I was watching a grammar video discussing participial phrases. The following sentence was being parsed:

"The numbers given were wrong."

The instructor said that "given" was an adjective modifying numbers. "What kind of numbers? Given numbers." Seems reasonable, except "given" isn't in the traditional adjective slot.

I thought "given" was a passive. It follows the subject.

What's the best way to view this?

  • 2
    As your title states, it is a past participle. This is a verb form that often behaves similarly to an adjective, but it does not behave exactly like an adjective. I think your instructor was using sloppy wording. The best way to view it is whatever analysis is the most helpful to you. I guess it could be seen as part of a passive relative clause with whiz-deletion: english.stackexchange.com/questions/121615/…
    – herisson
    Sep 13, 2015 at 11:59
  • The numbers (that were) given were wrong. Shortening of a relative clause.
    – rogermue
    Sep 13, 2015 at 12:28
  • Reduced relative clauses like this are a product of the syntactic rule called Whiz-Deletion. Sep 13, 2015 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


Adjectives have two types of uses: attributive and predicative. By predictive we mean not before the word to be qualified but after it or somewhere further. For example:

  • Postmaster General

** Persons concerned

It will be seen participles are used predicatively often to highlight the impact or to bring a modulation in meaning. CONCERNED PERSONS (in the sense worried/anxious) are not PERSONS CONCERNED (in the sense related or linked).

The comments above by the learned commentators are exhaustive and illustrative as to the way participles make room for themselves in a sentence.

Suffice it to say participles are 'verb-adjective'— born of verb, work as adjective / partly verb, partly adjective.


It's a past participle. A past participle can modify a noun, and can, depending on context, be placed before or after the noun.

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