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

Thank you very much sir, your explanation helped me a lot to undrestand the differences of relative cluase and participle cluase. I thought these two are same. Thank you again sir

Submitted by Esmail Emon on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 11:17

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1.Destroying the building,the bobm exploded Here is it mean result? 2.he was in the kitchen.he was making coffee=he was in the kitchen making coffe? 3.Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre. Here why its not mean the action happen same time instead add information about subject like the sentence (Standing in the queue, I realised I didn't have any money.) 4.if reverse this( Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre.) Putting participle in the last part of sentece,what it will mean?

Hello Esmail Emon,

In the first four example sentences on this page, the order of the clauses is important. The first clause refers to an earlier condition that the second one is somehow related to.

For this reason, your sentence 1 isn't correct because the idea is that the explosion of the bomb caused the destruction of the building.

Your sentence 2 is fine.

As for your question about sentences 3 and 4, the precise meaning of participle clauses can't always be gleaned from the participle clause itself. As I mentioned above, generally the first part of the sentence states a cause or condition for the second one, but sometimes it's either your general background knowledge of how things work (e.g. generally if there is a bomb explosion and a building collapsing, probably the bomb caused the collapse) or the context (i.e. what is said before or after the sentence with the participle clause) that make the meaning clear. Though in some cases, the meaning isn't really clear, in which case it's generally better not to use a participle clause.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Esmail Emon on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 05:07

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"Narrow stone steps run up the hil-side, flanked by cloesly clustered houses. " 1.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side.Narrow stone steps were flanked by closely clustered houses. Or 2.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side,which were flanked by closely clustered houses. My main question is the participle flanked modify what?

Hello Esmail Emon,

I think this is a sentence open to several interpretations. In your two explanations/rephrasings (1 and 2), you see 'flanked' as part of a reduced relative clause (which are flanked), used adjectivally to describe the noun phrase 'narrow stone steps'. This is certainly one interpretation.

 

I think I would be more inclined, however, to say that the participle clause here has an adverbial function. It describes the verb 'run up'. The sentence can be seen as similar to these:

I walked down the street alone.

I walked down the street accompanied by my friend.

I walked down the street flanked by my friend.

Here, the adverbial function is clear, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for reply. if it does advervial function,then why comma is put before flanked Hope you explain as before

Hello again Esmail Emon,

I think the comma here helps to make the sentence less ambiguous.

Without the comma we might think that that 'flanked by...' is used as a reduced relative clause to describe the noun phrase immediately before it, which is 'hillside'. In other words, without the comma the listener/reader might think that it is the hillside which is flanked by..., and in this case it would be a defining relative clause distinguishing which hillside is being referred to: the hillside flanked by... as opposed to another hillside. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LindaP on Fri, 06/11/2020 - 20:18

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Hello. "Worried by the news, she called the hospital." Is it also possible to say: "Being worried by the news, she called the hospital." Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 08:01

In reply to by LindaP

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Hello LindaP,

Yes, that's fine. You could also say 'As she was worried by the news...'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by elosch on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 22:27

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Hello dear teachers! As I have an upcoming exam this week I was doing online tests about participle Clauses, other tests and this one have helped me a lot. By know I understand most of the rules we have to use and also why we have to use them. The only thing that is still confusing me is the use of the verb "been" in this context. In some examples the correct answers were formed with "been" for example "having been worked". I don't quite understand why that answer is more different than "having worked". I hope my question was understandable, and I would appreciate an answer!

Hello elosch,

We use been in the case to form a passive participle:

having watched - active

having been watched - passive

 

If you have a particular example you'd like to ask about then we'll be happy to comment, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

First all, thank you! Knowing this cleared up nearly all of the confusion. One example I found was the sentence "As I had been to England before, I knew where to find a good hotel", which was turned into "Having been to England before, I knew where to find a good hotel."

Hello elosch,

That clarifies things - thank you.

In this example, 'been' is the past participle of the verb 'go.

'Go' is an unusual verb as it has two past participles. When a person has not returned, we use 'gone' but when a person has returned we use 'been':

Where's Sue?

She's gone to the shop. She'll be back soon.

Do we have any bread?

Yeah. Sue's been to the shop. It's over there on the table.

 

Having been is a perfect participle form - you can see more on this on the page above.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by re_nez on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 20:56

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Hello! My question: Can I reduce the following relative clauses to -ing participle clauses? 1. The horse which won the race got a prize.-> The horse winning the race got a prize. 2. The basket which contained groceries was gone.-> The basket containing groceries was gone.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 06:11

In reply to by re_nez

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Hello re_nez,

The second example is fine. The first example, however, is problematic. I think the problem is that the actions are clearly sequential here: winning the race must precede receiving the prize, and a participle clause suggests actions occurring simultaneously, as we state on the page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Raika on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:34

In reply to by re_nez

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How about: Having won the race, the horse got a prize. It does have a similar meaning

Submitted by Raika on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:41

In reply to by re_nez

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Having won implies that the action has been completed, perfect participle clause

Submitted by Mostafa1007 on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 13:17

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Hello, Could you possibly tell me the grammar used in this sentence? Listen to the girl talking ( /talk) about unemployment. Is it OK to use either talking or talk?

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 04:13

In reply to by Mostafa1007

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Hi Mostafa1007,

Interesting question! Both are correct, but there's a slight difference in meaning.

  • Listen to the girl talk: the infinitive verb form means the action is complete. You will listen to the girl's whole talk.
  • Listen to the girl talking: the -ing form means the action had a duration. It suggests that you may only hear part of the girl's talk, not all of it.

We can find the same difference with other sense verbs, e.g. see, hear, feel, watch.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ajstat on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 09:21

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More than 80% of the Americans take (/ takes) dinner soon after 6 pm. Proportion of Americans taking dinner soon after is (/ are) 0.80.

Hello ajstat,

'take' and 'is' are the correct answers here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 21:46

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Hello, teachers I have a question, if you don’t mind. I came across this sentence - Six afternoons a week, hundreds of thousands of youngsters from some of the toughest neighbourhoods in Venezuela have free music lessons, (and are provided with free instruments .) My question is, why there is no subject after and in the second part of the sentence, what is the rule here? When we can omit the subject! And can I say ( and they are provided with free instruments)?

Hi Reemtb,

Well spotted! It's because this sentence has two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and), and the subject of both clauses is the same (hundreds of thousands of youngsters). We don't need to repeat the subject in the second clause, in this case. But it's also fine to repeat it, as you suggested.

 

We can't leave out the subject in complex sentences, i.e. sentences with a main and subordinate clause (e.g. I made a salad for lunch because I wanted something healthy). Both subjects must be stated.

 

Does that make sense?

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 13:01

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thanks, this is very clear. Can we do this with all coordination conjunction or just with some of them? Is this sentence right? -) He always forgets to switch off the lights, and never closes the door before he goes out.

Hi Reemtb,

Yes, it is right :) We can do this with most of the coordinating conjunctions in common usage today: and, but, or, nor and yet.

The only one that we can't do it with is so. Both subjects are needed, e.g.:

  • I was tired, so I had a nap.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 20:47

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The lesson is very challenging with clauses that is not more suitably used for every daily, it becomes an ambiguous to me and hard to understand, as my wish you can provide more notes and exercises about this. Emmanuel The learner English Team

Hi Emmanuel,

Thanks for your suggestion :) We will keep this in mind when we plan new content.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kyawkyawsoezhu on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 19:09

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Giving very little examples, I find this lesson hard to understand. And also, it will be better to show long-form besides very examples.

Submitted by yogesh on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 08:48

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Hello sir, I have a doubt about the present participle clauses. Kindly check the sentence below and parse it and let me know the sentence below is a type f cause and effect or activities happening at the same time. Pls, check below. 1) I was willing to follow up with potential clients, developing relationships with them until they were ready to make a deal with us.

Hello yogesh,

The sentence is fine.

The sentence could be read either way: developing relationships with... could be the result of the speaker's action, or it could be the reason for it. Without context both interpretations are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

1) I have worked successfully in sales for over 10 years. One of my first sales jobs was in college, where I majored in business. I worked for the college newspaper selling advertising space, and as an extrovert who likes interacting with people, I was very successful in the job. What also helped me sell more than any other salesperson was my persistence. I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months, developing a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. The full context is here

Hello again yogesh,

Thank you for adding the context. I think it's fairly clear that the reason why the speaker followed up with clients was because he or she wanted to develop a relationship with them in order to achieve his or her desired deal, so I would say that that particple clause here shows purpose or reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If it is a purpose or reason then why not " to develop a relationship" instead of "developing relationship". then what is the difference between the sentences below. 1) I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months, developing a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. 2) I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months to develop a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. Kindly elaborate.

Hello yogesh,

I think the difference is that the participle requires contextual interpretation. In other words, the participle could describe either situation. The infinitive (an infinitive of purpose) is only used to describe purpose or reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

so, you mean, the meaning of both the sentences is same?
Hey, thanks, you have been of great help. one more question. 1) London, like the rest of the UK, is committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2050. That means greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change. I don't understand the sentence " and any remaining emissions offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change. " Can you parse the above sentence.

Hello again yogesh,

The sentence uses ellipsis to avoid repetition. The full sentence would be as follow:

London, like the rest of the UK, is committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2050. That means greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions would be offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by giangphan on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 05:04

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Hi, I come across a sentence from a book. "Underwater research used to require divers to find shipwrecks, but recently, various types of underwater vehicles were developed, some controlled from a ship on the surface, and some of them autonomous, which means they don't need to be operated by a person" Could you explain what is the type of structure used in the part " some controlled from...and some of them ...". What is the function of that part in the sentence? Thank you. Giang

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 07:42

In reply to by giangphan

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Hi giangphan,

The clause provides extra information about the subject ('various types of underwater vehicles'). The verb here is a past participle as the meaning is passive. Some shows that the information does not apply to all examples of these vehicles; if the clauses were headed only by the participle then it would apply to all examples.

In terms of grammar, this is an adjunct clause, which means a clause which adds extra non-essential information to the sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Tue, 08/09/2020 - 22:25

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Hello teachers , could you help me with this question? 1-The audience are on their feet, stomping and roaring, doing the Mexican wave, demanding encore after encore. 2-Heading a national system, known simply asElSistema, the Orchestra comprises over 200 young musicians aged from 16 to 20. -) Can we make participles in two clauses and more like the two examples above? Are these two sentences correct? -) And the phrase (aged from 16 to 20) is it the reduce relative clauses with adjective ( who are aged from 16 to 20 )?

Hello Reemtb,

The sentences you ask about look grammatically correct to me, though I'd recommend using more than one participle clause (actually, participle clauses in general) sparingly in your writing for stylistic reasons.

Yes, I think you could consider that a reduced relative clause. It's a commonly used phrase to express an age range.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Suhana on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 16:14

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Hello teachers, I came across the following sentence in one of the text books. Please tell me why the present participle is used instead of past participle. Being occupied with important matters, he had no leisure to see us. Can we convert this to: Occupied with important matters, he had no leisure to see us. If both are correct, then why the present participle is preferred over the past participle.

Hello Suhana,

Both forms (being occupied and occupied) are possible here and there is no difference in meaning in this context.

Being + past participle is a continuous passive form. In some contexts it can be used to emphasise that a situation or state was temporary or in progress, like all continuous forms.

 

You can use being + adjective. For example;

Being happy with my work, she agreed to give me a raise.

Since some adjectives have the same form as past participles, there is a potential ambiguity here. Your example could be interpreted in this way if we see occupied as an adjective rather than a verb form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 20:46

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Hello, Mr. I have a question. -Used in this way, participles can make your writing more concise. The full structure of this sentence is. (If you use participles in this way, … ) My question is, why did you use it in past participle although it is active in the full structure and the subject is different in the first part of sentence from the subject in the second part of the sentence?

Hello Reemtb,

The passive turns the object into the subject of the verb:

If you use participles in this way... > the subject is 'you'

If participles are used in this way... > the subject is 'participles'

Thus, when the passive is used the subject is the same in both clauses, allowing a participle clause to be used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lucas_xpp on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 17:55

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It rained for two weeks on end, completely ruining our holiday - How about ",...which completely ruined..."? The team won the championship, shocking their opponents. - How about ", which shocked...."? I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework - How about "Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book." Thanks English Team.

Hello Lucas_xpp,

All of those alternatives are possible. They do not change the meaning in each case, so the choice is one of style and emphasis.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team