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

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Submitted by Kali12 on Tue, 12/11/2019 - 05:52

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Hi...excellent answers participle clause questions. My student wrote the following...it was a book review: "He inevitably runs into danger, having to fight to stay alive". This doesn't sound good to me. I would say..."and has to fight to stay alive". But I can't for the life of me think why. The actions are closely related, causal, closely related, but it sounds strange. Any comments greatly appreciated!

Hi Kali12,

There is a problem with the sentence, but it is not grammatical. The participle clause here would explain the reason for an action. In other words, it would tell us why he runs into danger. Thus, the sentence can be expressed like this:

He runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive.

This seems to me to get the cause-effect relationship backwards. It is not, I imagine, that he runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive, but rather than he has to fight to stay alive because he runs into danger.

The best way to express the idea would be with a simple conjunction, as you suggest:

He inevitably runs into danger, and has to fight to stay alive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by slopedasian on Thu, 24/10/2019 - 13:19

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Hi team, I would like to know if the sentence "I haven't read the book recommended by my teacher last week." constitutes as a participle clause. If so, i would love to know why. Many thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 25/10/2019 - 06:42

In reply to by slopedasian

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Hello slopedasian,

In your sentence 'recommended by my teacher last week' is a reduced relative clause which describes the noun 'book'. It has an adjectival function.

The action in a participle clause must refer to the same subject as the main clause, and that is not the case here (the teacher, not 'I', is the person who did the recommending).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by antopuglia on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 15:48

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Hi team, I would like to know if we can use participle clauses to express reason when the participle and the verb in the main clause do not have the same subject. For example, can I say: 1. "My mum having prepared a delicious meal, I stayed in and had dinner with my family"?; or 2. "the weather being too windy, we didn't go sailing"? thanks a lot.
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 06:44

In reply to by antopuglia

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Hello antopuglia

People do indeed use participle clauses in this way -- the sentences you suggest are fine -- but most writers and editors try to avoid them, especially when they are ambiguous or otherwise confusing. It's also important to note that these forms are fairly formal and so quite unusual in everyday use.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Kosi on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 08:05

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Hi team Could you tell me if this sentence is correct - By June next year, I would have been working with Access for one year.
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 14/10/2019 - 08:01

In reply to by Kosi

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Hello Kosi

Whether this sentence is correct depends on the context it's used in, so I'm afraid I can't say for sure. If, for example, you started working with Access in June 2019 and are saying this sentence in October 2019 and speaking about June 2020, then the correct way to say it would be 'By June next year, I will have been working with Access for one year.'

You might want to take a look at our 'will have' and 'would have' page for an explanation of this grammar.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team