participle is not a tense, but a verb form which comes in handy in several situations:
used as an adjective, used in passive voice constructions, and as part of
"perfect tense" conjugations. Some examples:
The works painted by Picasso were very popular.
The buildings were destroyed by the tornado.
We have played basketball since we were little.
In English past participles often end in
"-ed" but there are many irregulars:
drawn, divided, eaten, insisted, spent, understood
Regular Past Participles
To form a past
participle in Spanish, we add "-ado" to the stem of "-ar"
verbs and "-ido" to the stems of "-er" and "-ir"
verbs. Some examples:
dibujar (to draw)
comer (to eat)
comprender (to understand)
dividir (to divide)
insistir (to insist)
Irregular Past Participles
There are about a dozen irregulars you should know:
abrir (to open)
decir (to say, to tell)
escribir (to write)
cubrir (to cover)
hacer (to make, to do)
poner (to put)
romper (to break)
ver (to see, to
volver (to return)
dicho (said, told)
hecho (made, done)
visto (seen, watched)
Verbs based on any of the verbs above will also have the same irregularities:
descubrir (to discover)
If, after you remove the ending, the stem ends in a vowel, you will
need to add an accent mark to avoid creating a diphthong and changing the pronunciation.
(This rule does not apply to "-guir" verbs):
creer (to believe)
leer (to read)
traer (to bring)
So how and when do we used past particples?
Past Participles as Adjectives
Many of the adjectives you
already know and love are actually past participles:
aburrido (bored), cansado (tired), relajado (relaxed)
We can take most any verb and change it into an adjective
by changing it into a past participle. However, as with all adjectives, we need to make sure it agrees in gender and in
number with the noun it modifies. Therefore the
full set of adjective endings will look like this:
-ado / -ido
-adas / -idas
Note: Past participles adjectives are frequently used
with a form of the verb estar to talk about the condition of something.
aire de la ciudad está contaminado.
The air of the city is polluted.
Los almuerzos comidos por los chicos son saludables.
The lunches eaten by the children are healthy.
La torre está situada cerca de la frontera.
The tower is situated near the border.
Las luces estaban encendidas.
The lights were turned-on.
Irregular verbs will follow a similar pattern:
lápiz de Alejandro está roto.
Alejandro's pencil is broken.
Los ensayos escritos por Carlos Fuentes fueron excepcionales.
The essays written by Carlos Fuentes were exceptional.
La película vista por los jueces fue diferente.
The movie seen by the judges was different.
Las mesas hechas
en México son muy bonitas.
The tables made in Mexico are very beautiful.
What else can we do with past participles?
Using Past Participles in the Passive Voice
You can use past participles with the verb ser to form passive voice sentences like, "The house was sold," "The tests were taken," and "The car was stolen." For example:
La casa fue vendida.
Los exámenes fueron tomados.
El coche fue robado.
Learn more by reading The Passive Voice.
Using Past Participles in Perfect Tenses
Past participles are also a necessary ingredient (together with the verb haber) in forming perfect tenses such as, "I have seen the movie," "She had fallen asleep," and "They would have left." For example:
He visto la película.
Ella se había dormido.
Ellos habrían salido.
Read all about it at Perfect Tenses.