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

Thanks Peter

Actually, a better example would be "I will climb Mount Everest one day, or die trying".

What is the difference between having been and being?

Why is the second sentence wrong?
1. Having been in England for the last three years, I've a good knowledge of the language.
2. Being in England for the last three years, I've a good knowledge of the language.

The difference between the two forms is the perennial difference between perfect and non-perfect meanings. A situation which began in the past and continues to the present is expressed in a perfect tense. This is obligatory, so if you say 'for the last three years' your sentence has to take the form in (1) and not (2). On the other hand, when we refer to the current situation without reference to when it began, we use a non-perfect form (Present Simple or Present Continuous). So, if you take 'for the last three years' out of the sentence, (2) is acceptable (although 'living' might be a better choice of verb).

Thanks so much Kirk for your reply. Can second sentence be written as 'Living in England for the past three years, I've a good knowledge of the language' ? Like someone started living in England three years ago and is continuing to live there.

Thanks in advance.

Hello BunnyBunny,

You're welcome! I'm afraid that's not correct, either, for the same reason: 'for the past three years' clearly refers to the past, and so 'having lived' is correct and 'living' is not. English and Spanish are quite similar in many ways, but this is one difference!

By the way, these kinds of participle clauses (beginning a sentence with 'living ...' or 'having lived ...' are usually only used in fairly formal situations. If you're speaking in an informal or even slightly formal context, it'd be much more typical to say something like 'Since/As I've been living in England for the past three years ...'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks so much Kirk for your help and time.

Hello BunnyBunny,

'being' is incorrect because it refers to the present time, whereas the first clause of the sentence is about the past ('for the last three years' clearly indicates the past). A perfective form such as 'having been' is used to refer to the past.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

how can we identify participle clause in a sentence

Hello SIEST,

Participle clauses very often, though not always, begin with a present or past participle, so that's the first thing I'd recommend looking for. Then check to see that the participle is not part of a verb form (e.g. a continuous verb form) or an adjective. If not, it could be a participle clause. You could also try transforming what looks like a participle clause into some kind of other clause, e.g. 'While I was waiting for John, I made some tea'. That is another good sign that it could be a participle clause.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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