They boarded the subway packed with people

My attempt:

I think "boarded the subway" is the participial phrase which modifies "they", because "packed with people" is a prepositional phrase packed is a past tense, with, is a preposition and people is the object and it's a noun.

Am I right ?

And what is the easiest way to identify the participial phrase ? I for example take all the verbs that end with (ed, d, or en) and I underline them, then I think about each one of them as an independent sentence, if I can take out it, then it's a participial. For example:

{Watching the TV}, the man {laughed at the actress.}

Now I try this, If I take watching the TV out, this works:

The man laughed at the actress.

But taking laughed at the actress out, it doesn't work, that is the meaning changes of the sentence:

Watching the TV the man ! Doesn't make sense


Break the sentence down into its core parts. It's fundamentally about people who are boarding the subway train. We also learn something about the subway -- that it's packed with a lot of people.

Let's try to pick out the main verb. In different contexts and different sentences, words can have different parts of speech. In this sentence, only "boarded" or "packed" could be a main verb. If we choose to let "packed" be the main verb, then what is doing the packing (i.e. what is the subject)? And where does the word "They" fit into it? On the other hand, if we take "They" as the subject and "boarded" as the main verb, now we have something that we can work with.

The phrase "boarded the subway" does not modify "they"; it describes the action that "they" took. You could have a sentence such as: "They boarded the subway." That is perfectly valid grammar. If "boarded the subway" were a modifier, you should be able to remove it without changing the meaning of the sentence. However, "They packed with people" makes no sentence. So "boarded the subway" is not a modifier.

As we just noted, however, you can remove the phrase "packed with people" without fundamentally altering the meaning of the sentence. What does "packed with people" describe (modify)? The subway, of course!

Let us know if that helps you figure out the answer.

  • (Packed with people) isn't a prepositional phrase ? Because the question is about a participial phrases. – direprobs Nov 2 '15 at 19:11
  • No, but "with people" is. The preposition is "with" and the object of the preposition is "people." – Nonnal Nov 2 '15 at 19:15
  • It's an adverb phrase I believe, packed is a past tense (verb) + with (preposition) + people (object), and it modifies the verb packed. Right ? – direprobs Nov 2 '15 at 19:18
  • I think I got you, you mean packed with people is a participial phrase and with people is the prepositional phrase ? – direprobs Nov 2 '15 at 19:30
  • You got it. Yes, "with people" is an adverbial prepositional phrase that modifies "packed" (because it explains how it was packed). But the entire phrase "packed with people" is a participial phrase functioning as an adjective that modifies subway. – Nonnal Nov 2 '15 at 19:57

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