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


Hello Zhverb,

No, that would not be correct. The time reference of the participle is the same as the verb in the main clause, so if the verb in the main clause has a present time reference (is chasing) then the participle would also refer to the present. Thus this sentence would mean 'He is chasing the boy who is breaking the window'.

The sentence would also suggest that the actions are simulaltaneous - that the boy is breaking the window while he is being chased. This would be true even if the verb was a past form. Thus 'He was chasing the boy breaking the window' would mean that the action occurred in the past, but that the actions were simulataneous - i.e. 'He was chasing the boy who was breaking the window'.



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you, Peter M, for your reply and the link!


Could you, please, help me with the structure in this sentence: "By restricting the ways the state can be changed - we reduce the chances bugs can appear".
Is this sentence grammatically correct?

Is the first part (by restricting the ways the state can be changed ) the nominative participle construction? if not, what is it? why does it have two different subjects? or is it missing the word "how" e.g "by restricting the ways how the state can be changed"?

and is this part itself (by restricting the ways...we reduce the chances bugs can appear) the participle clause of manner? Is the punctuation correct?

Thank you in advance for your attention, time and explanation.

Hello Milhki,

'By' is a preposition and introduces a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases with 'by' show the method by which something is achieved. The prepositional phrase here is perhaps a little confusing because it is so long but we can simplify it easily enough and then it is clear that it is a straightforward prepositional phrase:

By restricting these, we reduce...

We reduce... by restricting these.

The prepositional phrase here has an adverbial function as it modifies the verb 'reduce'.

I would say that a comma is preferable to a dash in this sentence.


LearnEnglish is a site for people learning English as a means of communication rather than as a site for linguistic analysis. For questions like this you might find the relevant section of stackexchange helpful:



The LearnEnglish Team

In my opinion, this answers the question "When did I grab the pizza?"
It can be rephrased as "While returning from the office, ......"

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi,

That is correct. The present participle shows an action which happened at the same time as another action, as you say. Well done.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, could you refer some books regarding the adverbial use of participle phrases / clauses like in "Returning from the office, I grabbed a pizza from Tahzeeb Bakers."

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi

The British Council does not offer recommendations regarding books, I'm afraid. We do not favour or advertise any publishers or authors. My suggestion would be to go to a good bookshop and find three or four different grammar books. Open each to the page for participle clauses/phrases and compare the information there. You'll be able to see which is the most accessible and complete, and which would be the best for you.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

"Following this, the surviving Malli surrendered to Alexander's forces, and his beleaguered army moved on, conquering more Indian tribes along the way."

I found the above line in an article where the details regarding the Indian campaign of Macedonian King Alexander is mentioned. The above statements specifically mention the information about Alexander's army at that time when it returned to Greece. I searched the meanings of "beleaguer" which are as follows:

1. Lay siege to.
1.1 Put in a very difficult situations

I think the first meaning out of these two is applicable in the case of above sentence.

However, the past participle form of "beleaguer" doesn't appear suitable here. As per the rules mentioned above, the past participle form shows a "passive voice". But, here the army was the one who beleaguered different places. So, it appears to me that the present participle form "beleaguering" should be used.

Hello curiouslearner,

'beleaguered' is an adjective here, not part of a passive construction. The second meaning of the two that you list is the correct one here.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team