Past Participle Literature Review essay


In the English language, past participles, also known as passive orperfect participles, are words useful in acquisition of perfect andpassive tenses. These words are often in the form of verbs andadjectives. According to Mulvey (2002), recognizing regular verbsinvolves words that end in –ed (Mulvey, 2002). It is,therefore, important to realize the relationship between the pasttense and past participle which both have –ed as theirending. The past participle may be traced back to Old English wherethe –ge ending in verbs was altered to –y in MiddleEnglish and ultimately lost and replaced with –ed in ModernEnglish, as prior mentioned. Numerous studies have portrayed thechallenges faced by English as Second Language (ESL) learners whileutilizing the past participle in the English language.

Utilization of past participles, according to Lester (2008), hasproved to be a task apropos of ESL learners. Their inability to graspcertain concepts often results in errors and mistakes. Each one ofthem is seen to portray varied mistakes ranging from wrong spellingsto confusion regarding verbs and their forms (Lester, 2008).Furthermore, the difficulty faced by ESL learners in understandingpast tenses is the foremost cause of the issues in grasping pastparticiples. Swick (2009) states past tenses not only affect writtenEnglish but, they also focus on verbose and pronounced English. Theissue of translation influences the ability of these ESL learners tobe at par with native students in learning past participles. Theformer is strained because they translate words from their foreignlanguages thus, eliciting confusion, errors, and mistakes (Swick,2009).

Carlson and Tanenhaus (2012) posit that the understanding of pasttenses is a channel through which ESL learners easily learn pastparticiples. It is relatively simple to form past tenses in theEnglish language. As prior discussed, an addition of –ed atthe end of regular verbs, creates the past tense or past participle.It is, however, tasking when these ESL students are required topronounce either the past tense or past participle (Carlson &ampTanenhaus, 2012). Their pronunciation is affected by their foreignlanguage in a significant way. Regardless of the fact that it issimple to add –ed to verbs such as talk to formtalked, pronunciation is a task because these ESL studentsoften read the word with an addition of the last syllables. Forinstance, while native speakers pronounce talk as talk/t,ESL learners would say talk/id, due to inclusion of the finalsyllable. White (2013) examines that the issue of exceptions to therule regarding pronunciation of the last syllable, also has asignificant impact in ensuring that ESL learners understand the pasttense. There are certain words that are pronounced together with thelast syllable hence, creating feelings of confusion and lack ofunderstanding among these foreign students (White, 2013). The ruleintegrates words whose ending is either a /d/ or /t/.For instance, words such as rent and fend would bepronounced as ren/tid and fen/did, respectively.

Pronunciation, therefore, entails addition of these last syllables inthe case where the words end with /d/ or /t/ sounds.Understanding this concept will therefore assist ESL learners ingrasping the mechanism of past participles in the English language.These students should also be informed about the exception when thesepast participles function as adjectives. Such cases dictate thatstudents pronounce two syllables even if the words do not have eithera /d/ or /t/ sound. Furthermore, ESL learners should becapable of differentiating between the /d/ and /t/sounds during pronunciation. The method is much more reliable ascompared to simply cramming or memorizing the rule in those wordsthat end with /d/ and /t/. In examining pastparticiples, regular verbs are simple because the past participlesare often similar to their past tenses.

Conversely, Celentano (2013) observes that the concept of irregularverbs and the past participle is more complex. It is not as simple asregular verbs where the past tense and past participles remainconstant. Often, this challenge is experienced due to the diversityof irregular verbs. Firstly, it is necessary to note the categorywhose present tense, past tense, and past participle remain the same.Some of the words that take such a pattern include put, quit,burst and shut, among many others. The first categoryis the easiest due to its simplicity and convenient nature to ESLstudents while learning past participles in the English language. Inaddition, these irregular verbs may also integrate past participlesthat end in –n. Some of the words include broke,stole, choose and freeze, among others(Celentano, 2013).

Lester, Franklin and Yokota (2010) offer information on a differentcategory of irregular verbs whose present tense and past participleis similar. Words such as came and run have pastparticiples that are identical to their present tense, comeand run, respectively. In offering past participle knowledgeto ESL learners, it is also necessary to note the category thatintegrates a similar pattern between the present and past participleof these irregular verbs. Drive and write are perfectexamples to explore the irregular verbs whose present and pastparticiple, unlike the past tense, do not have the letter /o/.The past participles of drive and write being drivenand written, teaches ESL learners the ways of arriving at thepast participle in such a category (Lester, Franklin &amp Yokota,2010).

Most importantly, Lester, Franklin and Yokota (2010) offerenlightenment on the discussion of the ultimate irregular verbs andtheir importance in learning past participles of the Englishlanguage. ESL learners are required to simply memorize these wordsdue to the words’ inability to fit in the prior mentionedcategories of irregular verbs. They include words such as have,make, be and do, which are often used on a dailybasis in both written and spoken English. Their past participles had,made, been and done, requires ESL learners tocram and memorize them. As a matter of fact, these students areexpected to practice often so as to grasp these past participles(Lester, Franklin &amp Yokota, 2010).

In addition to errors in verb formation, Burt (2004) reiterates thatthese ESL students also experiences difficulties while spelling somepast participles. Wrong spellings are often affiliated with aninaccurate pronunciation hence interfering with these students’ability to understand the English language past participle. The issueof misspelling falls under grammar which is a key requirement in thelearning of past participles. It is, therefore, important for thestudents to have a proper grasp of formation of verbs as itultimately affects the spelling of these past participles. Forinstance, if ESL learners understand that a past participle isrequired to end in –ed, they manage to correctly spell thewords (Burt, 2004).

Many studies have observed the issues and challenges faced by ESLlearners while grasping past participles in the English language.Moreover, they have also offered solutions that are useful in fixingthe problem. As mentioned, practice is important. Cowan (2008)suggests that these ESL students are required to practice and jotdown these past participles during their study time. They aretherefore urged to repeatedly revisit these past participles in anattempt to acquire full understanding of the same. Additionally,Ellis (2012) encourages these ESL students to avoid thinking in theirlanguages. When they begin to integrate their language into theEnglish language, they create confusion due to the errors that occurin translation, thereby slowing down their learning process. Even inlearning these past participles, the students should not, however,lose grip of their cultures. They should receive pieces of adviceallowing them to utilize their native languages in other areas toavoid direct translation. In point of fact, these foreign studentsmay require their languages to communicate and assist other studentsin grasping the concept of past participles in the English language(Ellis, 2012).

Evidently, there are various challenges faced by ESL students whilelearning the English past participle. Most of them do not practiceenough hence, they develop difficulties in acquiring the knowledge.As there are both simple and complex categories, these studentsshould be able to differentiate between the two. Regular andirregular verbs also offer varied inferences apropos of the pastparticiple in the English language. The latter, being complex,requires the ESL students to develop a reading culture that willassist them in perfecting their skills. As observed, their foreignlanguages inconvenience these students in a significant manner. Theurge to directly translate past participles from their language,interferes with the correct form in the English language. Translationis shunned and these ESL students are discouraged from incorporatingtheir languages into the English language.


Burt, A. M. (2004). Quick solutions to common errors in English:An A-Z guide to spelling, punctuation and grammar. Oxford: How ToBooks.

Carlson, G. N., &amp Tanenhaus, M. K. (2012). LinguisticStructure in Language Processing. Dordrecht: SpringerNetherlands.

Celentano, T. (2013). Guide to English irregular verbs. Placeof publication not identified: Lulu Com.

Cowan, R. (2008). The teacher`s grammar of English: A course bookand reference guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (2012). Language teaching research and languagepedagogy. Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lester, M. (2008). McGraw-Hill`s essential ESL grammar: A handbookfor intermediate and advanced ESL students. New York:McGraw-Hill.

Lester, M., Franklin, D., &amp Yokota, T. (2010). McGraw-Hill`sessential English irregular verbs. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mulvey,D. (2002). Grammar the easy way. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron`s.

Swick,E. (2009). Writing better English for ESL learners. Chicago,Ill: McGraw-Hill.

White, G. L. (2013). Grammar games: For teachers of adult ESL.United States: Gisele L. White.