If you're not sure what a participle is, read on; then if you still want to know more, go
and check them out on our new web site for KS3 English teachers. More on that
below. But first, what are participles and - more importantly - why should you bother
Participles are forms of a verb that can be used rather like adjectives. Here are two
The propellor was turning in the wind.
The propellor was damaged by the wind.
The verbs "turning" and "damaged" are participles, so you can replace them with an
The propellor was loose.
The Romans called them "participles" because they "participated" in the
characteristics of adjectives as well as verbs. (Not a very good name, you say. Ok, we
agree, but it does make some sense.)
Why do they matter at KS3? Because they're one of the growth-points of writing at
that stage. Not in examples like the ones above - every five-year old uses these all the
time - but in more complex sentences like these:
The girls selected for the team were all tall.
The girl running down the road fell over.
Running down the road she fell over.
Her hair flying behind her, she ran down the road.
Notice how you could expand each of these into a full clause with a finite verb:
The girls who were selected for the team were all tall.
The girl who were running down the road fell over.
When she was running down the road she fell over.
While her hair was flying behind her, she ran down the road.
In all these examples the participle is in a slimmed-down subordinate clause which
makes the full version look rather clumsy. The reduction is possible because the
participle itself shows that its clause is a subordinate clause so there's no need for any
other signal such as "who" or "when". As the Romans saw, the participle does two
jobs at the same time. Very efficient - a nice bit of grammar design.
Participle (or participial) clauses are the next stop on the road to writer-dom (after
finite subordinate clauses, which follow co-ordinate clauses, which follow separate
simple sentences). The fact is that most Year 7 pupils hardly ever use them, except the
most ambitious writers who are already experimenting and will be using them like old
hands by Year 9. Our role is to encourage everyone to do the same.
And the web site? This explains technical terms such as 'participle' and helps you to
see them as tools to be developed at KS3. The glossary gives a quick (and official)
thumb-nail sketch, and the separate units give more explanation and detail, as well as
examples of pupil writing, suggestions for teaching and some self-test exercises. Try it