Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

Look at these examples to see how participle clauses are used.

Looked after carefully, these boots will last for many years.
Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I avoided the question. 
Having lived through difficult times together, they were very close friends.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Participle clauses: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Participle clauses enable us to say information in a more economical way. They are formed using present participles (going, reading, seeing, walking, etc.), past participles (gone, read, seen, walked, etc.) or perfect participles (having gone, having read, having seen, having walked, etc.). 

We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example,

Waiting for Ellie, I made some tea. (While I was waiting for Ellie, I made some tea.)

Participle clauses do not have a specific tense. The tense is indicated by the verb in the main clause. 

Participle clauses are mainly used in written texts, particularly in a literary, academic or journalistic style. 

Present participle clauses

Here are some common ways we use present participle clauses. Note that present participles have a similar meaning to active verbs. 

  • To give the result of an action
    The bomb exploded, destroying the building.
  • To give the reason for an action
    Knowing she loved reading, Richard bought her a book.
  • To talk about an action that happened at the same time as another action
    Standing in the queue, I realised I didn't have any money.
  • To add information about the subject of the main clause
    Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre.

Past participle clauses

Here are some common ways that we use past participle clauses. Note that past participles normally have a passive meaning.

  • With a similar meaning to an if condition
    Used in this way, participles can make your writing more concise. (If you use participles in this way, … )
  • To give the reason for an action
    Worried by the news, she called the hospital.
  • To add information about the subject of the main clause
    Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage.

Perfect participle clauses

Perfect participle clauses show that the action they describe was finished before the action in the main clause. Perfect participles can be structured to make an active or passive meaning.

Having got dressed, he slowly went downstairs.
Having finished their training, they will be fully qualified doctors.
Having been made redundant, she started looking for a new job.

Participle clauses after conjunctions and prepositions

It is also common for participle clauses, especially with -ing, to follow conjunctions and prepositions such as before, after, instead of, on, since, when, while and in spite of.

Before cooking, you should wash your hands. 
Instead of complaining about it, they should try doing something positive.
On arriving at the hotel, he went to get changed.
While packing her things, she thought about the last two years.
In spite of having read the instructions twice, I still couldn’t understand how to use it.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Participle clauses: 2

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Language level

Submitted by Umoh Margaret on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 21:58

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Dear team, please help me explain the meaning of this sentence: Worn under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures. To which of the rules is the above sentence applicable. Is it adding information to the subject of the main clause or is it similar in meaning to an if condition? Please, also notify and correct any sentence that is not written grammatically. Thanks in advance

Hi Umoh Margaret,

It could be either of them! Both interpretations make sense, and mean pretty much the same thing in this context.

Sorry, we don't make general corrections to user comments, but if you have a specific question, feel free to ask us :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 12/03/2021 - 13:23

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Sitting for a long time in front of a PC, I realized that my legs are all stiff.

Submitted by mehransam05 on Thu, 11/03/2021 - 20:18

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Dear team, Which one is correct and why? A)when his mother died of cancer, the young doctor decided to pledge his life to finding a cure for it. B)when his mother died of cancer, the young doctor decided to pledge his life to find a cure for it. Please expand your description. Thanks in advance.

Hello mehransam05,

The dictionary entry for 'pledge' shows that it is followed by an infinitive, which would suggest that B is the best option here. This sentence, however, is a bit different because the verb is 'decided to pledge' and I think A could work.

If it were me writing this, though, I would probably use a different construction (e.g. 'decided to dedicate his life to finding').

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Muhammad Erad on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 10:02

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1) May God's mercies and blessings descend upon you! 2) He would firstly reply verbally to him in writing. Sir, please check for grammar and notify if there is any mistake.

Hello Muhammad Erad,

Both sentences are grammatically correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 05/03/2021 - 18:48

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Hello. Which sentence is correct or both are? 1- I won’t go to the cinema in case of you not going with me. 2- I won’t go to the cinema in case of not going with me. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't think either of these are natural constructions.

We use 'in case' to introduce a problem or negative effect which we want to avoid: I took an umbrella in case it rained.

 

We use 'in case of' in two ways.

The first is with the same meaning as 'in case' but with a noun following it instead of a clause: I took an umbrella in case of rain.

The second is with the meaning 'if this happens then...': In case of fire, break glass.

 

In your examples I imagine you are trying to say that you will only go the cinema if the other person goes with you. You can use 'if' or 'unless':

I won't go the cinema unless you go with me.

I won't go to the cinema if you don't go with me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Genaib on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 18:57

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Thanks for team, I need you comment on the word ( Given) for the below announcement : - Given the current situation in Myanmar, Western Union service to Myanmar is not available.

Hello Genaib,

Used like this, 'given' means the same thing as 'due to' or 'because of' -- that is, it expresses a reason for a situation or action.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, I have got the meaning above and I've found it similar and useful,But, referring to past particible usage, I couldn't classify it belongs to who? , kindly advice
Sorry Igot it now, like you said, reason for situation or action.. Thanks

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 12:45

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Hi admins, I've got a question. Are perfect participle clauses informal or formal? I mean are they common in speaking or writing?

Hi Rafaela1,

I think they are neutral in style. They are used in informal and formal language use.

They are used in both speaking and writing, but particularly in writing. In speaking, Having said that, ... is quite commonly used, and there may be other common ones too.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Genaib on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 18:43

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Hi.. What's wrong with the below sentence :- - Washing at a low temperature, these jeans will keep their original colour for a long.

Hello Genaib,

The first word should be a past participle ('washed') instead of a present participle. Saying 'Washed at a low temperature' has a meaning similar to an 'if' condition: 'If they are washed at a low temperature'. We use a past participle to mean this, not a present participle.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IjajKhan on Sun, 21/02/2021 - 03:52

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❝After having spent 6 hours at the hospital, they eventually came.❞ ❝After completing work, I will go for sleeping❞ Could you tell me the difference between "After+having+V3" & "After+verb-ing"?

Hello IjajKhan,

It's a little unusual to see or hear 'after having + v3' in modern British English -- instead people tend to use 'Having spent six hours ...' -- but essentially both mean the same thing: after completing one action, another action happens or is done.

Most of the time, the second form ('after completing') is the form I'd recommend you use. This is because even a form like 'having completed' isn't used very much, at least in standard British English.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IjajKhan on Sat, 20/02/2021 - 04:48

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❝The sun having risen, we set out on our journey❞ ❝Her husband being away, she felt lonely❞ -Is this sentences correct? Please help

Hello ljajKhan,

Yes, those sentences are grammatically correct. I'm not sure if they would be the most natural choices, but that would depend on the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rahmond Aung on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 01:38

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Where should I put 'not' in a having+past partciple clause, before or after the participle? Thank you.

Hi Rahmond Aung,

Not normally comes before having. Here are some examples.

  • Not having finished their training yet, they can't start work.
  • Not having seen the news, she couldn't comment on it.
  • Students can take the advanced course, despite not having taken the beginner course.

People sometimes put not after having, but this is less common.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by elsa78 on Sun, 31/01/2021 - 08:18

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Thank you Jonathan R for the answer, I understand it now :)

Submitted by elsa78 on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 17:32

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Hi! How do I decide when to use the past participle or present participle in these two situations: To give the reason for an action; To add information about the subject of the main clause? Thanks.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 31/01/2021 - 08:14

In reply to by elsa78

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Hi elsa78,

It's a good question :) Past participles are used if the verb has a passive meaning, in relation to the grammatical subject. For example:

  • Worried by the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worried (passive) by the news. This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baked for too long, the cake was inedible. --> The cake was baked (passive) for too long. This is additional information about 'the cake'.

If the verb has an active meaning, present participles are used.

  • Worrying about the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worrying (active). This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baking the cake for too long, we made it inedible. --> We baked it (active) for too long. This is additional information about 'we'.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by elsa78 on Sun, 31/01/2021 - 08:28

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thank you Jonathan R for the answer, I understand it now :)

Submitted by nicolettalee on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 13:09

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Hi Sir/Madam, I saw a sentence in the Oxford Dictionary: "She finds herself increasingly attracted to them and their lifestyle." The word "attracted" here, is it a 'participle clause' here? If not, is it 'adjective'? Don't understand why there's participle used here. Thanks, Nicoletta

Hi Nicoletta,

Yes, attracted is an adjective here. It's connected to She finds herself earlier in the sentence. She finds herself means 'She realises that she's somewhere or doing something, without having intended to'. The structure needs a complement to complete it, to show the unintended thing, e.g.:

  • After a long walk, she found herself in a strange part of the city.
  • When everyone cheered, she found herself cheering too.
  • When everyone left, she found herself alone.

The third example is similar to your example, with an adjective as the complement.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by irismatov on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 21:03

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Is this sentence correct? - "Water, turning to ice at 0 C, is the most crucial thing for life to exist.

Hello irismatov,

I'm not sure I'd say that it's incorrect, but I'd recommend you change the sentence a little. My first recommendation would be to use a relative clause ('Water, which turns to ice at 0ºC, is the crucial for life'). Another way would be: 'Turning to ice at 0ºC, water is crucial for life'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 12:59

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Oh... participle clauses! ;) It slipped my mind!

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 18:45

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Hello. Is the following sentence correct using present participle? If not, why. - The camera costing 10000 pounds is over there. Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Sorry, costing isn't correct here. The structure in this sentence is a reduced relative clause, and the full version would be: The camera which/that is costing 10000 pounds is over there. But, the problem is cost is a stative verb, and stative verbs aren't normally used in the present continuous (see this page on stative verbs for more information). So, it should be:

  • The camera which/that costs 10000 pounds is over there.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I wouldn't go along with you, Jonathan. There is nothing at all wrong with "The camera costing £10,000 is over there. It's just as grammatically correct as the relative clause equivalent "The camera which/that costs £10,000 is over there".

Hello BillJ,

Jonathan will get back to you regarding this in the next few days. In the meantime, I wanted to thank you for your other comments and explain why they haven't been published.

The purpose of our grammar explanations are to present the language in a way that is accessible and helpful to non-specialist learners. We're aware that there are different approaches to grammar and different views on how to describe various structures (whether or not 'reduced relative clause' is a useful term being a good example), but our pages are not a place for technical discussions of this type.

Thank you very much, though, for your contributions to the site.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KK1991 on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 15:03

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Hello, I've got a question concerning a participle clause: When I want to say "Write a text of about 100 words in which you answer the questions above.", is it possible to shorten it to "Write a text of about words answering the questions above."? I'm a bit uncertain because of the preposition "in" which has to be used in the original sentence. Thank you very much in advance!

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 08:02

In reply to by KK1991

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Hello KK1991,

Yes, that's fine -- well done!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sz.Kata on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 23:13

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Hello! Could you help me please? Is this sentence okay? It sounds a bit weird for me, but I can't find the exact problem. I think that "is" after the participle clause is the weird part of it :/ but how can I say it otherwise? "Applying the fundamentals of 3D printing, bioprinting is a special, rapidly evolving sector of medical technology, which explores the possibilities for the additive manufacturing of tissues and organs."

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 08:30

In reply to by Sz.Kata

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Hello Sz.Kata,

The sentence looks fine to me apart from the comma after 'technology'. The last clause (beginning with 'which') is a defining relative clause and so should have no comma before it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 12:51

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Forgetting grammar as time goes, I found this site very useful. Is this sentence correct??

Hi Rafaela,

I think I understand what you mean, but it sounds a little unnatural to me. I'd recommend something like 'Being someone who forgets grammar as time passes ...'

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, That's exactly what I wanted to say. Being someone who forgets who I am as time passes, I think this site is helpful! ;)

Submitted by aria rousta on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 21:25

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Dear Sir Although in the above context mentioned that participle cluase get no tenses and its tense should be realize from main cluase, but it confuses me. For example please consider this sentence, # the man who had stolen the king's crown, was sent to jail.#, so if we want to reduce it how we should do it. Is this sentence correct,# the man stealing the king's crown ... or we should say,# having stolen the king's crown, the man was sent to jail. Pls guide me. Also in my last sentece how we can recognise the used participle have adjectival role or adverbial.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 08:56

In reply to by aria rousta

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Hello aria rousta,

There's a couple of things to unpack here. First of all, a reduced relative clause is not a participle clause; it remains a relative clause or, to use an alternative term, an adjectival clause. As this name implies, relative clauses have an adjectival function, while participle clauses have an adverbial function, as described on the page above. Relative clauses follow the noun which they describe; participle clauses are more flexible in their positioning.

 

In your example the correct reduction is this:

The man stealing the king's crown was sent to jail.

Here, 'stealing...' has an adjectival function (as it is a relative clause).

 

Having stolen could be used in a participle clause if we want to make it clear that the second act (going to jail) followed the first, and that there was a link between them. As you say, the participles in participle clauses have no time reference of their own but take one from the main verb or the context, so we can use having stolen with a future meaning, for example:

Having stolen the crown, he will be sent to jail.

The speaker here may be imagining or predicting a theft in the future and explaining what the consequences will be.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team