Participle clauses

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: 4.2 (81 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Hello Abdo Hassan,

'having him as both' is the subject of the verb 'weakens'; it is not a participle clause. One of the uses of the -ing form is to create a gerund, i.e. to make a verb function as a noun. It's difficult to say without knowing the context, but perhaps this person has two positions that normally must be separate to prevent conflicts of interest.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 21:28

Sir, I ran away seeing Priya. I ran away by seeing Priya. I know that the first sentence is right. But using the word 'By' In the second sentence makes it a little worng. why is that and then where should we use the word 'By' In front of 'Ing form of the verb = Present participle' ?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 27/07/2018 - 02:17

In reply to by SonuKumar


Hi SonuKumar,

There is no clear relationship between running away and seeing Priya. Normally there needs to be some kind of causal or other relationship. For example, 'How did he become a millionaire? -- He did it by playing the lottery every day'. 'playing the lottery' shows how 'he did it'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 22:30

Sir, What were the subtitutions taking place in the England football team last night. Why not 'Taken place' instead of 'Taking place' in the sentence while the action is already complete ? But In this sentence we use past participle like this 'What were the subtitutions made or done by the England team. is it because 'Make and Do' are transtive verbs, while 'Take place' is not ?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 07:13

In reply to by SonuKumar


Hello SonuKumar,

As you say, 'take place' is an intransitive verb so it would not be used with a passive meaning.

Please note that we generally do not deal with sentences taken from elsewhere as we are not responsible for their content or language choices. We're happy to comment on our own material and explanations, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by qayum2s on Mon, 09/07/2018 - 05:02

Hello Sirs, "There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look." I copied the sentence from the website. I have two questions. 1. According to grammar rules, whenever an 'IF" clause comes second, we do not put a comma, but we have in the sentence. Why? 2. In which situations, can we use 'IF' in future tenses?

Hi qayum2s,

When 'will' is used after 'if' like this, it typically means either 'be willing to'. Here the idea appears to be that if people were just willing to take the time to look, they would find there is enough love. It's also possible for 'will' to mean something like 'it is true now that' -- for example, 'If you really will help me paint the house, I will wait for you'.

I probably would have left out the comma in that sentence; I'm afraid I don't know how to explain that writer's choice other than to note that there is quite a bit of variation in punctuation.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by qayum2s on Sun, 01/07/2018 - 06:40

Hello Sir, "Peter M is a good teacher" "so is Kirk." Now is the following sentence correct? If not what is the alternative way to tell the same idea using 'so' in short answers? "I have been to New York" " so have London."

Hello quayum2s,

The correct way to express this is a little different:

I have been to New York and to London too/as well.


We can use 'so' when we want to provide an alternative to the subject of the first sentence:

I have been to New York.

So has Bob. / Bob has been to New York too.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by qayum2s on Sat, 30/06/2018 - 12:16

Hello Sir, I want to ask the following sentences if they are correct or not, and they seem to be unnatural or wrong. 'The man I was talking to was the man I was in debt to'. 'The man I was talking to was the one/man I owed to.'