Participle clauses

Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause which enables us to say information in a more economical way. We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

Waiting for John, the kettle boiled. [This would suggest that the kettle was waiting for John!]

 

Forming participle clauses

Participle clauses can be formed with the present participle (-ing form of the verb) or past participle (third form of the verb). Participle clauses with past participles have a passive meaning:

Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]

Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]

If we wish to emphasise that one action was before another then we can use a perfect participle (having + past participle):

Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.

Having been told the bad news, Susan sat down and cried.

 

 

The meaning and use of participle clauses

Participle clauses give information about condition, reason, result or time. For example:

 

CONDITION (in place of an if-condition):

Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

Compare: If you look after it carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

 

REASON (in place of words like so or therefore):

Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I decided to arrange a meeting.

Compare: I wanted to speak to him about the contract so I decided to arrange a meeting.

 

RESULT (in place of words like because or as a result):

I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework.

Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework.

 

TIME (in place of words like when, while or as soon as):

Sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Compare: While I was sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

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Comments

Hi there,

I'm wandering if it is correct for us to use negative present or past participle clauses.

I feel worried not receiving message from her.

I received the message not written by her.

Many thanks,

Plamen

Hi Plamen,

Yes, you can use those structures. The second sentence would require a rather particular context to make sense (you would need several messages, of which one was not written by her, and this would be the only message you received), but is grammatically fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Would you please help me understand the difference between the participle clauses that give information about reason and those that give information about result.

Looking at the two examples given above,
"Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I decided to arrange a meeting.

Compare: I wanted to speak to him about the contract so I decided to arrange a meeting." and

"I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework.

Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework.",

I can't help thinking that we could also restate each of the sentences with participle clauses to read:
"I decided to arrange a meeting because I wanted to speak to him about the contract." and
"I had spent so long doing my homework, so I had no time to read my book."

In both cases the participle clause seems to give information about reason, and the main clause - about the result... What am I missing?

Thank you for the great grammar reference!

Hi there,
'after getting’, ‘without checking’, ‘for destroying’ are all apparently part of the same grammatical structure, but what exactly is that form called?

Hello 07achogg,

Those are all prepositions + the -ing form of a verb. Prepositions are followed by nouns and/or -ing forms of verbs.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team

Could you tell me whether 'die trying' is verb + verb, or something else?
I thought 'die trying' was verb + adverb, but it doesn't look like it is. According to the dictionary 'trying' is not an adverb.

Thanks

Hi lexeus,

Can you provide a full sentence. It is probably a participle with an adverbial function, but I wouldn't like to say for sure without seeing the full context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter

I don't have an actual sentence, but I suppose it would be something like "You have to accomplish the mission, or die trying" or "I will either pass the selection course or die trying".

Hi lexeus,

Thank you. 'Trying' here is a participle and has an adverbial function. It gives us more information about the verb 'die':

... or die (while) trying (to do it)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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