- In grammar terms, a participle is an adjective (descriptive word) made from a verb.
An example of a participle is "sleeping" in the phrase "sleeping dogs."
participle definition by Webster's New World
Origin: Old French ; from Classical Latin participium ; from particeps, participating, partaking ; from participare, participate: from participating in the nature of both verb and amp; adjective
participle definition by American Heritage Dictionary
Origin: Middle English, from Old French, variant of participe, from Latin participium (translation of Greek metokhē, sharing, partaking, participle), from particeps, particip-, partaker; see participate.Usage Note: Participial phrases such as walking down the street or having finished her homework are commonly used in English to modify nouns or pronouns, but care must be taken in incorporating such phrases into sentences. Readers will ordinarily associate a participle with the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun adjacent to it, and misplacement may produce comic effects as in He watched his horse take a turn around the track carrying a racing sheet under his arm. A correctly placed participial phrase leaves no doubt about what is being modified: Sitting at her desk, Jane read the letter carefully. • Another pitfall in using participial phrases is illustrated in the following sentence: Turning the corner, the view was quite different. Grammarians would say that such a sentence contains a “dangling participle” because there is no noun or pronoun in the sentence that the participial phrase could logically modify. Moving the phrase will not solve the problem (as it would in the sentence about the horse with a racing sheet). To avoid distracting the reader, it would be better to recast the sentence as When we turned the corner, the view was quite different or Turning the corner, we had a different view. • A number of expressions originally derived from participles have become prepositions, and these may be used to introduce phrases that are not associated with the immediately adjacent noun phrase. Such expressions include concerning, considering, failing, granting, judging by, and speaking of. Thus one may write without fear of criticism Speaking of politics, the elections have been postponed or Considering the hour, it is surprising that he arrived at all.
participle - Cultural Definition
The present participle is formed by adding -ing to the infinitive; it indicates present action: “The girl is swimming”; “I am thinking.” (Compare gerund.)
The past participle usually ends in -ed; it indicates completed or past action: “The gas station has closed”; “The mayor had spoken.”
Participles may also function as adjectives: “Your mother is a charming person”; “This is a talking parrot”; “Spoken words cannot be revoked.”
- A “dangling” participle is one that is not clearly connected to the word it modifies: “Standing at the corner, two children walked past me.” A better version of this example would be, “While I was standing at the corner, two children walked past me.”