Skill 5: BE CAREFUL OF PAST PARTICIPLES


Past participles can cause confusion in structure questions on the TOEFL test because a past participle can be either an adjective or a part of a verb. The past participle is the form of the verb that appears with have or be. It often ends in -ed, but there are also many irregular past participles in English

The family has purchased a television.
The poem was written by Paul.

In the first sentence the past participle ‘purchased’ is part of the verb because it is accompanied by ‘has’. In the second sentence the past participle ‘written’ is part of the verb because it is accompanied by ‘was’.

A past participle is AN ADJECTIVE when it is not accompanied by some form of be or have.

e.g.
The television purchased yesterday was expensive.
The poem written by Paul appeared in the magazine.

In the first sentence ‘purchased’ is an adjective rather than a verb because it is not accompanied by a form of “be or have” (and there is a verb, was, later in the sentence). In the second sentence ‘written’ is an adjective rather than a verb because it is not accompanied by a form of be or have (and there is a verb, appeared, later in the sentence).

Example:
The packages _____ mailed at the post office will arrive Monday.
(A) have
(B) were
(C) them
(D) just 

In this example, if you look only at the first few words of the sentence, it appears that ‘packages’ is the subject and ‘mailed’ is either a complete verb or a past participle that needs a helping verb. But if you look further in the sentence, you will see that the verb is ‘will arrive’. You will then recognize that ‘mailed’ is a participial adjective and is therefore not part of the verb. 
Answers (A) and (B) are incorrect because mailed is an adjective and does not need a helping verb such as ‘have or were’. Answer (C) is incorrect because there is no need for the object them. Answer (D) is the best answer to this question.


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