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)

Submitted by learner2018 on Wed, 31/10/2018 - 18:17

Hello, Peter & Kirk! Good day! I need to know how the following two sentences are different from each other grammatically? My first sentence is: I saw Jim riding his bike. Here, is 'riding' a gerund or participle? why? Second one is: I spent all of my leisure time watching movies. Here, is 'watching' a gerund or participle? why? Please enlighten me with your valued comments on this.

Hello learner2018,

Gerunds are a verb forms which function as nouns. In the sentence they can be subjects or an objects.

Participles are verb forms which have adjectival or adverbial functions. They can modify nouns or verbs (verb phrases).


In both of your sentences the -ing forms are participles:


riding his bike is a participle phrase describing 'Jim'; it has an adjectival role in the sentence.


watching movies is a participle phrase modifying the verb phrase 'spent all of my leisure time'; it has an adverbial role in the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your valuable comments on it. However, I further need to clarify the usage of verb+ing form in the following sentence: I saw Jim riding a bike. As far as I am concerned, gerund can be used as an object complement. Is 'riding', in the above sentence, a usage of gerund as an object complement? If not, could you please give any example of gerund used as an object complement? I highly appreciate your valuable comments on it.

Hi learner2018,

As Peter said, 'riding a bike' is a participle in that sentence; it tells us more about Jim.

An example of a gerund as an object complement is 'I like riding my bike'. 'riding' functions as a noun (which is why we call it a gerund) and it is the object of 'like'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Cristina123 on Sun, 21/10/2018 - 11:54

Apologies for any typo mistakes; haven't quite figured out how to edit my comments afer saving them.

Submitted by Cristina123 on Sun, 21/10/2018 - 11:51

Hi, Marking my students' exams, I've come across the following sentence structures: Example 1 Me using this Shampoo, makes my hair shiny and soft. Would you say the 'me' is wrong? I'm torn between giving 0.5p or just accepting it and give 1p. The Student writing this is simply emphasising the fact that 'he' (or she for that matter) is the subject, though unncessarily….I reckon I don't like the pronouns at the beginning of a participle clause in General (e.g. it being …) though I can't find a good answer to then explain why I give 0.5p. Example 2 By using this Shampoo..... Here I'm not happy with the BY....doesn't the participle clause substitute it? Using language in an economical way … (as written above). Would you count it wrong and give the Student 0.5p or should I accept it? Thank you for your help.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 23/10/2018 - 07:46

In reply to by Cristina123


Hello Cristina123,

The use of 'me' here is certainly non-standard, but it is something which you can hear quite often in informal spoken English. The correct form in my view would be 'my', as in 'My using this shampoo...' Here, the -ing form is a gerund, not a present participle, and has the same meaning as 'My use of this shampoo...'

The use of 'me' has come about through a misidentification of a word more often heard than seen written; in other words, people say 'my' but believe they are saying 'me' and then end up writing it as such.


It is possible to use 'by' before the -ing form, but then the -ing form is a gerund; when the -ing form is alone it is a participle. Thus we have:

By using this shampoo, I make my hair... [by=preposition; using=gerund object of preposition]

Using this shampoo, I make... [using=present participle]


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

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The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aseel aftab on Fri, 12/10/2018 - 21:28

What is the difference between "The IMEI is a unique code given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" and "The IMEI is a unique code which is given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" So tell me why do we use participal phrase if it is an adjective clause. Is there any difference betwee adj clause and participles?

Hello aseel aftab,

There is no difference in meaning between these two sentences. In this and many cases, the participle clause is simply a more economic (i.e. shorter) way of expressing an idea, which is generally preferable in both writing and speaking (though this sounds like a written text). Sometimes people avoid using shorter forms to ensure clarity, but I'd probably use the first version if I were writing it myself, as it seems clear enough.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by V Stallone on Wed, 10/10/2018 - 02:26

Hello there! I’ve got a question around this topic. I was teaching a group of EFL students when an example stopped us and made us discuss about it. Here it is: The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world driven by digital media. Rules concerning Past Participle Clauses say that the Participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. But we saw ‘the store’ as the subject of the main clause and ‘world’ as the subject of the participle clause. Could you help me with this idea of having the same subject in these example? I appreciate. Best, Viviane.