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Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

Look at these examples to see how participle clauses are used.

Looked after carefully, these boots will last for many years.
Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I avoided the question. 
Having lived through difficult times together, they were very close friends.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Participle clauses: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Participle clauses enable us to say information in a more economical way. They are formed using present participles (going, reading, seeing, walking, etc.), past participles (gone, read, seen, walked, etc.) or perfect participles (having gone, having read, having seen, having walked, etc.). 

We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example,

Waiting for Ellie, I made some tea. (While I was waiting for Ellie, I made some tea.)

Participle clauses do not have a specific tense. The tense is indicated by the verb in the main clause. 

Participle clauses are mainly used in written texts, particularly in a literary, academic or journalistic style. 

Present participle clauses

Here are some common ways we use present participle clauses. Note that present participles have a similar meaning to active verbs. 

  • To give the result of an action
    The bomb exploded, destroying the building.
  • To give the reason for an action
    Knowing she loved reading, Richard bought her a book.
  • To talk about an action that happened at the same time as another action
    Standing in the queue, I realised I didn't have any money.
  • To add information about the subject of the main clause
    Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre.

Past participle clauses

Here are some common ways that we use past participle clauses. Note that past participles normally have a passive meaning.

  • With a similar meaning to an if condition
    Used in this way, participles can make your writing more concise. (If you use participles in this way, … )
  • To give the reason for an action
    Worried by the news, she called the hospital.
  • To add information about the subject of the main clause
    Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage.

Perfect participle clauses

Perfect participle clauses show that the action they describe was finished before the action in the main clause. Perfect participles can be structured to make an active or passive meaning.

Having got dressed, he slowly went downstairs.
Having finished their training, they will be fully qualified doctors.
Having been made redundant, she started looking for a new job.

Participle clauses after conjunctions and prepositions

It is also common for participle clauses, especially with -ing, to follow conjunctions and prepositions such as before, after, instead of, on, since, when, while and in spite of.

Before cooking, you should wash your hands. 
Instead of complaining about it, they should try doing something positive.
On arriving at the hotel, he went to get changed.
While packing her things, she thought about the last two years.
In spite of having read the instructions twice, I still couldn’t understand how to use it.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Participle clauses: 2

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


Hey sir,could u please explain the grammar in this sentence " that now, having stumbled, he will be unable to keep from falling"

Hello Ahmedkhairy,

Which part of the sentence are you wondering about? If it's 'having stumbled', that is a participle clause, which you can read more about on our participle clause page. If it's a different part, please tell us which one.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Ahmedkhairy,

In the sentence you ask about, 'having stumbled' indicates that he stumbled in the past (this is explained above). Now that he has the experience of stumbling, he will fall. At least that's what it seems to mean, though of course I don't know the context and can't pretend to know what the writer is trying to say.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team,
Because you said: "we use a present participle when the verb has an active meaning and a past participle when the verb has a passive meaning"
I want to ask which sentences are right cause they both have a participle clause having a passive meaning.
Being built of wood, the house was clearly a fire risk.
Built of wood, the house was clearly a fire risk.
Thankyou very much.

In the first sentence, the phrase "Being built of wood" emphasizes an action which is in progress.

Hi Quynh Nhu,

Both of those sentences are correct.

I would say that the sentences are actually rather different, grammatically speaking. I would say that the phrase 'built of wood' in the first sentence has the meaning 'wooden' rather than having a passive verbal meaning:

Being wooden, the house was clearly a fire risk.

In other words, the phrase 'built of wood' here is functioning as an adjective and the participle has an active meaning.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thankyou. Now I understand :)

hi all, are these sentences grammatical -1 knowing nothing about math ,she had to get a teacher to help her, 2 being the smartest in class, he had no obstacles to study medicine, 3 having killed the woman , he left the crime scene, having won the world cup, Germany felt unbeatable for years ? Thanks just a lot !

Hi heeppee creepy,

Yes, those are all correct with one exception. In the second sentence you should say 'no obstacles to studying medicine' - the 'to' here is a preposition, not part of an infinitive, and so should be followed by a gerund.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I really appreciate your clarifying about the use of TO as a preposition. Indeed, this is a part of the rules of ING uses that I have never understood , and I have no idea how to use it. Can you please teach me how to recognize when TO must be followed by ING , and when by BARE INFINITIVE ? Your answer would solve a problem I have always had in English. Peter, Thanks a lot !