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, Peter M & Kirk!

Good day! I have come across the sentence in a finance text:

If management so desired, a firm could issue some bonds and use the proceeds to buy back some stock, thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio.

I have two queries regarding the above sentence:

1. Is 'Increasing' a 'gerund' or a 'participle'? why?
2. Can I replace 'thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio' with 'which increases the debt–equity ratio'? What function does perform 'thereby' in the sentence?

I would be grateful if you could give your valuable comments on it.

Hello learner2018,

The word 'thereby' is an adverb which means 'in this way' or 'through this'. Grammatically, you could use a relative clause (...which increases...) but it does change the meaning. The relative clause tells us the effect of the buy-back, whereas 'thereby' carries a suggestion of intention – it suggests that increasing the ratio was a goal, not just an incidental effect.

In this sentence, 'increasing' is a participle, not a gerund. It introduces a participle clause.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

Thank you for valuable comments on this issue. Now, the meaning of 'thereby' in the sentence is clear to me. However, could you please give me a further clarification why you considered 'thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio' as a participle clause. What is the adjectival or adverbial role performed by the clause?

Thanks in advance!

Hello learner2018,

Participle clauses are often used to show the effects (intended or accidental) of an action.

For example:

I spilt coffee on my laptop, ruining it completely. [When I spilt coffee on my laptop, I ruined it]


Your sentence works in the same way.



The LearnEnglish Team

A Thought or A Qoute can sometimes
be words of wisdom coming or come
out of someone's mouth.

Should I use 'Come Or Coming' in this sentence or Should I just simply write
'That come out of someone's mouth ?

Also Can I use the pronoun 'One' rather than 'Someone' ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Both 'coming out of' and 'that (which) come out of' are possible.

You can use 'one' in place of 'someone', but the meaning is a little different. 'Someone' is more general' 'one' is most often used by a speaker as a formal way of referring to him- or herself.

Note that 'thought' and 'quote' are not usually capitalised.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter & Kirk!
Good day! I need to know how the following two sentences are different from each other grammatically?

My first sentence is: I saw Jim riding his bike. Here, is 'riding' a gerund or participle? why?

Second one is: I spent all of my leisure time watching movies. Here, is 'watching' a gerund or participle? why?

Please enlighten me with your valued comments on this.

Hello learner2018,

Gerunds are a verb forms which function as nouns. In the sentence they can be subjects or an objects.

Participles are verb forms which have adjectival or adverbial functions. They can modify nouns or verbs (verb phrases).


In both of your sentences the -ing forms are participles:


riding his bike is a participle phrase describing 'Jim'; it has an adjectival role in the sentence.


watching movies is a participle phrase modifying the verb phrase 'spent all of my leisure time'; it has an adverbial role in the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your valuable comments on it. However, I further need to clarify the usage of verb+ing form in the following sentence:

I saw Jim riding a bike.

As far as I am concerned, gerund can be used as an object complement. Is 'riding', in the above sentence, a usage of gerund as an object complement? If not, could you please give any example of gerund used as an object complement?

I highly appreciate your valuable comments on it.

Hi learner2018,

As Peter said, 'riding a bike' is a participle in that sentence; it tells us more about Jim.

An example of a gerund as an object complement is 'I like riding my bike'. 'riding' functions as a noun (which is why we call it a gerund) and it is the object of 'like'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team