I was reading a grammar book by M. Swan about present and past participle that are used as adjectives when I came across this example: a vanished civilization. In his book Oxford Grammar, he explains that the past participle as an adjective normally has a passive meaning. For instance, a broken chair means a chair that has been broken.

Then, I remember when I read Rowling's book: Harry Potter 1st, there is a chapter entitled "The Vanishing Glass". For additional context, the story tells about the Dudley family went to the zoo and the glass pane that Harry vanished when Dudley was leaning into it. As explained in the Swan's book, I'm sure we could think of that the glass pane had been vanished by Harry (passive), thus the adjective could be written using the past participle "vanished". (Am I right?)

In this context, could the title be changed into "The Vanished Glass" without changing the meaning of the phrase? If it could, are past participle and present participle interchangeably used?

1 Answer 1


Vanish is an intransitive verb - something vanishes (disappears), you don't vanish it. A 'vanished civilisation' is one that has disappeared and left no records, just a few archaeological traces to tell us that it once existed.

Harry Potter didn't 'vanish' the glass, he made it vanish. The present participle is used because the vanishing happened while the family were at the zoo; it hadn't already vanished when they arrived there.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .