Past Participial Adjectives

Past participles can be used as adjectives with a passive meaning. In the following sentence, broken is an adjective. These types of adjectives are called past participial adjectives.

  • Look at the window. It is broken.
Past Participial Adjectives

A comparison of a past participle in the passive voice with an adjective

The active and passive voices

The active voice

  • Mark broke the window.

The passive voice

  • The window was broken by Mark.

The adjective form

  • Look at the window. It is broken.

The window was broken in the past. The sentence above describes a present state. Therefore, broken is an adjective in this sentence because there is no active form.

When a past participle is used as an adjective, it can be placed after other verbs such as seem, look, smell, sound, feel, get and become.

  • The window looks broken.

Other examples

  • I feel irritated.
  • You sound irritated.
  • You look annoyed
  • She feels depressed.
  • The car got stolen.
  • He became interested in tennis after hitting some balls.

Some adjectives in the past participle form can also be placed before a noun.

  • Mark will fix the broken window.

Some adverbs, such as very and extremely can only be placed before adjectives.

  • I was very tired after the hike.
  • I was extremely frightened when the snake approached me.

Sometimes, the meaning of the adjective depends on its position in a sentence.

  • To be + concerned means to be worried
    • The storm is approaching. Passengers are concerned.
  • Concerned + noun means worried.
    • The storm is approaching. Concerned passengers want to cancel their flights.

Noun + concerned means to be involved or affected unless concerned is part of a reduced relative clause.

  • Many flights have been cancelled. The passengers concerned are entitled to a refund. Passengers who are affected by the storm are entitled to a refund.)

Words can be added to past participles to form adjectives.

  • House + broken = Housebroken
  • Well + dressed = Well-dressed
    • Don’t worry. My dog is housebroken.
    • The digital marketing manager is always well-dressed.

Some adjectives in the past participle form do not have a passive meaning.

What do I do with the faded clothes? = What do I do with the clothes that faded in the wash?

After the hurricane, some roads were blocked due to fallen power lines. This sentence means that power lines have fallen.

Reduced past participle clauses

Past participial clauses can be reduced to create concise expressions.

  • Passengers concerned about the storm want to cancel their flights. (Passengers who are concerned about the storm want to cancel their flights)

Some adjectives that end in "ed" do not have corresponding verb forms. 

Skilled Talented Ashamed
Wicked Ragged Crooked
Rugged Jaded Naked
  • The company is recruiting skilled workers.
  • The talented actress won an award.
  • The guests were extremely noisy. Surprisingly, they weren’t ashamed of themselves.
  • The wicked witch cast a spell on the village.
  • The old flag fluttered in the wind, its edges ragged and torn.
  • The detective suspected foul play due to the crooked path the investigation had taken.
  • The hiker traversed the rugged mountain terrain, facing steep cliffs and rocky slopes.
  • After years of working in the same job, she became jaded and lost her enthusiasm for her work.
  • The artist created a powerful painting of a naked figure, capturing the vulnerability and beauty of the human body.

Learn more about past participial clauses in our course called The Active and Passive Voices, or Enroll now.

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