The participle phrase

A participle is a form of a verb and may act as an adjective. There are two kinds of a participle: the present participle and past (perfect) participle. A present participle always ends in 
-ing form (smiling, cooking, walking), whereas a past participle usually ends with –ed (smiled, cooked, walked) for regular verbs and for irregular verbs they vary considerably (break – broken).
A participle phrase consists of a participle and an object and, optionally, its modifiers  - acts as an adjective, modifying a noun or a pronoun. They may modify a subject or other nouns/objects in a sentence.

a smiling lady

a – an indefinite article (determiner) modifies ‘lady’, 
smiling – an adjective, which modifies ‘lady’;

both are modifiers and called ‘determiners’, which occur before a noun being modified. Therefore, ‘a smiling lady’ is a noun phrase with a participle working as an adjective.

a retired teacher
this is again the same pattern.


  • This lady, walking towards us, is Peter’s sister.
  • Peter’s old, red, Japanese sport car, repaired three times this month, is a scrap of metal.
  • These parts coloured in red are participial phrases. 
  • Having been a teacher of English, Peter’s older sister of Nottingham in Yorkshire in England does not like the East London accent.
  • Being a retired teacher of English for over 30 years, Jane loves to correct Peter’s London’s accent. 

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