I have been learning English for several years now, but I cannot explain properly the reason that past tense verbs can describe nouns.

The data presented in the above graph suggests that ...

The written evidence found was illegible.

I believe the above sentences are grammatically correct.

Here, in the first example, 'presented' describes the noun, 'data'.

In the second example, the noun 'evidence' is described by 'written' and 'found'.

To express the above sentences alternatively, I think they can be written as:

The data that was presented in the above graph suggests that ...

The written evidence that was found was illegible.

So, can I assume that 'that was' is omitted in both of the sentences?

How would you explain effectively and correctly the construction of this type of sentences to a student?

  • 1
    Relative clauses can be shortened by using participle constructions. Your relative clauses are alright.
    – rogermue
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


English verbs have a past tense form and a past participle form. With regular verbs, both end in -ed. There are many irregular verbs where the past tense and past participle are different, such as wrote and written.

The past tense form is an actual verb and expresses a past event. It will have a subject and objects or complements like any other verb.

I walked to the park.

The past participle form can work as an adjective to say that the noun has been affected, processed, or transformed by a completed action. It's not a verb when used like this.

The destroyed buildings formed an ominous landscape.

Buildings is the subject and formed is the verb here, and destroyed is an adjective describing buildings.

Past participle forms can be combined with forms of to be (for passive voice) or to have (perfect) or both, in this case it's best to think of them as a single verb that takes two words to express.

The buildings have been destroyed.

Have been destroyed is the verb and buildings is the subject.

Much of the time {past participle} + {noun} = {noun} that is {past participle}.

The written evidence - The evidence that is written.

The destroyed buildings - The buildings that are destroyed.

  • Thanks for the clarification. Your explanation is excellent! I appreciate it :)
    – Sungwoo
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 6:48

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