Spanish Grammar: The Past Participle

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  • 0:03 Past Participle
  • 1:18 Regular Past Participle
  • 3:13 Irregular Past Participle
  • 4:26 Past Participle as Adjective
  • 5:16 Practice
  • 7:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Schmidt

April has a Ph.D. in Spanish and has been teaching college-level Spanish for the past eight years.

Past participles are rather like the letter q: they are hardly ever used by themselves. In this lesson, you'll learn what past participles are, how to form them, and when to use them.

Past Participle - El Participio Pasado

If past participles were people, they'd score high on the extroversion scale! They hardly ever do anything alone. They are team players, who love to modify adjectives or get together with helping verbs to form compound tenses. In this lesson, you'll be learning more about past participles: what they are, how to form them, and when to use them.

The past participle is a verb form. However, unlike the verb tenses you have learned so far - the present, the preterite, and the imperfect - it cannot be used by itself to tell who did something or when they did it. Let's take the past participle 'broken' as an example. You cannot say, 'I broken the window.' However, you can use 'broken' as an adjective and say, 'The window is broken.' Or you can use 'broken' along with the helping verb 'to have' and say, 'I have broken the window.'

In Spanish, the past participle - el participio pasado - is very similar. Although it cannot be used as a standalone verb form, it can be used as an adjective or in compound tenses.

Regular Past Participles

In English, the past participle is usually formed by adding either '-ed' or '-en' to the infinitive: 'walk' + '-ed' = 'walked', 'eat' + '-en' = 'eaten', etc. When they end in '-ed', past participles look just like the simple past. However, you can always tell them apart by how they are being used. If it is being used as a standalone verb, as in, 'They improved this cereal,' it is the simple past tense. If it is being used as an adjective - 'This cereal is 'New and Improved!' ' - or if it is being used with the helping verb 'to have' - 'They have improved this cereal' - it is the past participle.

In Spanish, you form the past participle of regular verbs by adding either '-ado' or '-ido' to the stem of the verb. If it's an '-ar' verb, you drop the '-ar' ending and add '-ado'. If it's an '-er' or '-ir' verb, you drop the ending and add '-ido.' For example, for the verb 'caminar,' you drop off the '-ar' ending, leaving you with 'camin-'. Then you add '-ado', giving you 'caminado.' For the verb 'comer,' you drop off the '-er' ending and then add '-ido,' giving you 'comido.' Similarly, for 'vivir,' when you drop the '-ir' ending and add '-ido,' you have 'vivido.'

If the stem ends in '-a', '-e', or '-o', an accent is added to the 'i' in '-ido': leer > leído.

Irregular Past Participles

Although most past participles in English are formed by adding '-ed' or '-en' to the infinitive, not all of them are. There are a number of verbs that have irregular past participles, like the verb 'to do', which has the past participle 'done,' rather than 'doed.'

In Spanish, there are also quite a few verbs that have irregular past participles. Here are some of the most commonly used ones:

abrir (to open) - abierto

cubrir (to cover) - cubierto

decir (to say) - dicho

descubrir (to discover) - descubierto

escribir (to write) - escrito

hacer (to do, make) - hecho

morir (to die) - muerto

poner (to put, place) - puesto

romper (to break) - roto

ver (to see) - visto

volver (to return) - vuelto

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