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          Past Participial Phrases

A past participial phrase includes a past participle and any modifiers.  Past participial phrases function adjectivally to give more information about a noun or a pronoun in a sentence.


A past participial phrase can come right

after the noun or pronoun it describes. 

If the past participial phrase provides

information that is essential to understand

the noun or pronoun, the past participial

phrase should not be set off by commas.  

          Leroy tossed a rope to the man  thrown overboard.

          The library book  damaged by water needs to be replaced.

          Firefighters could not save the house  consumed by fire.

          The team defeated in Super Bowl XLVIII had been expected to win.

          Insurance will pay for everything  stolen in the burglary.

          A student  confused by the assignment asked the instructor for extra help. 

A past participial phrase that provides information that is non-essential to understand a subject should be set off by commas.

         Roberto, thrown overboard, struggled in the water until Leroy tossed him a rope.

         The Denver Broncos, defeated in Super Bowl XLVIII, had been expected to win.

         My television andstereo, stolen in the burglary, will be replaced by insurance.

         Maria, Confused by the assignment, asked her instructor for extra help.

A non-essential past participial phrase that describes the subject of the sentence can also come at the beginning of the sentence; a comma will follow the phrase.

          Thrown overboard, Roberto struggled in the water until Leroy tossed him a rope.

          Defeated in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos had been expected to win.

          Stolen in the burglary, my television and stereo will be replaced by insurance.

          Confused by the assignment, Maria asked her instructor for extra help.


Writing past participial phrases can be tricky.  Not all past participles can be turned into past participial phrases.  In fact, only past participle forms of transitive verbs can be turned into past participial phrases.  For example, throw is a transitive verb, so its past participle form (thrown) can be used in a past participial phrase.  On the other hand, arrive  is an intransitive verb, so its past participle form (arrived) cannot be used in a past participial phrase.