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 Hainguyen123 on Sun, 15/03/2020 - 15:00

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In this sentence, " You can make a lot of money selling old cars." Why "selling" is placed with "by selling"? Because I think "selling" imlies the way to make money.

Hello Hainguyen123

'selling' and 'by selling' mean the same thing here. 'by' is often used before a present participle to speak about how to do something.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 09/03/2020 - 04:52

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Hello Sir, Can we say that the word 'interesting' as in 'I have an interesting story' is participle or adjective? Because the -ing form of 'interest' is interesting and there is 'interesting' as an adjective. Thank you, Sir

Hello Risa warysha

'interesting' functions as an adjective here. The adjective is derived from the present participle, just as the adjective 'interested' is derived from the past participle of the verb.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alsayed on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 14:21

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Reading the paper,he saw the news about his homtetown. You chose reading because it is a reason of seeing the news . But I guess it may be perfect participle . He has read his paper ,after that he saw the news on tv .what do you think ? Thanks .

Hello alsayed

I wouldn't say that participle clause expresses reason, but rather that he saw the new while reading the paper (two actions at the same time). It could also possibly explain how he saw the news.

Because 'reading' ends in '-ing', it is a present participle, not a perfect participle.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 03:33

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Hello Peter, Why do we confuse the definitions. By calling Participle clause, you mean participle phrase. Similarly reduced relative clause is adjective phrase. Clauses are only three types-Noun, Adjective and Adverb. So why have new classes of clause? Thank

Hello Bharati,

I can't say why this is the case, I'm afraid. Language descriptions grow and evolve over time, and fashion comes and goes in linguistics as in everything else. All I can tell you is that both names are used for the structure. For example, this article on the topic by Richard Nordquist uses both terms and does not attempt to distinguish between them:

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-participial-phrase-1691588

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ire on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 05:20

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hi , I would like to ask the following question. He stood on the back,holding on to his shoulders. He lunged for the telephone,lifting the receiver quickly. the participle clauses 'holding on to his shoulders. ' and ' lifting the receiver quickly' for which complete clauses did these two participle clauses come from?Thank you!

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 08:26

In reply to by Ire

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Hello Ire

I suppose the second one was something like 'He lunged for the phone and quickly lifted the receiver.'

I'm not sure I understand the first one -- perhaps something like 'He stood on the back while holding on'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 04:23

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Shouldn't these be called Participle phrase rather than participle clause as by definition a clause has a subject and finite verb in it

Submitted by Jamil on Mon, 17/02/2020 - 14:07

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Hi Some languages use a term transliterated in English as "relative participle" Is there any such term in English grammar? Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 07:00

In reply to by Jamil

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Hi Jamil,

This is not a term we use. You can find participles in reduced relative clauses, however.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jamil on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 11:42

In reply to by Peter M.

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Thank you Peter Do you mean in non-finite reduced relative clauses? Regards Jamil

Hello again Jamil,

Yes, that's correct. A finite relative clause may be reduced to produce a non-finite relative clause:

The woman who is riding the bike > The woman riding the bike

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ange Obscure on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 21:24

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Please, add some exams about Participle Clauses.

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Thu, 06/02/2020 - 15:21

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Dear Sirs, Can I use participle to describe a sequence of event? For example, I entered a room, and then in the room, I cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Can I rewrite as the following? 1) I entered a room, clearing all the rubbish, painting the wall, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the windows. 2) I entered a room, and cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use a participle like to describe actions happening simultaneously rather than in sequence, so your first sentence suggests that you did all of those actions while you were entering the room. Obviously, this is not possible, so the sentence would be understood thanks to the context, but grammatically the meaning would be a little different from that which you intended.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. So the second sentence is correct, is it?

Hello Kaisoo93,

Yes, the second sentence is fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by crow on Fri, 31/01/2020 - 18:49

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I have some sentence need a solution can anyone help me? thank you

Hello crow,

This site is aimed at helping people improve their English by providing explanations and practice. We don't offer a correction or proofreading service, however.

If you have a questions about how English works or about something you don't understand then we'll be happy to try to help.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Mccan on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 22:09

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Hello Just to understand it better, can you verify if In the following sentences, past participles are working as adjectives or passive voice Get it resolved(adjective or passive) to earn from YouTube have your videos watched (adjective) Made it complicated(adjective or not) Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/01/2020 - 06:50

In reply to by John Mccan

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Hello John Mccan

As far as I know, when 'get' and 'have' are used in causative structures such as these, the verb forms (here 'resolved' and 'watched') are past participles, not adjectives. This is because they have a passive meaning, being another way of saying something like 'I want it to be resolved' (following your example).

In the structure with 'make', an adjective, noun or infinitive can come after the object. So in this case, 'complicated' is an adjective.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 14:39

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Dear Sirs, Can "Dressed in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy." be written as "Dressing in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy" also? where the participle replaces "Sam who is dressed" and "Sam who is dressing" respectively. Is it correct to conclude that for those verbs that are both transitive and intransitive, we can use both past and present participle as in the case above ? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use 'dressed' with a passive meaning, so 'Sam who is dressing' or 'Dressing in a suit...' are not correct here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thank you for your reply. I have further question. From the lesson above: "Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]" "Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]" Why can't we apply participle the same way as 2 sentences above? Sam is dressed in... (passive voice) and Sam dress in ... (active voice)

Hello Kaisoo93,

The reason is that the verbs 'shout' and 'dress' operate in different ways in English.

We do not use the verb 'dress' actively to talk about the subject in modern English. Thus, a sentence using 'dress' must have a different object to the subject, or be used in a passive form so the subject can be omitted:

The servants dressed the king in his finest gown.

The king was dressed in his finest gown.

 

Alternatively, you can use a reflexive pronoun to create an object for the verb, though this is rather unusual and can sound rather archaic:

The king dressed himself in his finest gown.

 

Since the participle in a participle phrase must relate to the same subject as the main clause, we cannot use it with an active meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MartaC on Fri, 17/01/2020 - 08:53

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Hello, Is the participle phrase/modifier too far away from the noun 'paintings' in the following sentence: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, the paintings are a unique feature of our church. The sentence seems grammatically correct to me but I am not sure. Does this make more sense: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, are the paintings, a unique feature of our church. Maybe neither are correct? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 08:21

In reply to by MartaC

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Hello MartaC,

The danger with having the participle too far from its referent is that the sentence may be ambiguous or confusing for the reader. I don't see any problem with your sentence. In fact, bring the participle phrase to the beginning like this is quite a common literary device to highlight certain details in the sentence.

Your second version is also correct, though it seems a less elegant structure to me. It's really a question of personal style and taste, though.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 15:10

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"Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind causing blazes to spread to new areas." The word "causing" is a adjectival (reduced form of which causes) or adverbial? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I would say that the participle causing has an adjectival function here. It's hard to reformulate the sentence to create an adverbial clause (see here for a list of adverbial clause types).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thank you for your reply. If I don't use participle, are both sentences below correct? 1) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind and cause blazes to spread to new areas. 2) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind which cause blazes to spread to new areas.

Hello Kaisoo93,

The first sentence is not correct as the verb 'cause' lacks an appropriate subject.

The second sentence is fine. The verb (cause) is plural, so it is clear that the relative pronoun refers back to embers rather than to wind.

 

The original sentence (with causing) is by far the best choice in terms of style, clarity and elegance.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Why can't we consider 'embers' as the subject for 'cause' for the first sentence? Thank you.

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence structure does not hold together in that way. The sentence 'with', everything describes the object (of the preposition) 'embers'; you cannot change that object into a subject for a new verb without starting a new sentence:

Once fires have started, other areas are at risk. Embers blown by the wind cause blazes to spread to new areas.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Mccan on Thu, 02/01/2020 - 21:52

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Hello Two questions 1. We don't use Possessives with such verbs to show its a gerund, so when ing word follows does it represent gerund or present participle as adjective. I saw him singing (participle as adjective defining him who is singing or as gerund defining the process of singing) Or both, just the way we look at it 2. Ing word following verbs generally act as gerund ( verbs object) But if it follows an infinitive would.it be a participle or gerund. Let's get (infinitive) moving(gerund or participle) Also can participle-ing(adjective) follow a verb? Like --Complete working (this is gerund) right? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 03/01/2020 - 08:16

In reply to by John Mccan

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Hello John Mccan,

In both examples, I would say that the -ing form is a participle.

 

In the first example, 'singing' is a participle with an adjectival function. It describes the pronoun 'him'. The way the sentence is constructed tells us this, as the object is the pronoun. In other words, you hear the person who is singing, not the singing which belongs to the person. In the latter case, you would say 'I heard his singing'.

 

In the second example, the construction is get + participle. You can use present and past participles in this construction, where present participles have an active meaning and past participles have a passive meaning. The verb 'get' here has a meaning between 'start' and 'become', depending on the context:

Let's get going. [active meaning, get going = start moving]

Let's get cooking. [active meaning, get cooking = start cooking]

Let's get dressed. [passive meaning, get dressed = become dressed]

 

As an aside, the participle/gerund distinction is really a false one in English, and is a relict of a neo-classical view of English which imposed Latin forms and terms on it in an inappropriate way. Modern English views of grammar prefer the term -ing form, which avoids trying to create two items from one. Instead, we treat the -ing form as a single item with a range of uses.

You can find a nice summary of this on this page:

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/participles-and-gerunds

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sure understood all your points. Thank you Actually i have read it in a book that using possessive with verbs of perception is not correct? That's why this question. Second query -- with progressive tense if we use if we use ing with bare gerund not ing (witnessed complete act) than what does it signify? I was watching him sing 3. To+ verb+ verbing (is this gerund as verbs object or as a participle of noun(to+ verb) working as modifier, this was my question? Because I think with verb ing always signifies an action/gerund and with noun it becomes modifier? Thankyou again
I one question I should get going here going is gerund Let's us get going here going is modifier/participle of Object complement phrase (get going) right?

Hello John Mccan,

In both sentences going is a present participle, in my view.

As I mentioned previously, most modern grammars of English use the term -ing form rather than trying to impose a participle/gerund distinction. I think getting distracted by such labelling is not going to help you to improve your English.

 

The pattern get + ing is an example of patter 5a on this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund#cite_note-26

As you can see, the entry highlights the debateable nature of the form:

Some grammarians do not recognise all these patterns as gerund use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

One more thing we can use ing as noun ( with possessive) ''within a phrase" or as adjective ( without possessive) but infinitive can only be used as adjective modifier never as a noun within a phrase.

Hello again,

I don't know of any reason why using possessive forms after verbs of perception would be incorrect. It is certainly less common. The possessive changes the meaning, as I explained in my earlier comment:

I heard him singing - I heard him at a time when he was singing

I heard his singing - I heard the singing which he produces

 

The verb 'watch' is often followed by a bare infinitive:

I watched her paint.

I watched him cook.

It does not give us any information about whether the act (painting or cooking in these examples) is complete or not. If you use a continuous form ('was watching') then it implies that the act of watching was incomplete or interrupted in some way, not the act that was being watched - though that may be a logical conclusion, if the watching was cut short.

 

I'm afraid I'm not sure I follow your third question. Perhaps you can provide an example to clarify.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sunny0713 on Sat, 21/12/2019 - 00:55

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Hello 1. When we form a participle clause, we MUST delete a conjunction ? Ex) Two men seem similar if we compare them with a woman. If we write comparing in the sentence, is it completely wrong? Always thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 21/12/2019 - 09:06

In reply to by Sunny0713

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Hello Sunny0713,

Remember that the participle must refer to the subject of the sentence. Here, the subject is 'two men', so we need a passive meanings, which means we need a past participle:

Compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

You can include a conjunction:

If compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

When compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tim O'Brien on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 11:36

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At the beginning of this article, you say that participle clauses are adverbial. Given that, what would you make of the participle clause in this sentence? Assured of a place on the team, Jack went out with his friends. Isn’t this just the reduced form of the following adjective clause? Jack, who was assured of a place on the team, went out with his friends. If so, it does seem that participle clauses can be either adjectival or adverbial depending on the construct from which they are reduced. Thanks in advance for your response.