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

Hello,
I still didn't understand the participle clause (while).
E.g. while raining, I was walking (wrong)
Should I say it was raining, while I was walking? Or how?
Thanks in andvance

Sorry, the rewritten version should be "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and then directed 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers."

Hi Learning English team,
Reading the sentence "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", I am not sure which of the rules mentioned above apply to this participle clause. To me, it looks like the action in the participle clause happened later than the action in the independent clause. If I rewrite the sentence as "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", does it have the same meaning as the original sentence?

Hello Tim-Xiong,

The time the taxes were imposed and the time that the revenue from those taxes was directed to health care, etc., seems to be considered more or less concurrent here. If we were to measure that time with a watch, surely you would be correct – they are not concurrent actions. But this sentence probably comes from a context when this objective difference in time is not considered relevant, for example an article reviewing the history of sin taxes, which is decades or even centuries long. Within that perspective, they are concurrent.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,
Is there any set rules that apply to usage of this kind? It looks as if the verb in the participle clause has to be action executed by the subject in the main clause. I am also wondering why we use participle clause for the second action instead of using "and " to connect the second verb.

Hello Tim-Xiong,

In this case, as jessica suggests in her comment below, I'd say that the participle clause here is explaining a result more than really commenting on the sequence of events. In my previous response, I explained that the two events could be viewed as concurrent, which may have confused the matter, but I was following your concern with time rather than looking at the wide context. In any case, my apologies if that caused more confusion in the end!

As far as I know, the rules about using participle clauses are explained above, and one of the most important is the one about the subject that you've already noticed. I'm sure you could find more resources on the internet by searching for 'how to use participle clauses', which will also provide you with useful examples. 

Participle clauses are actually fairly rare, especially in speaking. Most of the time, you'd see 'and' or some other way of connecting the two clauses rather than a participle clause. Participle clauses are quite formal, and as such, mostly only used in certain styles of writing, where they are often used as a marker of that style.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I feel that 'directing 85% of revenue to heath care and 15% to help tobbaco workers' is a result of main clause ''the government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol''. It is a participle clause and it has nothing to do with any time sequence .
Make me correct if i am wrong .

Hi jessica,

That's right – thanks for helping to clarify the issue!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I feel very confused with this clause We were soaked to the skin . We eventually reached the station. how can I turn it into participle clause?
Thanks in advance

You can even say "we, having been soaked, eventually reached the station"
Or, "Having been soaked, we eventually reached the station". This is "perfect participle in passive form.

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