English Grammar Review
Verbs and Verbals

Principal Parts of Verbs

Most verbs in English are easy. They have four principal parts:

present : hire
present participle : hiring
past : hired
past participle : hired

This is an example of a regular verb. The past tense is usually formed by adding d or ed to the present tense, both shown in bold. There are about 20,000 regular verbs in English.

Irregular verbs are a bit more complicated:

present : speak
present participle : speaking
past : spoke
past participle : spoken

The past tense is often formed by changing the spelling of the present tense, both shown in bold. There are about 200 irregular verbs in English.

The word participle is based on a Latin word that was based on a Greek word that meant something like "partaking", as in "something partaking in something else". Some experts explain that a participle can partake in multiple word classes, e.g., a verb can act like an adjective. Other experts explain that a participle can partake in the attributes of multiple parts of speech, i.e., verbs (tense, voice) and nouns (number, case).

The concept would be easier to remember if it weren't based on an ancient word with vague origins. It may help to make up a silly memory aid:

participle = verbiciple

It sounds silly, but that can be useful.

Principal parts for a regular verb:

present : promote
present verbiciple : promoting
past : promoted
past verbiciple : promoted

Principal parts for an irregular verb:

present : write
present verbiciple : writing
past : wrote
past verbiciple : written

The present verbiciple is a verb with an ing ending:

Ms. Kang Min-ji is hiring for our Busan office.

She was speaking to a hiring manager.

In the phrase hiring manager, the word hiring is called a participle, but that is a specific form of a verbal, which we will learn about in a later lesson.

In the phrase present verbiciple, the word present is more a hint than a definition. It typically means ongoing more than it means now.

The past verbiciple is a verb with various endings, usually ed, en, d, n, or t.

We have hired people away from our competitor.

Mr. Cho Ji-Hun has spoken to several of their employees.

In the phrase past verbiciple, the word past is more a hint than a definition. It typically means completed more than it means then. Note: This concept of completion can be in the past, the present, or the future.

To be even sillier, consider another set of examples:

Principal parts for a regular verb:

present : work
ongoing verbiciple : working
past : worked
completed verbiciple : worked

Principal parts for an irregular verb:

present : see
ongoing verbiciple : seeing
past : saw
completed verbiciple : seen

Lesson: Principal Parts of Verbs
Module: Verbs and Verbals
Course: English Grammar Review