Do you know how to start a clause with a present participle (e.g. seeing) or past participle (e.g. seen)?

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, result, reason or time. For example:

 

CONDITION (with a similar meaning to 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.

 

RESULT (with a similar meaning to so or therefore):

The bomb exploded, destroying the building.

Compare: The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed.

 

REASON (with a similar meaning to because or since):

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 (with a similar meaning to 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.

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Hi learner2018,

As Peter said, 'riding a bike' is a participle in that sentence; it tells us more about Jim.

An example of a gerund as an object complement is 'I like riding my bike'. 'riding' functions as a noun (which is why we call it a gerund) and it is the object of 'like'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Apologies for any typo mistakes; haven't quite figured out how to edit my comments afer saving them.

Hi,
Marking my students' exams, I've come across the following sentence structures:
Example 1
Me using this Shampoo, makes my hair shiny and soft.
Would you say the 'me' is wrong? I'm torn between giving 0.5p or just accepting it and give 1p. The Student writing this is simply emphasising the fact that 'he' (or she for that matter) is the subject, though unncessarily….I reckon I don't like the pronouns at the beginning of a participle clause in General (e.g. it being …) though I can't find a good answer to then explain why I give 0.5p.

Example 2
By using this Shampoo.....
Here I'm not happy with the BY....doesn't the participle clause substitute it? Using language in an economical way … (as written above). Would you count it wrong and give the Student 0.5p or should I accept it?

Thank you for your help.

Hello Cristina123,

The use of 'me' here is certainly non-standard, but it is something which you can hear quite often in informal spoken English. The correct form in my view would be 'my', as in 'My using this shampoo...' Here, the -ing form is a gerund, not a present participle, and has the same meaning as 'My use of this shampoo...'

The use of 'me' has come about through a misidentification of a word more often heard than seen written; in other words, people say 'my' but believe they are saying 'me' and then end up writing it as such.

 

It is possible to use 'by' before the -ing form, but then the -ing form is a gerund; when the -ing form is alone it is a participle. Thus we have:

By using this shampoo, I make my hair... [by=preposition; using=gerund object of preposition]

Using this shampoo, I make... [using=present participle]

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

On LearnEnglish we focus on helping students rather than teachers. We have a sister site aimed at teachers which you can find here:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

You might also find this site helpful:

https://english.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between "The IMEI is a unique code given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" and "The IMEI is a unique code which is given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" So tell me why do we use participal phrase if it is an adjective clause. Is there any difference betwee adj clause and participles?

Hello aseel aftab,

There is no difference in meaning between these two sentences. In this and many cases, the participle clause is simply a more economic (i.e. shorter) way of expressing an idea, which is generally preferable in both writing and speaking (though this sounds like a written text). Sometimes people avoid using shorter forms to ensure clarity, but I'd probably use the first version if I were writing it myself, as it seems clear enough.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there!
I’ve got a question around this topic.
I was teaching a group of EFL students when an example stopped us and made us discuss about it.
Here it is:
The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world driven by digital media.
Rules concerning Past Participle Clauses say that the Participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject.
But we saw ‘the store’ as the subject of the main clause and ‘world’ as the subject of the participle clause.
Could you help me with this idea of having the same subject in these example?
I appreciate.
Best,
Viviane.

Hello vstallone,

The clause driven by digital media is actually a reduced relative clause rather than a participle clause. We can see this if we write the sentence in full:

The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media.

 

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause. It is different from a participle clause.

Compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote (describing the noun 'world'). That participle clause does not describe the noun ('function') but rather refers to the subject of the main clause ('the relative clause') and provides further information about that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Peter M,

Thanks for the answer. I couldn't imagine I'd get a faster reply. Thanks a million.
I see your point and understood all details.
When you say 'compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', the full version of it. I got the idea that the Participle Clause describes the subject of the main clause 'The store'. Right? But, don't you think it's ambiguous?

The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media.

Students may say that 'world' is driven by the digital media, not 'the store'.
This discussion is around one of the examples of the Grammar Box we had last lesson. I really agree with students that this sentence does not follow the rule presented (the same subject for main clause and participle clause) and also agree with you about how things changed when we write the sentence in full.

I'll be with them again tomorrow evening and I'm clarifying this point.
Definitely, that's not a good example to talk about Participle Clauses.

Thank you, Peter.

Regards,

Viviane Stallone.
Rio de Janeiro - BRA

Hello again Viviane,

The reduced relative clause here does describe 'a world' rather than 'the store'.

When the sentence has two possible referees for the relative clause there is a possibilty of ambiguity, as you say. Usually the context makes it clear, but where more than one possibility exists it is conventional to place the relative clause immediately after the noun which it describes. For example:

The shop sold the painting, (which was) owned by an old Scottish family.

The relative clause could be describing the shop or the painting, but we assume that it refers to the painting because of its position.

 

In your example, however, there is no ambiguity. The indefinite article before 'world' makes the relative clause necessary. This is because without any other infomation we would say 'in the world'. When we say 'in a world' we are making it clear that we are describing one of many conceivable worlds.

 

When I said 'compare this with with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', I meant the sentence immediately before, which was this sentence:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

Here, the participle clause 'describing...' refers not to the noun 'function' but to the noun phrase 'The relative clause'. We can see this if we write the sentence out explicitly:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The relative clause is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

not

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The function is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages