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Past Participles

A past participle often ends in -ed, but there are also many irregular past participles. For many verbs, including -ed verbs, the simple past and the past participle are the same and can be easily confused. The -ed form of the verb can be (1) the simple past, (2) the past participle of a verb, or (3) an adjective.

  1. She painted this picture.
  2. She has painted this picture.
  3. The picture painted by Karen is now in a museum.

Can you explain these three examples?

In particular, example 1 didn't specify a time because it is a past simple? And in example 3 I can't understand the difference in meaning between passive and adjective.

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    Very often verbs have a past tense form (painted) that is identical to the passive form (painted) and the past participle form (painted). – user6951 May 15 '15 at 2:46
  • ok but I need the difference in meaning and why at 3 didn't use (was) and be the sentence like that The picture was painted by Karen is now in a museum ?! – Eng Ahmed Saied May 15 '15 at 2:58
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    #3 equals: The picture that was painted by Karen is now in a museum. – user6951 May 15 '15 at 3:07
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    It's a good question, but I disagree with the book's characterization. Painted isn't an adjective in example 3. Here are three examples from The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p.79, which illustrate the past participle-adjective contrast: ① It was broken deliberately, out of spite. [past participle form of verb] ② It didn't look broken to me. [past-participial adjective] ③ It was broken. [ambiguous] – snailcar May 15 '15 at 7:50
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I think the OP is clear about the sentences #1 and #2 that are in the past simple and the present perfect respectively. However, he is not clear about the following sentence #3:

The picture painted by Karen is now in a museum.

According to him, the sentence should be as follows:

The picture was painted by Karen is now in a museum.

I would advise the OP to study defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses in a grammar book to get over his confusion.

The sentence formed by him is grammatically incorrect without the relative pronoun that/which. The correct sentence is as follows:

The picture that was painted by Karen is now in a museum.

"that was painted by Karen" is a defining relative clause in the sentence. "That" is a relative pronoun which you cannot omit in the sentence. However, in order to shorten the relative defining clause, it's possible to omit "relative pronoun + be" before an adjective/past participle in a relative defining clause.

So the sentence "The picture that was painted by Karen is now in a museum = "The picture painted by Karen is now in a museum".

In the sentence #1, the verb painted has been used as a second form of the verb.

In the sentence #2, it's the past participle that we use in the perfect.

In the sentence #3, it's also the past participle that we use in the passive voice.

We usually use the past participle as an adjective to express a static situation without an agent. I think the verb painted has been used as an adjective in the following sentence:

The picture (that is) painted is now in a museum.

  • I think the OP is concerned more about how '-ed' verb is 'adjective' in sentence 3. – Maulik V May 15 '15 at 6:46
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    @MaulikV I agree, but the problem is that the book is wrong. It's not an adjective. – snailcar May 15 '15 at 7:52
  • Thanks for the confirmation. I was upset seeing the statement. I thought I still need to improve! :) @snailboat – Maulik V May 15 '15 at 7:59
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The verb in the example is "to paint".  The principle parts of this verb are "paint", "painted" and "painted".  The second and third principle parts happen to be the same, as they are for most English verbs.

However, that similarity does not occur in every English verb.  For example, the principle parts of "to take" are "take", "took", "taken".
 

  • She painted this picture.
  • She took this picture.

This sentence uses the second principle part -- the past tense form.  The word is used as a verb, has a tense, and has no auxiliary. 
 

  • She has painted this picture.
  • She has taken this picture.

This sentence uses the third principle part -- the participle form.  The word is used as part of a complete verb that includes the auxiliary "has".  The complete verb is in the present tense and the perfect aspect.

The version that uses the verb "to take" cannot be mistaken for the past tense form -- "taken" looks and sounds nothing like "took".  For the version that uses "to paint", it is only the fact that there is an auxiliary verb that indicates "painted" is the participle form.

By the way, this is not a passive voice construction.  Passive voice uses the auxiliary "to be" instead of "to have".  For example, "the picture was taken" or "the picture will be painted".
 

Participles can be used as a part of a complete verb, but they can also be used as modifiers.  When they are modifiers, they are not combined with auxiliaries.

In general, participles that are alone come before the noun, as in "the painted picture".  Participial phrases, however, tend to follow the noun:

  • The picture painted by Karen is now in a museum.
  • The picture taken by Karen is now in a museum.

The phrase "painted by Karen" does not have a tense, does not form a predicate, and does not have a subject.  Instead, it behaves like an adjective and answers the question "which picture?"  There is a verb in this sentence, but that verb is "is".  The subject of "is" is "picture".

Prepositional phrases can do the same sort of job. Consider:

  • The picture of three apples is now in a museum.

     

Your comment includes an example sentence that has bad grammar:

  • The picture was painted by Karen is now in a museum.

Here's the problem:  "Was painted" is a complete verb.  It has a tense, it forms a predicate, and it needs a subject.  "Is" is also a complete verb, possessing tense and forming a predicate and needing a subject.  Unfortunately, there's only one subject available, and it can't satisfy both predicates.

There are a few ways to fix that problem. One way is to remove "was" and let "painted by Karen" act as a modifier. Another way is to give "was painted by Karen" its own subject, such as "The picture that was painted by Karen is now in a museum." Yet another way is to join the two predicates with a conjunction, so that the one subject can satisfy the resulting compound: "The picture was painted by Karen and is now in a museum."

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There are no adjectives in these examples. #1 and #2 are past simple and past perfect, respectively.

As pazzo explained in the comments, #3 is derived from the passive voice:

a. The picture painted by Karen is now in a museum. (past participle construction in place of the passive).

b. The picture that was painted by Karen is now in a museum. (relative clause in the passive)

c. Karen painted a picture. It is now in a museum. (active)

In examples a and b painted is a past participle (which is a part of the passive construction in the example b).

Past participles can also be used as modifiers (i.e. in place of adjectives). Then they are called adjectival participles. (Side note: -ing form or present participle can also be an adjectival participle).

This would work in a sentence like this:

d. Please hang the photograph on the painted wall.

(A somewhat clumsy example, but you get the picture.)

Or:

She looked angrily at the broken window.

There are adjectives ending in -ed, such as: wicked, naked, aged, learned etc.

I've checked ODO, MW and LDOCE and they don't list 'painted' as an adjective. But they do list colo(u)red.

brightly coloured birds are easier to see (ODO)

Brightly coloured wall attracted everyone's attention.


As for your question about the past simple: it can be used for actions that took place at a defined time in the past, but its usage is not restricted to those cases. It can be used for completed actions, one-time events, past habits, the immediate past...

She painted this picture is a completed action in the past and she painted that particular picture (or painting) once.


Ref:

Longman English Grammar by L.G. Alexander

Cambridge Dictionaries Online - English Grammar Today

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