We’re often being asked by IELTS Test students to explain past participles and how to use them. Here’s a short help sheet.
Grammar: Past Participle
By Andrea Price
Many of our students ask about the past participle and how to construct and use it. This article provides some helpful advice.
When you see a list of verbs, they are displayed in 3 columns and the past participle is always the third form of the verb or found in column 3.
|Verb (Infinitive)||Past simple||Past participle|
The past participle is used most typically with the grammar called the present perfect.
It is also used with various forms of the perfect tenses, such as the past perfect simple and the future perfect simple, (and the third conditional and some reported speech)
To make the present perfect you use:
To have + past participle
|I have||+ past participle||→||We have + past participle|
|You have||+ past participle||→||you have + past participle|
|He/she/it has||+ past participle||→||they have + past participle|
FIRST USE – PRESENT PERFECT- IN YOUR LIFE
We use the present perfect to talk about events that have happened in our life (but with no definite time or date):
- I have seen the Queen (seen is the past participle) (no specific time is given-I have seen the Queen at some time in my life)
- Have you seen the Queen? (question form-in your life)
- I haven’t seen the Queen (negative form-in your life)
- We have travelled on the underground. (no specific time- but at some time in our life)
SECOND USE – PRESENT PERFECT-UNFINISHED PAST + FOR
to have +past participle
We can also use the present perfect to talk about events that started in the past, are happening today and may happen tomorrow (this is past that is not finished):
- I have lived in London for 5 years. (for+ a period of time)
- I have lived in London since 2010. (since+specific time)
- I came to London in 2010 (that part is in the past) but I am still in London today (this is the present) and I will probably be in London tomorrow (future and not finished) What began in the past continues-I am still in London, so the idea is unfinished.
This second use of the present perfect is used with the question ‘How Long?’
- How long have you lived in London?
- I’ve lived in London for 5 years.
- I haven’t lived here for long.
This second use of the present perfect is used more often with the present perfect continuous-this emphasises the length of time
Present perfect of ‘been’ + the ing form of the verb you want to use
|I have been+verb+ing||→||We have been||+verb+ing|
|You have been +verb+ing||→||You have been||+verb+ing|
|He/She/It has been +verb+ing||→||They have been||+verb+ing|
Example: I have been living in London for 5 years
This second use of the present perfect can also be used as follows (but the idea is always that the time is unfinished) and is used with:
Example: It is 12.00 pm (morning):
- I have already had my breakfast (I’ve already had my breakfast)
- I have not had my breakfast yet (I haven’t had my breakfast yet)
- I’ve just had my breakfast
- I haven’t had my breakfast this morning
Example 1pm (afternoon – morning has finished)
- I had my breakfast this morning (finished)
- I didn’t have my breakfast this morning (finished)
THIRD USE – PRESENT PERFECT –WHEN YOU CAN SEE THAT SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED OR CHANGED
- I have had my hair cut
- He’s broken his arm
- They’ve moved house
Points to note:
The use of the present perfect is often confused with the use of the past simple (especially if you have learned American English).
The past simple is used when the time is finished.
You need the verb from column 2 of the table mentioned at the beginning.
In 2010 I came to London. 2010 is finished time so you need the past simple.
I had my hair cut yesterday. Yesterday is finished time so you need the past simple.
- When did you have your hair cut?
- I didn’t have my hair cut yesterday.
MAKE USE OF OUR WEBSITE: WWW.PASSIELTSHIGHER.COM
Our website is a valuable resource for IELTS students. Registration is free to access a wealth of valuable IELTS learning material.
Students have consistently praised us and our website for the help we are able to provide them as they move towards their IELTS goals.
Our free resources include:
- Downloadable eBook Library for offline learning – like this one, which teaches you all about grammar: Past Participles. Others focus on other IELTS aspects.
- IELTS Lessons with transcriptions, free lessons which teach techniques for bandscore improvement for each aspect of the IELTS Test and also teach what not to do to avoid losing marks.
- Articles and tips covering the IELTS Test, English Grammar and test preparation – written by specialists in IELTS and English.