Navigating Powerful Participles in Creative Storytelling

Why did the participle go to therapy? Because it had some serious dangling issues! Okay, the joke isn’t that funny, but it’s true.

Last time, we tackled infinitives, and today, we’re diving into the fascinating world of powerful participles. Buckle up!

Participles are like the cool sidekicks of verbs in sentences. They’re words that usually end in “-ing” (present participles) or “-ed” (past participles). But more about that later.

 These little guys add flair to your writing by showing action or describing things. For example:

♦ The running cat.
♦ The cooked dinner.

In these sentences, running and cooked are the participles. They’re extras that make your sentences more fun!

Why are Participles Important in Grammar?

Participles are crucial in grammar because they make your writing more interesting and detailed. Here’s why they matter.

Descriptive Power

Participles help paint a vivid picture by describing actions or states. They give you the freedom to go beyond basic statements and make your writing more interesting.

Sentence Variety

Participles let you mix up your sentence structure. This mix keeps your writing from getting boring and makes it more fun to read.

Smooth Flow

Participles make your sentences flow better. They make your writing feel more natural and cohesive by seamlessly connecting ideas.

Expressing Action

Whether it’s the ongoing action with -ing or the completed action with -ed, participles help show when things happened.

Creating Participle Phrases

Participles enhance your writing by adding layers of meaning to participle phrases.

In short, participles add flavour, variety, and a little magic to your writing, making it more fun and effective.

 Types of Participles

There are only two main types of participles: present participles and past participles.

Present Participles

These guys end in “-ing.” They’re like the energetic, ongoing form of verbs. For example:

♦ The smiling sun.
Smiling is the present participle, adding a lively touch to the sun

Past Participles

These often end in “-ed” or irregular forms like “written” or “broken.” They represent completed or finished actions. For instance:

♦ The baked cookies
The past participle baked shows that the cookies are baked and ready to munch.

So, whether it’s the action in progress or a task completed, participles are there to bring your sentences to life!

What are Dangling Participles?

When participles aren’t where they should be, things get tricky. When the participle in a sentence doesn’t match up with the noun, it’s supposed to describe. Picture this: 

♦ Running to catch the bus, the rain started falling.

Running to catch the bus is the dangling participle because it’s not clear who’s doing the running. Is it the rain? Nope, but it seems that way!

To avoid the confusion, make sure the noun you’re describing with the participle is close by. Instead of the confusing rain example, you could say:

♦ Running to catch the bus, she felt the rain starting.

Keep participles close to the nouns they’re describing, and your sentences will be as clear as day!

Don’t Leave the Participle Hanging: Always pair a participle with a noun or something it can connect to. Don’t let it float around alone in a sentence.

Components of Participles

How do participles work with the other parts of speech?

Adverbs and Participles

A participle can be modified by an adverb, adverbial phrase, or adverbial clause.

♦ Smiling brightly, she extended her hand. (Adverb)
♦ He leaped forward, shrieking with all his might. (Adverbial phrase)
♦ Laughing until he cried, he sank into a chair. (Adverbial clause)

Objects and Participles

If it makes sense, a participle can have an object.

♦ I found the old man mending his net.
♦ Lifting the box, he moved toward the door.
♦ Giving me a friendly nod, he passed on. [Here nod is the direct object of giving, and me is the indirect object.]

Sometimes, people refer to the participle, along with its modifiers and any other attached words, as a participial phrase.

What’s a Participial Phrase?

A participial phrase is a group of words formed around a participle that provides extra details.

Running late for the bus, Sarah quickly grabbed her backpack.
Running late for the bus is a participial phrase.

Adjectives and Participles

A participle is like a verb that doesn’t have its own subject. Instead, it acts a bit like an adjective, describing or limiting a noun by showing action or a state. It’s a word that adds more details to a thing or an idea in a sentence. The participle belongs to the thing it’s describing

♦ A grinning boy confronted me.
♦ A battered hat hung on the peg.
♦ Kate was playing with a broken doll.
♦ We could hear a rushing stream.
Willing hands make light work.

You can use a participle just as an adjective.

Predicate Adjective

People often use the past participle to show the state or condition of something.

It’s easy to get confused between this construction and passive verbs. We can see the distinction in the following examples:

♦ The rain began to fall heavily, and every time a gust of wind struck us we were drenched by it.
♦ When the rain at last ceased, we were drenched.

The first sentence uses the past passive form of the verb “drenched” (“every time a gust of wind struck us, it drenched us”). In the second one, “drenched” is just showing the condition, so it’s an adjective.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell, so you can just consider the phrase as a passive verb.

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Nouns and Participles

Since, the participle acts a bit like an adjective when you’re using it in a sentence, it kind of follows the same rules as adjectives do. It hangs out with the noun, describing it or putting limits on it. So, whatever noun it’s connected to, that’s the team it belongs to!

♦ Sanjay, missing his friend, stepped to the door. (The present participle missing belongs to the subject Sanjay).
♦ Rising, she opened the window. (Rising belongs to she).
♦ I heard the rain falling. (Falling belongs to the object rain).
♦ Tom’s arm, broken by the blow, hung useless. (The past participle broken belongs to the subject arm).

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few rebels like

♦ concerning (preposition)
♦ considering (preposition)
♦ pending (preposition)
♦ generally speaking (independent participle)

♦ We fought every day, and, generally speaking, twice every day.— Thomas De Quincey.

These words can stand alone without a specific noun. They’re the exceptions to the usual team-up rule.

More Than One Function

The following sentence contains two participles:

♦ Shattered and slowly sinking, the ship drifted out to the open sea.

In this sentence, we recognize shattered is the verb shatter and sinking is the verb sink because they both express action. Sinking is also modified by the adverb slowly.

But, shattered and sinking can also be adjectives because they describe the noun ship. So, because these words are verb-ified adjectives. We call them participles because they act like adjectives

Examples of Creative Participle Usage

Let’s explore some creative participle usage:

White Teeth (Zadie Smith)

The present participle looking adds a sense of exploration and the quest for a quiet space.

♦ Looking for a place in the house where toothpaste wasn’t smeared or toilet seat broken, Magid eventually entered the room shared by his father and Clara.

Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

The present participle feeling captures the character’s heightened awareness and unease.

♦ Feeling that he was creeping up behind her again and would touch her on the shoulder.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

The present participle watching heightens the tension and draws attention to a significant moment.

♦ Watching, the eyes of the two men meet for a fraction of a second.

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

The past participle liked shows Beth’s ongoing preference for making little things.

♦ Beth seemed to think there was nothing she liked so well as making little duds for the children.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)

The past participle pulled and put describe the actions of the old lady.

♦ The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them.

10 Powerful Participles Tips

1. Check for Clarity: Ensure that your participles don’t create ambiguity. Clear connections between the participle and the noun are crucial.
2. Create Atmosphere: Use participles to set the mood in your writing. They can evoke emotions and create a vivid atmosphere.
3. Sequence of Actions: Use past participles to show actions that happened before the main events in your sentences. This adds a chronological layer to your storytelling.
4. Experiment with Placement: Play with the placement of participial phrases. They can be at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence for different effects.
5. Capture Character Actions: Describing characters’ actions with participles can show their true colors.

6. Avoid Dangling Dilemmas: Watch out for dangling participles. Make sure the noun you’re describing is close by to avoid confusion.
7. Vary Your Verbs: Experiment with different verbs to create both present and past participles. This adds variety and nuance to your writing.
8. Consider Context: Adapt your use of participles to the context of your writing. Different genres and styles may call for varied approaches.
9. Explore Exceptional Participles: Consider using exceptions like “concerning,” “considering,” and “pending” sparingly and purposefully.
10. Experiment with Participial Phrases: Play around with participial phrases. They can provide a fresh perspective and add a layer of sophistication to your writing.

Last Words on Powerful Participles

And there you have it! Participles are your trusty allies in the writing realm. Remember to practice using them in your sentences, and soon, you’ll be weaving words like a pro.

Happy writing!



Image by G.C. from Pixabay.



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