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

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Profile picture for user jarurote

Submitted by jarurote on Fri, 26/01/2018 - 03:58

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Dear sir, From the passage, ... "... Result (in place of words like because or as a result): 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." My questions are as follows. Could I swap the phrase like this? ... Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book. And... Could we use this passage? “... Using the modern devices as the communication mediums of humans, it could worldwide access the large volumes of data through the internet that creates the social convergence.” Thank you.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 27/01/2018 - 07:33

In reply to by jarurote

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Hello jarurote,

It is possible to change the order and begin the sentence with 'having'.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'could we use this passage'. There are several errors in there if your question is about the accuracy of the language. However, we don't provide a correction service on LearnEnglish but rather answer questions about how the language works and specific aspects of the language system.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 09:19

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Sir, With 365 runs made, He won the match Or Making or having made 365 runs He won the match. what I want to know is are these the same things or is there any difference, Can the one above with (with 365 runs made) interchange with the ones below, Can we do it every time with these two structures I mean Interchanging or does that depends on the context ?

Hello SonuKumar,

There is a slight difference in meaning which might be relevant in some contexts.

'Having made...' and 'With... made' place the run-making before the winning. In other words, the runs were achieved before the match was won.

'Making...' could also mean that the match was won during the run-making. In other words, there was no need to wait until later for the win; the two actions co-occurred. 

In most contexts (and certainly in this one) the forms are interchangeable. However, the dfference above could be important in some contexts.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

 

Peter

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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

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

In reply to by SonuKumar

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team