A Pamphlet on the Use of Participles in GMAT
Participles are tested often in GMAT these days especially at higher levels. For many average test takers, the use of participles is an enigma because of the similarities of the participles with progressive tenses, or perfect tense forms such as in verb+ ing forms or verb +ed forms, verb+en form, verb+t etc.
Participles indicate an action differently from the way the verbs do. The use of present participle or past participle does not indicate the tense of the action. They are just technical names. In fact participles are grouped along with other timeless expressions such as infinitives and are called verbals rather than verbs.
Participles are handy for usage in cases in which a secondary idea is to be represented or when you want to represent a noun or noun idea that lies distantly from the participle. It is also used when a relative pronoun can not correctly adhere to the touch rule, and can not refer to the noun just in front.
1. Spain won the 2010 World Cup Soccer title in great style, finishing off with a grand victory over Netherlands.
The highlighted portion is secondary to winning, the primary focus
2. Found throughout Central and South America, the sloth hangs from trees by its long rubbery limbs, sleeping fifteen hours a day and moving so infrequently that two species of algae grow on its coat and between its toes.
Here the present participles sleeping and moving refer to the sloth which is distant and not just before
3. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else.
The relative pronoun ‘which’, logically refers to letters, flouts the touch rule. A good way to amend this error is to use a participle
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else.
Sample participle forms are
1. present participle – verb+ing: Listening , swimming, smiling, following etc
Examples: Listening to the melodious tunes of Lata Mangeshkar, Tom dozed off on the couch.
Swimming across the turbulent river, the villager reached the other side of the river.
Following the footsteps of Jack, Jill fell and rolled down
2. Past participle: verb+ ed; ( Most talked about film ) verb+en ( very often eaten fruit), verb+ t ( The verbal modules dealt with in GMAT are SC. RC and CR} and some other irregular forms such as found etc.
3. How the tense is decided while using the participles?
It will be interesting to note that the use of present participle form may not set a sentence in the present tense, as you can see in the above examples, which are all in past tense, while the participles themselves are present participles. Very often "Present participle", using the verb+ing” forms are mistaken to represent present tense. The verb +ing forms take on the tense of the clause to which they belong.
Look at the following sentences
Staring straight into the eyes, the interviewer tried to explore the mind of the candidate.
Barking loudly at the intruder, the dog woke up everybody in the colony.
Similarly a past principle form taking on the verb+ ed form or any such similar form , need not represent past tense.
Look at the following sentences for some contrasting contexts.
1. Targeted several times for its affluence in the olden days, India finally succumbed to brutal onslaught of the Mediterranean raiders.
Here the particle Targeted is used in the past tense,
Targeted by many aspirants of MBA course, GMAT is a bench mark test.
Here targeted is used in the present tense form.
Therefore what decides the tense of the main verb is not the form of the participle, but the contextual verb of the main clause.
Located at water borne crevices, otters are social mammals based on nuclear families
Situated at the top of a series of seven hills in Andhra Pradesh, and visited by millions of pilgrims each year, Tirupati is an important milestone in the religious tourism of India.
In the above examples, although the participles are expressed in the past form, the tense is actually a present tense
You my see therefore those participles by themselves have no tense at all.
Participial phrases are group of words containing a participle and some more words such as prepositions, or adverbs etc. The participial phrase acts as the adjective modifying an appropriate noun.
A participle or a participial phrase can be used at the beginning of a sentence, in which case, it has to be set off with a comma and should be immediately followed by the noun it modifies.
Example: Targeted several times for its affluence in the olden days, India finally
Here, “Targeted several times for its affluence in the olden days” is the participial phrase that starts the sentence and ‘India “‘is the modified noun, See the comma that has been placed in between olden days and India. This is an important pointer of the participial acting as a modifier.
Another example: Targeting India for its affluence in the olden days, the Mediterranean raiders finally won decisive victories as India gave in.
Participles can also occur in the middle of a sentence.
Some of the orphans, gathered from the streets of Kolkatta and reared by Mother Theresa and her army of Sisters in their ashram, grew to be brilliant children and successful adults in their later day lives.
Here the participle “gathered” and “ reared” appear in the middle of the sentence and modify the preceding noun “Some of the orphans”.
A participle can also appear at the end.
Spain won the 2010 World Cup Soccer title in great style, finishing off with a grand victory over Netherlands.
Here the participial phrase “finishing off with a grand victory over Netherlands”, appears at the end of the sentence and modifies the noun Spain.
Essential principles of setting off the modifying participial phrases with comma or commas in the sentence
Rule 1. When the participial phrase begins a sentence set it off with a comma and place the modified noun immediately after the comma.
Dropping out from his Business School, Bill embarked on a profitable electronic career.
Rule 2, When the participle or participial phrase is placed in the middle of the sentence, set if off with a comma, if the participle is not essential.
The orphans, procured from the streets of Kolkatta and nurtured by Mother Theresa, grew to be useful adults in their later lives
Here the participial phrase is inessential to complete the meaning of the sentence that they grew to be useful adults. So we have set off the participial phrase within commas.
Rule 3 if the participle is necessary to complete the meaning of the sentence, then use it without setting off with a comma.
The countries depending on the US for the export of their electronic merchandise were the worst hit in the recent recession.
Here the participial can not be separated from the clause and is logically vital to complete the meaning of the clause. Hence we should not use a comma to separate the modifier.
Rule4. When a participle is placed at the end of a sentence, and if the participle flows from the main sentence, then comma should not be used. .
Taxpayer often find government procedures very confusing and taxing
Here the present participles confusing and taxing flow from the main sentence and are essential to complete the intended meaning. So comma is not required to be used between procedures and very
Rule 5. If on the contrary, the participle is merely an adjunct adding extra meaning, then set off with comma
Spain won the 2010 World Cup Soccer for the first time in her history, finishing off with a goal at the fag end of the extra time
Here the main sentence can still make complete sense without the help of the participial phrase modifier. Hence set it off with comma.
Is it parallel to use present participle and past particle in the same sentence?
Yes. You may use present as well as past participles in one and the same sentence and still the sentence is considered parallel in GMAT.
The growth of the railroads led to the abolition of local times determined by when the sun reached the observer’s meridian and differing from city to city, and to the establishment of regional times.
Found throughout Central and South America, the sloth hangs from trees by its long rubbery limbs, sleeping fifteen hours a day and moving so infrequently that two species of algae grow on its coat and between its toes.
Originating from time immemorial as a tool to relax the hardworking peasantry of the time and nurtured by countless number of generations simply by word of mouth, the folk music can even today move people’s hearts by its melody and simplicity.
Scientists have recently discovered what could be the largest and oldest living organism on Earth, a giant fungus that is an interwoven filigree of mushrooms and root like tentacles spawned by a single fertilized spore some 10,000 years ago and extending
for more than 30 acres in the soil of a Michigan forest.
(D) it extended
(E) is extending
How does a present participle differ from a gerund?
Basically a gerund is a noun in a “verb+ ing” form using a present participle.
Example: Singing is a nice past time
Swimming is a tiring exercise.
A gerund is normally used in places where we are not able to use any other suitable forms of noun. Often a gerund will b preceded by a possessive adjective such as “his” walking, “my” skiing etc.
Some GMAT examples
1. A New York City ordinance of 1897 regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required of cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and it granted
A. regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required of cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and it granted
B. regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, granting
C. regulating the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and it granted
D. regulating the use of bicycles, mandating a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, requiring of cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and granted
E. regulated the use of bicycles, mandating a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, and requiring cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and granted
2. The Anasazi settlements at Chaco Canyon were built on a spectacular scale with more than 75 carefully engineered structures, of up to 600 rooms each, were
connected by a complex regional system of roads.
A. with more than 75 carefully engineered structures, of up to 600 rooms each, were
B. with more than 75 carefully engineered structures, of up to 600 rooms each,
C. of more than 75 carefully engineered structures of up to 600 rooms, each that had been
D. of more than 75 carefully engineered structures of up to 600 rooms and with each
E. of more than 75 carefully engineered structures of up to 600 rooms each had been
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher” – a Japanese proverb.