Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

Language level

Average: 5 (6 votes)
Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters. I don't know the justification as to how the above sentence is correct. Particle used attributively always belongs the subject of the following main verb. if the participle belongs to the other subbject, then it must be expressed before it (Thomson & Martinet). I am astonished how BC can mislead learners.

Hello souba73,

The use of past participles in this way is quite correct. The participle has a passive form, and so the subject is 'coat':

If the coat is looked after carefully, it will...


You can find many examples of this construction in English. For example, here is a quote from Walt Whitman, one of the greatest writers in American literature:

Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.



The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I found the following sentence in Practical English Grammar. The plane crashed, its bombs exploding as it hit the ground. I have no objection to it. But it sounds a little bit awkward to me. Sir, I want to get accustomed to this usage. Could give me some more examples of this. Once again, I am new to this forum. I don't know where to post my questions or creat a new thread. Is it permissible to post any kind of questions under this thread?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 07:42

In reply to by souba73


Hello souba73,

The sentence is perfectly fine and I don't see any awkwardness in it. Participle clauses (as described on the page above) are efficient ways to combine information which might otherwise be in two different sentences. There are numerous examples already on the page with both present and past participles. Perhaps you can try to create more examples and we'll be happy to tell you if they are correct or not.


Please note that we respond to questions as soon as we are able. We have many users on the site and are a small team here providing a service free of charge. Posting reminders or pressing us to answer your question sooner only slows the process.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 24/01/2018 - 15:14

Sir, Leave (soak) your dirty clothes in water and pour (mix) some washing powder in the water. Now Can I make this sentence using present participle like this= Soak your dirty clothes in water (by) mixing some washing powder in the water or using past participle like this= Soak your dirty clothes in water with some washing powder mixed in the water ?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 07:50

In reply to by SonuKumar


Hello SonuKumar,

Using the present participle like this implies that mixing the powder and water and soaking your clothes are the same thing. They are not the same thing, so the sentence is confusing.

The sentence with the past participle works, as it shows the powder has already been mixed in to the water.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 23/01/2018 - 13:18

Sir, with the shop closed we went to the market. Now did we close the shop and went to the market I mean (By closing the shop we went to the market) or because the shop was already closed, so we went to the market ? what does 'with shop closed' mean here ? Leave your clothes wet in the water by mixing or pouring washing powder in them. Leave your clothes wet in the water with washing powder mixed or poured in them Now Do they mean the same thing or not ? are they both right and acceptable ?

Hello SonuKumar,

The sentence about the shop is ambiguous. It does not make clear if the speaker closed the shop or simply found it to be already closed, as you say. The context would presumably make this clear, or else the sentence would remain ambiguous.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say with the other sentences. Neither sentence is correct as written.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rezaya on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 08:22

hello please help me with this sentences, why participle clauses are used below 1 . hang(verb) means : to fasten or support something at the top LEAVING the other parts free to move not giving information about condition, reason, result or time! 2. the work will vary ACCORDING to your abilities thank you.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 06:13

In reply to by Rezaya


Hello Rezaya,

The first example is related to time:

To fasten or support something at the top (while) leaving the other parts free to move

The second example looks like a participle phrase/clause but is actually something else. According to is a preposition - you can read more about this here or here, for example.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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