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Understanding an Adjectival Participle (Definition and Examples)

What is an adjectival participle? And how is it different form other participle forms? There are typically three types of participles in the English language (past, present, and future). How does this type of participle fit in? To learn more, continue reading.

Adjectival participle
Adjectival participle

What is an adjectival participle?

An adjectival participle is an adjective that ends with an -ing or an -ed. It is also known popularly as participial adjectives. Adjectives are words that typically alter or characterize the subject of a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase. Understanding an adjective is the first step to understanding an adjectival participle. 

Participles are words that are commonly thought of as verbs. However, they also function as a part of adjectives or as modifiers. The categorization depends upon the context and the usage of the participle.

In this capacity, participles can be of two types: 

  • Present Adjectival Participle
  • Past Adjectival Participle

We will go over them in more detail in the coming sections.

Adjectival participle
Adjectival participle

Grammar rules

As per the basic rules of grammar, when participles choose to participate in the adjectival antics, this kind of adjective is referred to as a participial adjective.

In most cases, the adjectival participles function as superlative and predicative adjectives. Let’s look at some examples to understand this better:

  • This is a frightening movie: Superlative
  • This movie is frightening: Predicative
  • That cricketer is very talented: Predicative
  • That is a very talented cricketer: Superlative

Why do we have them?

Adjectival participles are used in numerous ways and on various occasions. A participial adjective is usually used when a participle behaves like an adjective. This is when a participle describes a noun or a pronoun. 

Present participle adjectival 

A present participle adjectival is a term that can be used as an adjective or verb. A word in this form can be used as a modifier or even in verb tenses.

Grammar rules

As per the grammar rules, a present adjectival participle is a word that ends with -ing. Some examples of these include:

  • Swimming
  • Laughing
  • Working
  • Playing
Adjectival participle
Adjectival participle

Sentence examples

While present participle adjectives usually refer to a single word, let’s understand their usage better through some examples.

Here are some examples of present participle adjectives in sentences:

  • He was playing in the park 
  • The two friends were swimming in the pool 
  • Sam and Mike were playing football
  • Lina told me she will start working at the restaurant tomorrow. 

Past participle adjectival

As opposed to a present participle adjective, a past participle adjectival refers to the past tense of the verb. If the word used in a sentence is a regular verb, the past participle will end in -ed. However, if it is irregular, it can terminate differently.

Grammar rules

As per the grammatical rules governing the past participle adjectival, the verbs will end in the past tense. Depending upon whether the verb is regular or irregular, these participle adjectivals can end in -ed or -t.

Let’s look at some examples to understand it better: 

  • Burned 
  • Burnt 
  • Painted
  • Believed
  • Deceived

Sentence examples

Let’s see how past participle adjectivals can be used in sentences. Some examples of past participle adjectivals in sentences are: 

  • I wish to have a freshly painted room.
  • She took out a fully burnt pie from the oven.


What is a participle adjective example?

Some examples of participle adjectives are:

  1. A frightening movie
  2. A talented person
  3. A well-written book
  4. A talented swimmer
Is participle a verb or adjective?

A participle usually refers to a verb that can act as an adjective in a given scenario. When the participle has the ability to describe a noun, it becomes an adjectival participle.

How do you use participle adjectives in sentences?

Participle adjectives can be used in sentences in the present and past forms. These adjectives cannot be used in the future tense. 


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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