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 (80 votes)

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 06:27

In reply to by Peter M.

Hi Peter, Can we rewrite as follows? "Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections, which has exempted factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets." Thanks
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 07:15

In reply to by Kaisoo93


Hi Kaisoo93,

Yes, that's perfectly fine.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Melih YILMAZ on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 21:21

___ under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures. i don't understand it

Hello Melih YILMAZ

'a thermal layer' is another way of saying 'thermal underwear'. Another way of saying this is 'A thermal layer, which is worn under normal clothes, keeps you warm in minus temperatures'. 

Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 03:42

It's really fascinating.

Submitted by ahsan on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 13:21

hello kirk please help me in the following scenario: The ongoing economic stagnation resulting because of the government's austerity drive is even worsening the socio-economic equation. 'because of the government's austerity drive': What this fragment of the sentence would be called? Is it a participle clause, as it seems that it is, for it is using the present participle. Or, is it a non-defining adjective clause? as it is providing extra info about the subject_the economic stagnation.

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