par·​ti·​ci·​ple ˈpär-tə-ˌsi-pəl How to pronounce participle (audio)
 Britain also  pär-ˈti-si-pəl,
: a word having the characteristics of both verb and adjective
especially : an English verbal form that has the function of an adjective and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense and voice and capacity to take an object
In "the finished product," the word "finished" is a participle formed from the verb "finish."

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Grammar and Participle

English verbs can take several basic forms, which we call their principal parts: the infinitive (move, speak, etc.), the past tense (moved, spoke), the past participle (moved, spoken), and the present participle (moving, speaking). The participles are words that "take part" in two different word classes: that is, they are verb forms that can also act like adjectives ("the spoken word," "a moving experience"). A grammatical error called a dangling participle occurs when a clause begins with a participle that doesn't modify the subject; in the sentence "Climbing the mountain, the cabin came in view," for example, climbing is a dangling participle since it doesn't modify cabin. When we revise the sentence to "Climbing the mountain, the hikers spied a cabin," the participle climbing modifies the subject hikers and is therefore no longer dangling.

Examples of participle in a Sentence

In the phrases “the finishing touches” and “the finished product,” “finishing” and “finished” are participles formed from the verb “finish.”
Recent Examples on the Web Centering a scene in a studio comedy around a man’s dangling participle can be both an act of sincerity and a punchline, though, and O’Brien and Segel’s exchange gets at what makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall such an enduring piece of work. Andy Crump, Men's Health, 21 Apr. 2023 And undangle your participle, etceterer. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Dec. 2021 Some scholars believe violence and vehemence may share a common Latin origin, a lost participle of the verb vehere, to carry. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 31 Mar. 2016 Vin Scully was baseball’s Sinatra, a man who sang the song of the game with great timing and phrasing, without blowing a lyric, or dangling a participle. Nick Canepacolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Aug. 2022 To compound matters, Ball’s prose is relentlessly truncated: short declarative sentences that leave the reader longing for a subordinate clause, a compound sentence, or even a dangling participle. David Holahan, USA TODAY, 2 Aug. 2020 One explanation is that, like the dangling participle, the split infinitive has a catchy name, making the rule easy to pass on. The Economist, 26 Apr. 2018 Got that?** A common hyphenated compound follows the pattern adjective-noun noun or adjective-participle noun. John E. McIntyre,, 27 Aug. 2017 The word traces back to the Middle English and Old French for ‘‘exit,’’ and before that to the feminine past participle (issir) of the Latin exire, meaning to ‘‘go out’’ or ‘ Carina Chocano, New York Times, 18 July 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'participle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French, modification of Latin participium, from particip-, particeps

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of participle was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near participle

Cite this Entry

“Participle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


par·​ti·​ci·​ple ˈpärt-ə-ˌsip-əl How to pronounce participle (audio)
: a word that functions like an adjective and also shows such features of a verb as tense and voice and the ability to take an object

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