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 vstallone,

The clause driven by digital media is actually a reduced relative clause rather than a participle clause. We can see this if we write the sentence in full:

The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media.

 

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause. It is different from a participle clause.

Compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote (describing the noun 'world'). That participle clause does not describe the noun ('function') but rather refers to the subject of the main clause ('the relative clause') and provides further information about that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Peter M,

Thanks for the answer. I couldn't imagine I'd get a faster reply. Thanks a million.
I see your point and understood all details.
When you say 'compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', the full version of it. I got the idea that the Participle Clause describes the subject of the main clause 'The store'. Right? But, don't you think it's ambiguous?

The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media.

Students may say that 'world' is driven by the digital media, not 'the store'.
This discussion is around one of the examples of the Grammar Box we had last lesson. I really agree with students that this sentence does not follow the rule presented (the same subject for main clause and participle clause) and also agree with you about how things changed when we write the sentence in full.

I'll be with them again tomorrow evening and I'm clarifying this point.
Definitely, that's not a good example to talk about Participle Clauses.

Thank you, Peter.

Regards,

Viviane Stallone.
Rio de Janeiro - BRA

Hello again Viviane,

The reduced relative clause here does describe 'a world' rather than 'the store'.

When the sentence has two possible referees for the relative clause there is a possibilty of ambiguity, as you say. Usually the context makes it clear, but where more than one possibility exists it is conventional to place the relative clause immediately after the noun which it describes. For example:

The shop sold the painting, (which was) owned by an old Scottish family.

The relative clause could be describing the shop or the painting, but we assume that it refers to the painting because of its position.

 

In your example, however, there is no ambiguity. The indefinite article before 'world' makes the relative clause necessary. This is because without any other infomation we would say 'in the world'. When we say 'in a world' we are making it clear that we are describing one of many conceivable worlds.

 

When I said 'compare this with with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', I meant the sentence immediately before, which was this sentence:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

Here, the participle clause 'describing...' refers not to the noun 'function' but to the noun phrase 'The relative clause'. We can see this if we write the sentence out explicitly:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The relative clause is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

not

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The function is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone,

Can someone explain to me why the verb-ing form is used in the following sentences “So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step.” These are the lines in the book “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami. I greatly appreciate all the help. Thank you.

Hello Lolipopstar93,

This is an example of a participle clause or participle phrase (different terms are used). Here, it describes actions (closing and plugging) which happen at the same time as other actions (step inside).

You can read more about participle clauses on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thank you so much for the quick reply. As you mentioned above, participle clause is used to describe actions that happen at the same time as other actions, so i’m just wondering whether the aforementioned sentences can be rewritten as followed: “So all you can do is give in to it, stepping right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walking through it, step by step.”
The reason I rewrote it like this is because all the actions ( step inside, close the eyes, plug up the ears and walk through it) happens at the same time and help to add more information to the main clause ( so all you can do is give in to it). Is this correct?. Thank you in advance.

Regards,
Lolipopstar93

Hi Lolipopstar93,

Yes, you could write the sentence like that. It changes the meaning slightly, however.

If you use 'give in... walk thorough' then you are providing two sequential actions. In other words, you are saying 'first give in (doing this and this) and after that walk through'. If you say 'give in... walking though' then you have one action ('give in') which everything else is just a part of.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there.
How many tenses are there in English ?? 12 or 16?? why "future in past" and its sub-forms are not counted??

Hello monarchy110,

Tense has a verb specific meaning in linguistics. It is defined as changes in the verb form which show time from the point of view of the speaker. You can find a precise definition here

The consensus amongst grammarians is that English has two tenses: past and nonpast (present). However, these are not tied to fixed times. Both can be used with past, present or future time reference.

For example, I can talk about the past using present forms, such as in an anecdote:

So this guy comes into the pub and he says to me...

I can talk about the future using a past form:

If you saw him next week, what would you do?

 

Beyond this, there are two aspects which can be added to these tenses: perfect and continuous/progressive. This enables us to create very many verb forms to express a wide range of meanings.

The last element of the verb form is voice, which can be active or passive.

 

Future time is expressed in many ways. We can use present continuous forms, a 'going to' construction, modal verbs like 'will' and 'should' and many other forms as well. These are not, however, tenses, grammatically speaking.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Peter,

“Nearly seventy percent of people living in the region lack access to electricity, forcing them to spend significant amounts of their income on …”
Is this a participle clause? Which is the subject that the “forcing” is modifying? If the subject is the phase before the "forcing", why isn't the "which is forcing" being used?

This is article link,
https://editorials.voa.gov/a/solar-energy-makes-the-difference-in-africa...

Thank you!

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