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)

Hello Lolipopstar93,

This is an example of a participle clause or participle phrase (different terms are used). Here, it describes actions (closing and plugging) which happen at the same time as other actions (step inside).

You can read more about participle clauses on this page.


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thank you so much for the quick reply. As you mentioned above, participle clause is used to describe actions that happen at the same time as other actions, so i’m just wondering whether the aforementioned sentences can be rewritten as followed: “So all you can do is give in to it, stepping right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walking through it, step by step.” The reason I rewrote it like this is because all the actions ( step inside, close the eyes, plug up the ears and walk through it) happens at the same time and help to add more information to the main clause ( so all you can do is give in to it). Is this correct?. Thank you in advance. Regards, Lolipopstar93
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 07/10/2018 - 07:42

In reply to by Lolipopstar93


Hi Lolipopstar93,

Yes, you could write the sentence like that. It changes the meaning slightly, however.

If you use 'give in... walk thorough' then you are providing two sequential actions. In other words, you are saying 'first give in (doing this and this) and after that walk through'. If you say 'give in... walking though' then you have one action ('give in') which everything else is just a part of.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Tue, 18/09/2018 - 19:33

Hello there. How many tenses are there in English ?? 12 or 16?? why "future in past" and its sub-forms are not counted??

Hello monarchy110,

Tense has a verb specific meaning in linguistics. It is defined as changes in the verb form which show time from the point of view of the speaker. You can find a precise definition here

The consensus amongst grammarians is that English has two tenses: past and nonpast (present). However, these are not tied to fixed times. Both can be used with past, present or future time reference.

For example, I can talk about the past using present forms, such as in an anecdote:

So this guy comes into the pub and he says to me...

I can talk about the future using a past form:

If you saw him next week, what would you do?


Beyond this, there are two aspects which can be added to these tenses: perfect and continuous/progressive. This enables us to create very many verb forms to express a wide range of meanings.

The last element of the verb form is voice, which can be active or passive.


Future time is expressed in many ways. We can use present continuous forms, a 'going to' construction, modal verbs like 'will' and 'should' and many other forms as well. These are not, however, tenses, grammatically speaking.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by karewingwong on Sat, 08/09/2018 - 02:56

Hello Kirk and Peter, “Nearly seventy percent of people living in the region lack access to electricity, forcing them to spend significant amounts of their income on …” Is this a participle clause? Which is the subject that the “forcing” is modifying? If the subject is the phase before the "forcing", why isn't the "which is forcing" being used? This is article link, Thank you!

Hello karewingwong,

This is a reduced relative clause. The full version is '... lack access to electricity, which forces them to spend ...'. Although our defining relative clauses page only explains the simplest ways of reducing relative clauses, you might find it useful to read through it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rox4090 on Fri, 31/08/2018 - 16:07

Hi, A substantial number of students who took part in the canteen's survey said they would be more likely to do this if the canteen offered more healthy food. In this sentence, the writer used ‘ who’ after students. Maybe , the writer could write like this: ‘students taking part’ . How about this? Another sentence: A survey conducted recently by students suggested that many are happy with the food on offer but the canteen staff say that the profit from these would make it possible to offer a more varied and thus healthier selection or at least to provide some kind of 'traffic light' system to guide students towards a healthier balance of foods. It is about past participle guess. The writer wrote: The survey conducted... This one I guess: the survey which has been conducted recently. Please reply. Regards Rox4090
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 01/09/2018 - 10:08

In reply to by Rox4090


Hello Rox4090,

In answer to your first question, yes, that would be fine. Your rewording of the second sentence is also possible and is correct as well.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 27/08/2018 - 11:07

Sir, She faced every problem arised or arising in her life. She faced every problem come or coming in her life. and what if I wrote these sentences in present tense or future tense, would there be a present participle (coming or arising) or a past participle (come or arised) in these sentences ?