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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Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 10:49

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

Half is a versatile word! It can be various word types.

Noun (e.g. He played the first half of the match; an hour and a half; two halves of an apple)

As a noun, half is countable. It can have an article before it. After it, there can be an of phrase (which can have an article in it). Sentence 4 isn’t correct because the noun money needs an article before it.

Pronoun (e.g. He played half of the match; half of us; I only want half)

As a pronoun, there can’t be an article before half. But after it, there can be an of phrase (which can have an article in it). Sentence 6 is this usage, and it's correct.

Adjective (e.g. a half century; a half hour)

This comes before a noun. There can be an article before it (depending on the noun), but not after it. Sentences 2 and 3 aren’t correct. I think it’s because the noun needs to be countable (but money is uncountable).

Determiner (e.g. The journey takes half an hour; half my life; half the world)

To be precise, half is a predeterminer. That means it comes before another determiner (e.g. an article, or a possessive adjective). It doesn’t have an article before it. So, sentence 5 is correct. Sentence 1 isn’t correct because money is uncountable.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir For providing useful information.

Submitted by giangphan on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 06:35

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Hi, Would you please explain the using of "making identification..." of the following sentence to me? Most of the bodies were badly burned, making identification almost impossible. "making ...." isn't a participle clause because both clauses don't have the same subject, is it? Thank you

Submitted by giangphan on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 11:29

In reply to by giangphan

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In this sentence "Research in the Mediterranean Sea has shown that certain jellyfish are able to revert to an earlier physical state, leading to the assertion that they are immortal". I don't understand why we use "leading to ...". The subject of "leading to ..." is "research in Mediterranean Sea"? Thank you.

Hello giangphan,

The phrase you ask about is a reduced relative clause, i.e. a reduced form of '... physical state, which has led to the assertion that they are immortal' (or the verb could be in a different tense).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 08:51

In reply to by giangphan

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Hi giangphan,

This is an example of a reduced relative clause. It is a non-defining relative clause which describes not the noun preceding it, but rather than whole clause:

Most of the bodies were badly burned, which made identification almost impossible.

Which refers to (the fact that) most of the bodies were badly burnt.

Reduced, we end up with making most of...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It means that we can reduce defining and non - defining relative clauses? Thank you

Hello again giangphan,

When the relative clause describes the whole clause before, we can reduce it to a participle:

I gave Paul the day off, which I hoped might improve his mood.

I gave Paul the day off, hoping it might improve his mood.

 

When the relative clause describes the subject of the main clause, we can also use a participle:

The directors, who have finally finished their meeting, are going home.

The directors, having finally finished their meeting, are going home.

 

However, when the relative clause refers to the object of the main clause, we cannot reduce it:

I gave Sue a book, which I'd read when I was younger, for her birthday.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ujin on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 11:17

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Dear educators! I have been learning English by-self using this great website, however; I have faced some difficulties while I am reading essays. For instance: The third most popular use of the tablet is for consuming entertainment, with users spending 13% of their tablet time watching videos and listening to music. I aware that spending is a reduced clause of who spends 13% ... but why we say 13% of their tablet time watching videos instead of to watch videos? Pls kindly help me to grasp it properly. Sincerely, Ujin

Hello Ujin,

It's because of the expression 'spend time'. We spend time doing something (see the third example sentence under entry 1.2 time); in this case, users spend 13% of their time watching or listening. 

There is no real reason for this -- it's just what we say. With the expression 'take time', for example, we use an infinitive: 'it took four hours to clean the kitchen'. 

The best thing to do is check how verbs are used in a good dictionary, like the one I linked to.

We're glad to hear that you've found LearnEnglish useful -- that's what we're here for!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir Kirk, I am happy that you encouraged me to step up. And I would like to ask one more question if it possible? Globalization is here to stay, driven by advances in information technology and resulting in scientific progress and increased international trade. The sentence is being odd for me; I hope that the first line is a reduced clause in a passive form, right? Then why we write just /resulting/ is that also reduced clause? There is some confusion on my mind and I am not even well cognizant of prepositions. Do you have any suggestions? Best regards, Ujin

Hi Ujin,

While I expect you could find that sentence or one similar to it in writing somewhere, if it were my text, I would edit it because, as you point out, it's a unclear. I understand the intended meaning to be 'globalization is driven by ...' and 'globalization results in ...'

I don't think it's worth analysing the grammar behind it, as it's not clear and isn't a very good model in my opinion. I would rewrite the sentence and perhaps even split it into two.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 14:07

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This page is useful. Thanks for your teaching! I like participle clauses. ;)

Submitted by Claudia on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 00:47

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Hi! I don't understand why in the 2nd test, "_Having been worked_ in prisons..." is incorrect, as is describing an action that took place before the action in the main clause. Thank you!

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 08:54

In reply to by Claudia

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Hi Claudia,

Having been worked would be a passive form and, since work is normally an intransitive verb, it would be ungrammatical as well as not fitting the sense of the sentence.

Having worked or After working would be fine, if they were possible choices.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 09:44

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Dear Teachers, I understand that if a relative clause is a single completed action then it cannot be reformulated using participle clause. How about past continuous tense? The policies in 2000 aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly = The policies in 2000 which was aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly. Thanks

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence with the reduced relative clause is OK, but if I were writing I would change it to 'that aimed to boost' instead of using a participle. It's clearer and nearly as economical.

I'm afraid that the second sentence is a bit awkward. Perhaps in a specific context, the past continuous would make sense there, but in general it would probably be a past simple or past perfect tense. Also note that the subject 'policies' is plural.

I hope this helps you make sense of this.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk, Thank you for your explanation. I wonder why "The policies in 2000 aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly = The policies in 2000 that aimed to boost its economy had affected the environment badly" but "The boy who passed the exam was very happy ≠ The boy passing the exam was very happy."? While both "aimed" and "passed" are a single completed action, why "aimed" can be turned into participle clause but "passed" cannot? Thank you.

Hello Kaisoo93,

I think it has to do with the actions not being simultaneous. In 'The boy passing the exam was very happy', 'passing' suggests the boy was happy while he was passing the exam, whereas presumably he was happy after he passed it.

In 'The policies in 2000 aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly', the aim did not follow the policy. The aim existed before and during the implementation of the policy, whether or not it came to fruition.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 18:21

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Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the usages of "another" I was reading a news article about Covid-19 pandemic, "But in the case of the novel coronavirus, 24 candidate vaccines are already in clinical evaluation and 'another 142 are' in the preclinical evaluation stage." Here, I couldn't understand the use of another 142 are, we know that another is determiner as well as pronoun but it is used as a singular entity in questions So, my question is how we can use the word another with plural verb inspite of it being singular entity. Like these examples 1) Another girl 2) Another girls Which one is correct?

Hello Kapil Kabir,

Another is used with singular nouns, so another girls is not correct.

 

However, when another is followed by a number it can be used with a plural noun:

This is a big job. It will take another six weeks to complete.

Another four beers, please!

In these examples another has the sense of a further.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ujin on Sun, 19/07/2020 - 14:18

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Hello Sir, Where can I find more explanations about participle clauses? It seems to me like similar to reduced clauses. Besides, doing the exercises, I have got only half of it correctly. Help me to use it accurately. Thank you

Hello Ujin,

We're happy to help you understand a specific answer in our exercises if you let us know which exercise and which question you want to ask about. If you do ask us such a question, please explain to us what you thought the answer was and why -- this way we can help you better.

I'm afraid there is nothing else on our site about participle clauses, but I'm sure you can find some explanations by doing an internet search for 'participle clauses in English' or something similar.

I'd also suggest you pay attention when you're reading or listening so that you can analyse participle clauses when you come across them. It will probably take you some time to find some, as they are relatively rare, especially in speaking.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Karan Narang on Tue, 14/07/2020 - 04:42

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After reading this lesson having understood how can I make sentence with these participle of present or past And having been got good mark in these test. Could you explain me in past or present participle form use past tent then how will I understand which is present or past participle sentence ?

Hello Karan Narang,

Could you please rephrase your question? I'm afraid I don't understand exactly what you're asking.

It's also really helpful if you ask as specific a question as you can. It's very difficult to answer general questions about grammar.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 13:43

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Hello sir, I have a question and I couldn't understand it. Money from poor countries is flowing into richer ones in large part due to active purchase of foreign assets by central banks. Here, the correct word that is used is Poorer instead of poor. I want to know that why it is happened. Is there any rule for this. Please clarify sir.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I'm afraid I didn't understand whether you were asking about 'poor' or 'poorer', but in any case, both words are possible here, with little difference in meaning since they are compared to 'richer'.

I don't think there's any rule that explains this -- it's just that in this context, 'poor countries' and countries that are 'poorer than richer countries' seem to mean pretty much the same thing. I could be wrong about that, but without context, that's what it looks like to me.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hyungu Kim on Mon, 06/07/2020 - 12:05

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Hello sir. I'd like to know whether the follow sentence is grammatically correct. 'He always reminds us that everyone is important to a team's success, though their role on the team being small.' In particular, is the phrase 'though' grammatically possible? Thank you for your concern.

Hello Hyungu Kim,

The way the clause is written here is incorrect. I would recommend something like 'even if their role on the team is small' in most situations.

In an older style of English, it would be possible to use a clause beginning with 'though' if you changed the verb from 'being' to 'be'. But this would sound quite strange to most people nowadays, so I would not recommend using it.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 01/07/2020 - 17:43

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Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the use of Present participle amd gerund. Sir What is the main difference in the meaning of these two sentences 1) He doesn't like me going there. 2) He doesn't like my going there. What is the difference in the meaning of these two sentences. Are these grammatical correct or not?

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 03:59

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir, The two sentences mean the same thing. There's no difference in meaning. They are both grammatical, but have slightly different structures, as you've noticed. Here's my analysis: - In sentence 1, 'me' is an object pronoun, and 'going there' is a participle phrase modifying 'me'. - In sentence 2, 'my' is an adjective, which modifies 'going there' (a gerund/noun phrase). Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reza on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 17:55

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Hi Peter, Could you please tell me if these sentences are grammatically OK? Surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. While he was surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. He stood up while surrounded by thunderous applause. He stood up while he was surrounded by thunderous applause. Having been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. After he has been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. He is a rich man now after having been nominated for the prize. He is a rich man now after he has been nominated for the prize. Thanks

Hello Reza,

I'm afraid your question is too long for us to handle here -- that's eight different sentences, and explaining each one could take some time.

If you'd like to ask us about one of them, please feel free, but please remember that our purpose here in the comments is to help users make use of the content and materials on our site, not to correct users' writing. We are simply too small a team with too much other work to be able to do this.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MJ21 on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 18:35

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In the sentence "Tom nervously watched the woman, alarmed by her silence", the participial clause comes after the comma because it is far from the subject. However, the same structure doesn't seem to work in the sentence "Felicia directs the play, not included in the cast". May I ask why this is so?

Hello MJ21,

I would suggest that the sentence is missing a word:

Felicia directs the play, not being included in the cast.

Without this, I think the sentence scans very awkwardly.

 

You could put the clause elsewhere in the sentence:

Felicia, not included in the cast, directs the play.

Felicia, being not included in the cast, directs the play.

Not included in the cast, Felicia directs the play.

If the sentence is taken from a published text then it may be that during the editing process the clause was moved from a different position, mistakenly creating a very awkward structure.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tifflora on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 15:22

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in what ways does the present perfect differ from the past perfect and the present participle

Submitted by Fulsawange2020 on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 03:36

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Sir What is an active meaning and a passive meaning that you have mentioned while giving reply to some questions. The sentence which I have written is grammatically correct.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 07:00

In reply to by Fulsawange2020

Permalink

Hello Fulsawange2020,

When the subject of the verb performs the action, we describe it as having an active meaning. For example:

I read the book.

The subject here is 'I'; the action is performed by the subject.

 

When the subject of the verb receives the action, we describe it as having a passive meaning. For example:

The book was read.

The subject here is 'the book'; the action is performed on the subject.

 

You can read more about active and passive voice and meaning here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/passives

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/active-and-passive-voice

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gracy on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 00:29

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Hi, I'd like to know the grammar explanation of the participle clause for the following sentence and the meaning of the whole sentence. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections exempting factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 06:54

In reply to by Gracy

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Hi Gracy,

I think the sentence needs a comma before the participle clause. Without a comma, it appears that the participle clause describes the labour protections (i.e. the labour protections exempt factories from...), which would not make sense in this context. With a comma, it is the suspension of the labour provisions which is being described (i.e. the suspension of the labour protections exempts factories from...), which is clearly the meaning intended.

 

The participle clause describes the result of the action (suspending labour protections) in the main clause. We could rewrite it as two sentences as follows:

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections. This has exempted factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gracy on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 13:43

In reply to by Peter M.

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Thanks indeed Peter. That's really helpful.

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 06:27

In reply to by Peter M.

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Hi Peter, Can we rewrite as follows? "Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections, which has exempted factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets." Thanks

Hi Kaisoo93,

Yes, that's perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Melih YILMAZ on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 21:21

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___ under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures. i don't understand it

Hello Melih YILMAZ

'a thermal layer' is another way of saying 'thermal underwear'. Another way of saying this is 'A thermal layer, which is worn under normal clothes, keeps you warm in minus temperatures'. 

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 03:42

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It's really fascinating.