simultaneous with, or subsequent to the action denoted by the main verb: The girl spent the whole day shopping. (shopping describes how the girl spent her day.)

Some people refer to gerund-participles. I prefer to keep the term "gerund" (also formed by V + ing) when its function is nominal, as in: Shopping can be boring.

  1. The past participle of regular verbs ends in -d or -ed and can form part of perfect tenses or of the passive voice, or be adjectival:

2.a. The past participle forming part of a verb in a perfect tense: The girl has bought lots of things.

2.b. The past participle forming part of a verb in the passive voice: Those shoes were bought in an expensive store.

2.c. Adjectival: the past participle describes or defines a noun, and is usually an abridged form of a relative clause: The shoes (which are) sold at that store are really fashionable.

  1. Perfect participles are formed by having + the past participle of an action or state verb. They can perform the same functions as present participles, but differ from these in that they refer to a previous condition: Having shopped all day, the girl decided to go back home.

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