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 Dmitry P on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 10:44

Hello! My textbook (Empower C1, unit 6B) says that you can’t turn the following relative clauses in participle clauses: Joanna is a woman who says what she thinks (NOT woman saying what she thinks) Paddy is the kind of man who never arrives anywhere on time (NOT man never arriving anywhere on time) And my question is why? The books explains that those are not continuous verbs, but i can use “arrive” in continuous.

Hello Dmitry P,

You can use participle clauses to join sentences with simple verbs:

Paul is a man. Paul lives in London.

Paul is a man who lives in London.

Paul is a man living in London.


The problem with your examples is something else. It is that we do not use participle clauses to describe general features or characteristics, but rather particular actions or states. Your examples describe behaviour which is typical for them rather than a particular action, and so participle clauses are not possible.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wcyam10 on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 10:25

Q:___ by the changing information, they thought the plane was cancelled. Confusing Confused Having confused why the answer in the question above is not "having confused"?

Hello wycam10,

The sentence requires a verb form with a passive meaning, and the only option with a passive meaning is Confused. You could use a perfect form, but it would still need to be a passive form: Having been confused.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wcyam10 on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 10:05

Referring to the question below, why the answer (b) is correct instead of (a) ? Q:___ by all the attention, he thanked everyone for the cake and presents. a.Embarrassing b.Embarrassed c.Having embarrassed

Hello wycam10,

We use present participles (embarrassing) when we want an active meaning and past participles (embarrassed) when the meaning is passive. In your sentence, the meaning is passive: the man is embarrassed by the attention.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 09:28

Sir, The difference being that I don't like juice and she does. The difference is that I don't like juice and she does. Now I know that 'Being' is being used as a present participle in the first sentence above and I have some people using it that way that means it's a natural use. However It sounds quite unsual to me. I wonder, how can a participle, that is 'being' in this case, replace 'is or are' ? what kind of use of the being is this and can other participles: present ones or past ones be used in this way ?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 14:59

In reply to by SonuKumar


Hello SonuKumar

This is a structure that some people might say from time to time, but it's fairly unusual in most situations. First of all, it's a bit academic, and in most writing other than transcriptions of a conversation between people (for example, in a story), it would be considered a sentence fragment rather than a complete sentence.

It would normally be at the end of a sentence, and preceded by a semi-colon or dash. In such a case, it would essentially be a kind of adverbial participle phrase. For example: 'She and I have the same tastes apart from one small difference -- the difference being that I don't like juice and she does.' As you have suggested, it means something like 'She and I have the same tastes except for one difference. The difference is that I don't like juice and she does.'

As a sentence fragment, 'being' doesn't replace the verb 'is' or 'are'. There is no main verb in the sentence as you copied it above, which is why we call it a sentence fragment in such a case. When it's part of a sentence (as in my example above), it's a phrase and so doesn't have a main verb.

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Sat, 28/03/2020 - 11:35

Hello Teachers, "Students get a lower grade in some difficult subjects, which will lower their overall score, they thinking they do not perform well as a whole and undermine their confidence." 1) In this sentence, I use participle clause 'they thinking they do not...' to give the result of 'lower their overall score', meaning that lowering their overall score made them think that they do not perform well. Is it correct? 2) Do I need to change 'undermine their confidence' to participle clause 'undermining ...'? because 'undermine their confidence' is the result of 'they think they do not perform well' Can I rewrite this site's example sentence: "The bomb exploded, destroying the building." to "The bomb exploded, the building being destroyed"? Thank you
Hello Sirs, Appreciated if you could help answer my question, thank you