Certain words unite in themselves some of the properties of adjectives with some of the properties of verbs. Such words are called participles. Thus….
Shattered and sinking, but gallantly returning the enemy’s fire, the frigate drifted out to sea.
Shattered, sinking and returning are verb-forms which are in some respects similar to infinitives: for (1) they express action (2) they have no subject to agree with and hence have neither person nor number and (3) one of them takes a direct object. They differ from infinitives, however, in that they resemble, not nouns, but adjectives, for they describe the substantive frigate to which they belong.
Such verb-forms are called participles, because they share (or participate in) the nature of adjectives.
The participle is a verb-form which has no subject, but which partakes of the nature of an adjective and expresses action or state in such a way as to describe or limit a substantive.
Who thundering comes on blackest steed? - Byron.
Clinging to the horns of the altar, voiceless she stood. - De Quincey.
Deserted, surrounded, outnumbered, and with everything at stake, he did not even deign to stand on the defensive. - Macaulay.
Shrouded in such baleful vapors, the genius of Burns was never seen in clear azure splendor, enlightening the world. - Carlyle.
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