Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Past Participle

While driving to Makati the other day, I heard a caller over the radio say, "No, I hadn't drove to Baguio yet." The moment I heard the sentence, I knew I would have to blog about it right away.

The error in the sentence is a common but very tricky one. It lies in the use of the past participle. The past participle is a verb form which indicates a completed action. The most common past participles end in -ed like played or finished. Sometimes, they end in -en, like written or broken. Normally the participle is not the main verb of a sentence. For example, "I had finished writing my application letter." Or, "She had written to her parents last month." Here are others: "The children had played that game already," "That glass was broken two days ago."

In all four examples, past actions are being described. The verbs indicating the past tense, though, are had and was. The past participle is used because the actions being discussed had already been completed: the letters were written, the children had played the game.

The past participle is used in what we call the past perfect tense. This is a verb tense that talks about actions started and completed sometime in the past. So, the application letter was started in the past and was completed in the past. The glass was broken in the past.

As to the sentence I heard over the radio, it should have been, "I hadn't driven to Baguio yet." Driven is the past participle form of the verb drive. The caller over the radio was saying he had yet to experience driving to Baguio. The action, driving to Baguio, belongs to the speaker's past. In this case, it's an action that could have started in the past but was never completed in the past. Hence, the need for the past participle.

Now, in the English language, participles and perfect tenses are very confusing. In the first place, you have to be aware of the participle form of the verb. Where this is concerned, check the dictionary.

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