General Writing and Grammar Help/past participle

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QUESTION: Dear Ted,
 
Can you please tell me if a past participle can be used without an auxiliary verb.

Is “composed” a past participle in the following sentence:

  “I composed the play.”

Is “composed the play” a participle phrase?

Thank you.


Sincerely,

Rich

ANSWER: Dear Rich:

Can you please tell me if a past participle can be used without an auxiliary
verb.

*** Yes, they can.  Past participles are verbs used as adjectives.  Most people call them "adjectives."  Rule 7b(3) from "Hodges' Harbrace Handbook" states this:  Participles used alone cannot function as the verb in a predicate.  

EXAMPLES:  We SHRUNK those jeans in the wash. [simple past tense verb]
         I was wearing jeans SHRUNK in the wash.  [past participle, modifying "jeans]

         We BAKED pastries yesterday.  [simple past tense verb]
         We ate pastries BAKED yesterday.  [past participle, modifying "pastries]

*** Past participles are USUALLY formed by added "d" or "ed" to the end of the present tense verb.  There are ALWAYS exceptions, of course.  Most grammar sites on the internet will give you a list of "irregular" verbs whose past participles do not follow the usual pattern.

Here's another example of past participles without an auxiliary verb:

TIRED and EXHAUSTED, the travelers finally escaped from the raging blizzard.  Both "tired" and "exhausted" are past participles, modifying the subject "travelers."



Is “composed” a past participle in the following sentence:

  “I composed the play.”

Is “composed the play” a participle phrase?

*** A sentence MUST have a verb.  The only verb in your four-word sentence is "composed."  That verb is transitive, so it must have a direct object.

I = subject
composed = verb
the = article
play = noun, used as the direct object of "composed."

*** I have found a grammar site from the University of Washington.  It contains some excellent examples of participles.  You must scroll down to the participle section.

http://depts.washington.edu/wbt401/Grammar/partsofspeech.htm

*** I offer this site to you with some reluctance, because this university uses somewhat different terminology.  Do NOT be confused by it.

For instance,

Because he was confused by her request, he sent the wrong letter. (past participle confused, working as a transitive verb accompanied by the helping verb was)

*** In the above example, they have decided to call "confused" a past participle rather than part of a verb phrase in the past tense -- "was confused."  Note that this example is in the passive voice, which further complicates the issue.

The university does provide an "out" in its explanation:  the helping verb "was" accompanies the past tense verb "confused."  In other words, whereas most people would simply call "was confused" a verb phrase in the past tense, this university goes one step further and presents the individual parts of the verb phrase.

In my opinion, going that extra step is for linguists, not for grammarians.

Ted




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Ted,

Thank you.

Please excuse my inability to understand.

I should have asked:  "Can a past participle be used as a verb without an auxiliary verb?"

In the sentence:  "I composed the play"  is "composed" a verb (but not a past participle)?

In the sentence:  "I have composed the play"  -  Is "composed" a past participle?

Is the word "composed" sometimes a simple past tense verb and at other times a past participle?

Thank You,

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Please excuse my inability to understand.

I should have asked:  "Can a past participle be used as a verb without an auxiliary verb?"

*** NO

In the sentence:  "I composed the play"  is "composed" a verb (but not a past participle)?

*** "Composed" is the verb.  It is the past tense of "compose."

In the sentence:  "I have composed the play"  -  Is "composed" a past participle?

**** NO.  

Subject = I
Verb = have composed -- It is in the present perfect tense.
Article = the
Direct Object = play.

Is the word "composed" sometimes a simple past tense verb and at other times a past participle?

*** YES.

Beethoven COMPOSED nine symphonies.  [simple past tense]

After her initial panic, the actress, now composed and calm, continued her performance.

*** In this sentence "composed" is a past participle, used as an adjective modifying "actress."
"Calm" is just an adjective.

Ted  

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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