A participle is a non-finite form of a verb that is either used as an adjective or as a verb used to form compound tenses. Don’t fret about the grammatical jargon, here. For the purposes of the ACT English, just be able to identify the two forms of participles: past and present.
Present Participles, a.k.a. ‘-ing’ verbs
The present participle is formed by adding ‘-ing’ to the base form of the verb. There are three main uses of present participles:
- Progressive verbs: “I am running to my classroom.”
- Adjective form: “The actress’s dress is stunning.”
- Gerund (i.e. noun form): “Exercising is my favorite activity.”
The ACT is not likely to test you on the usage of present participles. If anything, you might have to choose between using a gerund and the infinitive form of a verb, like in this problematic sentence:
“I enjoy to jog through the park.”
In English, if you enjoy an activity, you enjoy the infinitive form of the verb, not the gerund:
“I enjoy jogging through the park.”
Past Participles, a.k.a. ‘-ed’ verbs
- Adjective form: “Bruised and beaten, the victim was no match for his attackers.”
- Past Perfect verb tense (formed with the auxiliary verb ‘have’): “I have just finished my report.”
- Passive verb tense (formed with the verb ‘be’): “The perpetrator was accused of theft.”
Irregular Past Participles
You might notice that not all past participles are formed by adding ‘-ed.’ These special cases are called irregular past participles, and the ACT loves to test you on them. In the first example above, “beaten” is a past participle that is formed by adding ‘-en’ instead of ‘-ed.’ I’m not going to go through all the different forms of irregular past participles, but I will touch on a few that native English speakers often have trouble with.
Let’s look at a sample sentence you might see on the exam:
- I’ve just drank a glass of water, so I’m not thirsty anymore.
a. NO CHANGE
b. I’ve just drunken
c. I had just drank
d. I’ve just drunk
This question simply tests your knowledge of the past participle of ‘drink.’ This may seem silly to those who can spot the answer immediately, but this is a verb that is seldom used correctly (you may have even heard others use invented forms of the past participle, including “drinken” and “dranken”). The real past participle of drink is rather simple: drunk (think “drink/drank/drunk”), making D the correct answer. A couple other often confused past participles include “swum” (swim/swam/swum) and “rung” (ring/rang/rung).
Irregular Past and Participles of Common Verbs
Here is a more thorough, yet incomplete, list of irregular verbs, including their past tenses and past participles: