A participle is a word that can be used as an adjective, an adverb, or as part of a verb form.

In writing, participles can be used to add interest to otherwise ordinary words. By using participles wisely, writers can take their texts from plain to delightful.

Of course, participles can be used as adjectives. 

For example: 

  • Lisa won the singing competition.
  • After she finished her speech, the audience gave her a standing ovation.

But how about using them as adverbs?

One of the most interesting things you can do with participles is using them to create adverbs. This can add a lot of spice to your writing, and it’s actually quite simple to do. 

Just take the participle form of the verb and use it to describe how or why

For example: 

“She left the house crying.” (Meaning: She was crying while she left the house, and this is how it happened.)

Bored from what she saw, Kate turned off the TV.” (Meaning: Kate turned off the TV in a condition of boredom. This is why it was done or how it was done.)

There are endless possibilities here, so have fun with it and see what you can come up with.

Here are a few more examples:

  • The train was speeding down the tracks, leaving a cloud of smoke behind it.
  • Driving too fast, the car skidded on the ice and hit a tree. 
  • Hoping to see a bear, we hiked through the woods for hours. 
  • Walking in the rain, I wished I had brought an umbrella. 
  • She laughed out loud reading his text messages. 
  • Searching for his keys, he looked in every possible place they could be. 
  • Realizing she was lost, she pulled out her map and tried to orient herself. 
  • He sat down to take a break, wiping the sweat from his forehead. 
  • Exhausted from running, I lay down on the grass and stared at the clouds. 
  • Worried that he would be late, he ran all the way to school. 
  • Excited about the future, Molly went out of her car.


Ending in -ing: continuing action (HOW)

Ending in -ed, etc.: completed action (HOW or WHY)

Common Issues with Participles (and How to Fix Them)

When used correctly, they can add detail and clarity to your writing. However, when misplaced, they can cause confusion and make your meaning unclear. 

Sometimes, the participle is placed too far away from the word it describes. Other times, it seems that it does not have an actual word it describes.

Here are some examples:

“Swimming in the pool, I saw a fish.”

This sentence needs to be rewritten so that it is clear who was swimming. For example: “I saw a fish swimming in the pool.”

Walking to school, my umbrella turned inside out.” 

In this sentence, the participle “walking” does not have a clear subject. It’s not clear who or what was walking. (Though we can guess I was the one walking to school, and not the umbrella.)

To fix this sentence, we could say:

“As I was walking to school, my umbrella turned inside out.”

Some more examples:

  • Hoping to win more votes, the mayor’s supporters were given free tickets to the ball game. (Were the supporters hoping to win more votes?)
    Alternative wording: The mayor, hoping to win more votes, gave free tickets to the ball game to his supporters.
  • Looking out the window, the hours felt like days to Alice. (Were the hours looking out the window?)
    Alternative wording: Looking out the window, Alice felt the hours were just as long as days.
  • Struggling against the current, the boat was finally pulled to shore by the Coast Guard. (Was the boat struggling or the Coast Guard?)
    Alternative wording: Struggling against the current, the coast Guard finally pulled the boat to shore.

When you’re writing, it’s fun to use participles to make interesting adverbs. But pay attention to these things. Your sentences might not make sense if you don’t!