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Dirty Grammar–Participles



Dirty Grammar is an occasional series that explains grammar stuff using X-rated examples. I have a Masters in Literacy from MSU, and I’m certified to teach English and Language Arts. I’ve taught ELA for years, and I’m an editor for Lost Goddess Publishing.

Participles are verbs that act as adjectives. They describe nouns. Present participles end in –ing and past participles end in –ed. (Usually—there are always exceptions. Some end in –en or –t, depending on how the past tense of the verb is formed.)


Elena 500Here’s an example of participial phrases from Elena and Those Holland Boys by Nicoline Tiernan:


She thought he might ease her into it, but he merely captured her lips in a searing kiss, plunging his tongue into her mouth and taking over her senses.


The hero—Justin—is capturing (the verb). Plunging and taking describe the kiss.


Here’s one from Tristan’s Lover by Nicoline Tiernan:


Eric put his hands on Tristan’s shoulders, shuddering through the final throes of ecstasy.


Tristan's Lover 500In this example, shuddering describes Eric’s hands, though readers naturally expand that to include his whole body because what’s an orgasm without a shuddering body?


Participles can also be used simply as adjectives.


Tristan heard Eric’s panting breaths as he neared orgasm.


Panting describes breaths.


Participial phrases are set off from the independent clause by a comma when used as an introductory phrase or a parenthetical element. Participles are great for description, but beware of overusing them. You want to have variety in your sentence patterns.


Source Citations:

I learned grammar from a variety of sources, mostly textbooks and editors. I don’t know the exact editions of the books, but in my teaching, I’ve used grammar textbooks and workbooks from Glencoe, Prentice Hall, and Houghton Mifflin. I’m also partial to those Sentence Composing for Elementary and Middle School workbooks from Don and Jenny Killgallon, which I use regularly in my classroom. I also love Grammar Garden, which is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, as they have great explanations and examples. Oh—and any credits wouldn’t be complete without giving a shout-out to Grammar Girl! I love her podcasts, and I’m working my way through her book during SSR when I’m not reading something else. Note that all of these sources contain G-rated examples. Dirty Grammar sticks to X-rated examples.


I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.

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