I'm having trouble understanding each participle. I also can't find an explanation that I understand.

I would like to know from you the function of each part of the principal parts:

  1. Present
  2. Present participle
  3. Past
  4. Past participle

PS My native language is Dutch.

  • Welcome to ELU. You may wish to visit the English Language Learners StackExchange site as well, which is intended to provide answers appropriate specifically to learners. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 9 '13 at 1:49
  • @StoneyB What are the differences between this site and the English Language Learners site? – Mr.Eee Mar 9 '13 at 2:30
  • Well, it's still being sorted out - ELL is very new. There are discussions here and there. My own opinion is that the easy questions come here, and the really, really hard ones which compel you to get down to First Principles and explain them in simple language go to ELL; but I'm eccentric. :) Poke around on both, and take your questions where you find the answers you like. There's nothing to keep you from joining both communities. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 9 '13 at 2:40
  • @StoneyB Thanks again for explaining why I should use one of them. Because I have began learning English for not a long time ago, I will ask my further questions on the ELL site. If I think I have an advanced question, I will ask it here. – Mr.Eee Mar 9 '13 at 3:02
  • With StoneyB here. Trying to get this question to be sent to EEL, but the tools don't provide the option. – teylyn Mar 9 '13 at 5:12

The finite forms

  • presentAn inflected form with -s is used for the 3rd person singular. Be has distinct forms for both the 1st and 3rd persons singular.

    • Used to express states which are currently true and actions habitually performed in the present; may also express intended future actions or states.
  • past (formed with the -(e)d suffix in weak verbs, with vowel change in strong verbs, and variously in irregular verbs. Be has a distinct form for the 1st and 3rd persons singular.)

    • Used to express states which were true at a given point in the past and actions completed in the past.
    • Used without personal inflection in the protasis of some conditional clauses, when it is called the past subjunctive in traditional grammar.

The non-finite forms
(modal verbs are defective: they have no non-finite forms and cannot serve the following uses)

  • infinitive (for all verbs except be identical with the present form) 

    • Used unmarked (‘bare infinitive’) in constructions with modal verbs (can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would, &c) to express modality and futurity
    • Used marked with to (‘marked infinitive’) in constructions with semi-modal verbs (dare, ought, &c) to express modality
    • Used marked with to, with and without a subject, in subordinate and complementary clauses
    • Used in certain subordinate clauses expressing an action commanded to be performed, when it is called the present subjunctive in traditional grammar.
  • past participle (identical with the past form in weak verbs; formed with vowel change, and sometimes an -(e)n suffix in strong verbs; formed variously in irregular verbs)

    • Used in constructions with be to express the passive voice
    • Used in ‘perfect’ constructions with have to mark events as occurring before reference time but still having relevance at the reference point
    • Used as an adjective to express having suffered an action (if transitive: a marked man) or having performed an action (if intransitive: a traveled woman)
  • present participle (formed with the -ing *suffix)

    • Used with be to express progressive (continuing) aspect
    • Used as an adjective to express current performance of an action at reference time
    • Used as a ‘gerund’ capable of occupying the syntactic role of a noun
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  • +1 Right on the money. More info here. – John Lawler Mar 9 '13 at 2:55

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