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 Jamil on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 11:42

In reply to by Peter M.

Thank you Peter Do you mean in non-finite reduced relative clauses? Regards Jamil

Hello again Jamil,

Yes, that's correct. A finite relative clause may be reduced to produce a non-finite relative clause:

The woman who is riding the bike > The woman riding the bike



The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ange Obscure on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 21:24

Please, add some exams about Participle Clauses.

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Thu, 06/02/2020 - 15:21

Dear Sirs, Can I use participle to describe a sequence of event? For example, I entered a room, and then in the room, I cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Can I rewrite as the following? 1) I entered a room, clearing all the rubbish, painting the wall, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the windows. 2) I entered a room, and cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Thank you
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 07/02/2020 - 07:50

In reply to by Kaisoo93


Hello Kaisoo93,

We use a participle like to describe actions happening simultaneously rather than in sequence, so your first sentence suggests that you did all of those actions while you were entering the room. Obviously, this is not possible, so the sentence would be understood thanks to the context, but grammatically the meaning would be a little different from that which you intended.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. So the second sentence is correct, is it?

Hello Kaisoo93,

Yes, the second sentence is fine.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by crow on Fri, 31/01/2020 - 18:49

I have some sentence need a solution can anyone help me? thank you