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Participle clauses

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
Just to understand it better, can you verify if In the following sentences, past participles are working as adjectives or passive voice

Get it resolved(adjective or passive)

to earn from YouTube have your videos watched (adjective)

Made it complicated(adjective or not)
Thanks

Dear Sirs,
Can "Dressed in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy." be written as "Dressing in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy" also? where the participle replaces "Sam who is dressed" and "Sam who is dressing" respectively.
Is it correct to conclude that for those verbs that are both transitive and intransitive, we can use both past and present participle as in the case above
? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use 'dressed' with a passive meaning, so 'Sam who is dressing' or 'Dressing in a suit...' are not correct here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Thank you for your reply. I have further question.
From the lesson above:
"Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]"
"Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]"
Why can't we apply participle the same way as 2 sentences above? Sam is dressed in... (passive voice) and Sam dress in ... (active voice)

Hello Kaisoo93,

The reason is that the verbs 'shout' and 'dress' operate in different ways in English.

We do not use the verb 'dress' actively to talk about the subject in modern English. Thus, a sentence using 'dress' must have a different object to the subject, or be used in a passive form so the subject can be omitted:

The servants dressed the king in his finest gown.

The king was dressed in his finest gown.

 

Alternatively, you can use a reflexive pronoun to create an object for the verb, though this is rather unusual and can sound rather archaic:

The king dressed himself in his finest gown.

 

Since the participle in a participle phrase must relate to the same subject as the main clause, we cannot use it with an active meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Is the participle phrase/modifier too far away from the noun 'paintings' in the following sentence:

Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, the paintings are a unique feature of our church.

The sentence seems grammatically correct to me but I am not sure.

Does this make more sense: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, are the paintings, a unique feature of our church.

Maybe neither are correct?

Thanks

Hello MartaC,

The danger with having the participle too far from its referent is that the sentence may be ambiguous or confusing for the reader. I don't see any problem with your sentence. In fact, bring the participle phrase to the beginning like this is quite a common literary device to highlight certain details in the sentence.

Your second version is also correct, though it seems a less elegant structure to me. It's really a question of personal style and taste, though.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind causing blazes to spread to new areas."
The word "causing" is a adjectival (reduced form of which causes) or adverbial? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I would say that the participle causing has an adjectival function here. It's hard to reformulate the sentence to create an adverbial clause (see here for a list of adverbial clause types).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Thank you for your reply.
If I don't use participle, are both sentences below correct?
1) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind and cause blazes to spread to new areas.
2) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind which cause blazes to spread to new areas.

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