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.



what is the difference between participles simple form and perfect form?
Thank you very much!!!

Hello alvin_ryan,

English has two kinds of participles: present and past. Participles are non-finite verb forms, which means that they are not marked for time, in spite of their names. In other words, we can use present and past participles to refer to any time - past, present or future.

Participles have many uses and I can't list them all in a comment such as this. Perhaps you have a particular example in mind which we can comment on. If so, please post the sentence and we'll be happy to comment.



Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


You described participle clause as a form of adverbial clause. By adverbial clause, do you mean to say that the participle clause act as an adverb? And since an adverb modifies a verb, adjective or adverb, quoting your example above "Waiting for John, I made some tea", does the "waiting for john" modifies the verb "made"? But it seems to me that "waiting for john" is modifying the noun "john", in this case, Wouldn't this mean that "waiting for john" is functioning as an adjective since it modifies the noun "John"?

Appreciate your advice on this, thanks!


Hello Tim,

Yes, that's right -- that means that the participle clause acts like an adverb. 'Waiting for John, I made some tea' could be rephrased as 'While I was waiting for John, I made some tea'. As you can see, the clause 'while I was waiting for John' doesn't describe John, but rather explains the situation in which 'I' was making some tea.

Since it describes the situation, which, due to the structure of such sentences, will also include some kind of action, we call it adverbial. This is perhaps a bit arbitrary, i.e. one could argue that it's adjectival (since it describes 'I'), but I think calling it adverbial makes more sense and that is how I've always seen it in grammar references.

By the way, there's a page similar to ours at the BBC -- perhaps you'll find it useful as you seem to be interested in this.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

''There's no sound when answering calls''
According to above the subjects of both clauses have to be the same, but here we have a dummy subject. The context is that I was reading on a web page why people are bringing one kind of phone and encountered this. It was the reason why.


Hello JakiGeh,

This could be an example of non-standard usage, or you could see the 'when' clause as having omitted words, i.e. the full form could be 'There's no sound when [you're] answering calls'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your nice website.
I read and learned this grammar part and I should say it is very nice since it has helped me a lot to understand complex english structure. however, i got a problem with participle clause in this sentence"Attached to each arm is a clip-like device."
I know its meaning but I am unfamiliar with the structure. I think i should become A clip-like device is attached to each arm. And it does not follow participle clause rules i read from this website.
please tell me what is its grammar point .
thanks in advance.

Hello Ali-k,

Your analysis is good! In other words, the phrase is as you suggest ('A clip-like device is attached to each arm'). The order of this basic sentence has been inverted, probably for emphasis -- I can't really say for sure without the context.

This is fairly uncommon and is quite an advanced point that it will be difficult to find explanations of. This Cambridge Dictionary page mentions other times when inversion is typically used, but those are different than what's in your example. Yours sounds to me as if this phrase comes inside a text that sequentially describes an object, though other uses are also possible.

I'd say the best thing to do would be to make a note of this somewhere so that you can refer to it again in the future. As you read and listen to English, if you find another similar example, add it to the same place you note down this example. Compare the two and notice how they are used. This should help give you a sense for when this sort of structure is used.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


May I know if its true that only past participle forms of transitive verbs can be turned into past participle phrases, and that past participle forms of intransitive verbs cannot be used in/as a past participle phrase?


Hello Tim,

Please provide a concrete example of what you mean. I think it's much clearer that way and there is less chance of misunderstanding.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team