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Participial Modifiers

Present participles come from active verbs. The present participle has an active meaning.

If a book interests you, it is an interesting book.

Past participles come from passive verbs. The past participle has a passive meaning.

If you find fiction interesting, you are interested in reading fiction.

Note: Passive verb phrases are formed with the auxiliary verb BE and the past participle of the main verb. The form of the verb BE signals past, present, or future time. The past participle of regular verbs looks the same as the past form; it ends in -ed (visited) or -d (fried). The past participle of irregular verbs ends in -d, -t, -n, or -en (as in hid, hit, begun, eaten). In the stative passive the past participle expresses a resulting feeling or state of mind.

Study the examples in the chart. Note that the present and past participles function as adjectives after linking verbs be, get, become, seem, look, feel, etc. They are subject complements that modify the subject.
Verbs that often become participial modifiersPresent Participle/Active Meaning (Cause of something)Past Participle/Passive Meaning (Resulting feeling or state of mind brought on by something)
Her explanation confuses Vadim.Her explanation is confusing.Vadim is confused.        
The two-hour hike exhausted us.The hike was exhausting.We were exhausted.     
Her shrill voice irritated the audience. Her shrill voice was irritating. The audience was irritated by her voice.                             


Choose the Correct Participle: Read for meaning. In the context of the sentence, does the participle have an active (causal) meaning or a passive meaning (resulting in a certain feeling)?

1. Last night we listened to a report about new immigrants from India. The report fascinated   Active verb us. It was fascinating. We were fascinated.

2. Many baseball players from the Dominican Republic are when they are selected to play on a U.S. team is exciting. The players are excited about coming to play. to play for a U.S. team. Getting selected to play on a U.S. team is exciting. The players are excited about coming to play. [ Also note... ]Also note the two gerund phrases, one as subject (Getting selected to play...) and the other as object of a preposition (coming to play).

3. When immigrants first move to another country, the experience can be . The experience is upsetting or worrisome (disconcerting). They feel disconcerted.

4. Stephan felt very when his visa to the United States was denied. Being denied a visa was very disappointing. He felt very disappointed.  [Also note..]Also note the passive gerund phrase subject, Being denied a visa....

5. Adjusting to life in a large urban area can be to newcomers.   The experience troubles newcomers. It is a troubling experience. They are often troubled by all of the adjustments they have to make.

6. Some newcomers are easily when they can't express themselves well in English. Being unable to respond in English embarrasses them. This experience is embarrassing. They feel embarrassed. [Also Note...]Being unable to respond in English is the gerund phrase subject of the sentence.

7. Incidents of discrimination against immigrants are very to most Americans. Discrimination disturbs us. It is disturbing behavior. We are greatly disturbed by it.

8. In some cases, immigrants are by the taste of American food. The different type of food sickens them. They find the food sickening. They are sickened by it.

9. During the first few years, many immigrants feel by their slow economic advancement. The economy or their inability to find work hinders them. The situation is very hindering. As a result, they feel hindered by their unfortunate economic situation.

10. On the other hand, the rapid economic advancement of some immigrants is . Their ability to make money quickly astounds people. Their economic viability ability to live  and  work well   is astounding. Many Americans are astounded by their ability to become economically viable in a short time.

11. After a few years in the United States, many immigrant parents are by the changes they see in their children. The attitudes and behavior of their children puzzle them. Their behavior is extremely puzzling. The parents are puzzled by behavior that is so contrary to their expectations.

12. Similarly, teenaged children of immigrants find their parents' attitudes .   The parents, on the other hand, bewilder their children. Their attitudes from the old country are bewildering to them. They are bewildered by their parents' living in the past. [Also Note] Note the gerund object phrase of the preposition by. The noun before the gerund is possessive.

13. The different generations are about understanding each other.  Overcoming the generation gap concerns both generations. But parents focus on experiences concerning the past while the younger generation is more concerned about the future.


Content development by Kathleen Hanson, San Jose City College.
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