Coffee, biscuits and the Past Participle

I’m sitting here, drinking a cup of coffee and eating a chocolate biscuit and thoughts pop into my head:



As a kid, I adored chocolate biscuits. I reckon I had eaten hundreds of  biscuits by the age of 5.

An an adult, I have drunk more than my fair share of cups of coffee.

By the age of 50, I will have drunk thousands of cups of coffee and eaten hundreds of  biscuits.

Every day, all over the world, millions of cups of coffee are drunk and millions of  biscuits are eaten.


I finish my coffee and brush the final crumbs of  biscuit off my hands and a couple of thoughts pops into my head.

Why do we use the past participle to talk about future actions?

Why do we use the past participle when we use the passive voice to refer to present actions or future predictions?

The answer is probably that the term was adopted from descriptions of Latin grammar (Click here for a fuller explanation) but I’m more interested in the next question that enters my mind:

Why don’t we make things easier for our learners by talking about verbs 1, 2 and 3?

Imagine, instead of using present simple, past simple and past participle (eat / ate / eaten), why don’t we just say:

Verb 1                   Verb 2                Verb 3

eat                          ate                       eaten

Wouldn’t it just make it simpler and less confusing for everybody?

Then, we could avoid telling our students things like: “We use ‘will’ and ‘have’ plus the past participle to refer to actions which will have happened before a specific time in the future?

When we use terms which trigger confusing thoughts in our learners’ heads, we are making grammar more confusing and mysterious than it should be? Surely our job as teachers is to clarify language.

Let’s get rid of the term ‘past participle’ and replace it with something more logical!!

What does everybody think? Have you tried talking about verbs 1,2 and 3? I’d love to hear your views.