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)
Profile picture for user generalenglish

Submitted by generalenglish on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 14:33

Could you help me? I have a question. a. Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. b. Peter, shouting loudly, walked home. c. Peter walked home, shouting loudly. d. Peter walked home shouting loudly. a = b = c = d Is this right?
Hello generalenglish I'd say d is the most natural, and then a. It would be a little unusual to write b or c. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Sat, 09/03/2019 - 19:09

Hi dear teachers, I have a question about 'present participle' and 'perfect participle'. "when I was younger I made a lot of money, and now I don't have any money problems." can change this with perfect participle,although in 'when clause' I have used simple past,'made money' as following? #having made money, I don't have any money problems. because as I know,if correctly!, it is not the matter of time used in the first example(simple past) ,the process of 'making money' finished before the second action ' no problem with money' matters. Best regards mohsen

Hi Mohsen,

We would probably keep the context in the sentence: Having made money when I was younger, I don't have...


Otherwise, you are correct. Well done!



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 16:03

Dear sir, I'd like to know what kind of adjective this word English-speaking as in "an English-speaking country" is. Can I say this is noun modifier or participle? Thanks
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 06:46

In reply to by Risa warysha


Hello Risa warysha,

English-speaking is a compound adjective. In your example it modifies the noun country.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mitzi on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 22:41

I would like to know whether this sentence i bumped into is correva. " The middle class started to occupy spaces that once had been of the monarchy's". It is the of + genitive that makes me wonder. Thanks

Hello Mitzi,

That does not look correct to me, though the sentence is not in context. You could use either 's or of, and I think 's is the most natural here:

The middle class started to occupy spaces that once had been the monarchy's.


Alternatively, you could use a phrase like ...once belonged to the monarchy.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 18:43

I correct my question,, how many tenses are there in English? 12, 14, 16 tenses?

Hi again monarchy10,

As I said in my earlier answer, there are two tense in English.



The LearnEnglish Team