Author: British Council | Published  on 1 August 2022


Stage 1: Present examples 

Write these sentences on the board. Ask: “Do you agree? Why / why not?”

  1. Speaking is harder than reading. 
  2. Speaking games are fun. 
  3. Spoken English is harder to understand than written English. 
  4. Interested and motivated learners learn more. 

Ask: “What do you notice about the underlined words?”

To help learners, you could ask more focused questions:

  • Are the words verbs? (No; the verb = ‘is’ but they look like verbs) What are they? 
  • In which sentences are they nouns? (= 1) 
  • In which sentences are they adjectives? (= 2, 3 and 4.) Which words do the adjectives describe? (= ‘games’, ‘English’ and ‘learners’). 
  • Which do you think are ‘present participles’ (=speaking and reading) and ‘past participles’? (=spoken, written, interested and motivated)

Stage 2: Take feedback 

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they have noticed in the example sentences. Some key points which you might want to share with them include: 

There are two types of participles in English: past and present. The present participle is always formed by adding -ing to verbs, e.g. speaking. The past participle is formed by adding -ed to regular verbs, e.g. interested. However, many verbs are irregular, e.g. spoken, written, etc.  

  • Used as parts of verbs: The present participle is used to make the present and past continuous with the verb ‘be’. For example: She was reading at 11 a.m. and she’s still reading! The past participle is used to make present perfect with the verb ‘have’. For example: She has finished the book. And to make the passive with the verb ‘be’. For example: The book was written by Chinua Achebe.    
  • Used as adjectives: Present and past participles can be used as adjectives. For example: Speaking games are fun. Motivated learners learn more.
  • Used as nouns: Only present participles can be used as nouns. For example: Speaking is harder than reading. 

Stage 3: Use the grammar

a) Participle pairs

Ask all the learners to make a list of 3 present participles, e.g. doing, writing, cooking. Then ask them to make a list of 3 participle phrases, e.g. playing football, eating dinner, buying T-shirts. Tell learners to swap lists with their partner. They take it in turns to make 6 sentences using their partner’s list. For example: I don’t like playing football. Eating dinner is my favourite part of the day. Ask volunteers to write sentences on the board. When it is full, ask learners to identify the participles in each sentence.  

b) Yes or No?

Put learners in groups. Read out sentences to the class. Groups decide if the participle is a noun or not, e.g.  

  1. He was reading a book. (=no) 
  2. She prefers walking to school. (=yes) 
  3. Taking their bags, they left the room. (=yes) Etc.

Or if the participle is an adjective or not. e.g. 

  1. Put the broken pencils in the bin. (=yes) 
  2. The man caught a fish. (=no) 
  3. The winning team gets a prize (=yes). Etc.

c) In our opinion

Learners work in pairs to complete sentences with participles. For example: 

  1. ____________ is harder than ____________. 
  2. ____________ is more fun than ___________.
  3. ___________ food is better than ____________ food.
  4. _________ lessons are more useful than __________ lessons. 

Groups or the class then discuss the sentences and give their opinions.

d) Mime it!

Learners work in pairs, make a list of 5 present participle phrases, e.g. doing my homework, running for a bus, burning the dinner, etc. In groups they mime and guess their phrases.

e) Act it out

Learners work in groups to create a very short play (skit) using 5 participles. You could give them the topic, e.g. late for school. Other groups watch/listen and identify the 5 participles. 

See also