A participle phrase is an adjective phrase that starts with a participle.
Look at this example:
- You could see the panther releasing its grip.
(The shaded text is the participle phrase. The participle itself is in bold. The participle phrase is describing the panther.)
Participle Phrases Can Start with Past Participles or Present Participles
Participles are used as adjectives. There are two types of participles:
Look at these examples:
|The Verb||The Present Participle||The Past Participle||Example of a Participle Phrase|
|To rise||the rising sun||the risen sun
||Rising out of the sea in front of us, the sun started to warm our faces.
|To print||the printing document||the printed document
||Printed on the very first press, the document was extremely valuable.
|To break||the breaking news||the broken news
||Broken by a government whistle-blower, the news is all over the media.
Placement of Participle Phrases
A participle phrase will often appear at the start of a sentence to describe something in the main clause. For example:
A participle phrase can also appear immediately after whatever it's modifying. For example:
- Removing his glasses, the professor shook his head with disappointment.
(When a sentence is structured this way, use a comma to separate the participle phrase from whatever it's modifying (the professor in this example).)
It is also possible to use a participle phrase at the end of a clause and not immediately after whatever it's modifying. For example:
- I saw Arthur running for the bus.
(There is no comma when a participle phrase is placed immediately after its noun (Arthur in this example).)
- Paul loved his boxing gloves, wearing them even to bed.
(There is a comma when the participle phrase is used farther down the sentence than its noun (Paul in this example).)
Beware of Dangling Modifiers and Misplaced Modifiers
Particularly when using a participle phrase at the start of a sentence, be sure to place the noun being modified directly after the comma. If you fail to do this, you will have made a mistake known as a misplaced modifier. For example:
Also, be sure to include the noun being modified. If you omit it, you will have made a mistake known as a dangling modifier. For example:
- Disappointed almost to the point of tears, the empty test tube was examined by the professor.
(The empty test tube was not disappointed almost to the point of tears. The words after the participle phrase and the comma should be the professor.)
- Disappointed almost to the point of tears, an empty test tube was the worst outcome possible.
(In this example, there is nothing at all for the participle phrase to modify. It is dangling.)
What are adjective phrases?
What are participles?
What are present participles?
What are past participles?
What are misplaced modifiers?
What are dangling modifiers?
Glossary of grammatical terms