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

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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:

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

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



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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

In reply to by Sunny0713


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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.

Hello Tim

You're right -- participle clauses can also be used to modify noun phrases, which makes them adjectival rather than adverbial in such a case.

We are currently revising this whole grammar section and this is one of the pages that hasn't yet been finished. Within a month or two, this page will have a new and improved explanation, as well as a couple of new exercises.

Sorry for any confusion.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SUCHIT35 on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 18:32

If I have such crucial info using which one can make lots of money; why he would share this info with others. In the above sentence, is the word "using" used as the preposition or gerund, please clarify. thanks.