ESL Past Participle Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson provides you with activities to have students practicing the different uses of the past participle. Practice with these activities helps students differentiate among the different uses.

Different Uses of the Past Participle

ESL students can find the past participle a bit confusing. The reason is that the past participle has three different uses.

  1. The past participle is used to form both the present perfect tense (I have studied English for two years) and the past perfect (I had taken English lessons before coming to the US).
  2. The past participle form of verbs can be used as an adjective (The learned verbs are very useful).
  3. The past participle form of verbs is also used for the passive voice (The verbs were learned by the student).

Consequently, once your students are familiar with these uses and the past participle forms of both regular and irregular verbs, the following activities can be done separately so students discriminate among the different uses.

The Past Participle and the Perfect Tenses

This activity requires students to be familiar with both the present perfect and past perfect tenses. Students will receive a sheet with prompts to form sentences, but the key verb will be given out in the infinitive form.

For instance, in the case of eliciting the use of the past participle form or verbs within a present perfect sentence, students would have prompts as the ones below:

  • You / have not / to watch / that movie yet
  • I / have / to live / here for five years

Students would then produce the following sentences:

  • You have not watched that movie yet.
  • I have lived here for five years.

Similarly, for the past perfect tense, students would receive a sheet with prompts with the key verbs in the infinitive form. So, to elicit the use of the past participle form or verbs within a past perfect sentence students would have prompts as the ones below:

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