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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Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 07:00

In reply to by Fulsawange2020

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Hello Fulsawange2020,

When the subject of the verb performs the action, we describe it as having an active meaning. For example:

I read the book.

The subject here is 'I'; the action is performed by the subject.

 

When the subject of the verb receives the action, we describe it as having a passive meaning. For example:

The book was read.

The subject here is 'the book'; the action is performed on the subject.

 

You can read more about active and passive voice and meaning here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/passives

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/active-and-passive-voice

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gracy on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 00:29

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Hi, I'd like to know the grammar explanation of the participle clause for the following sentence and the meaning of the whole sentence. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections exempting factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 06:54

In reply to by Gracy

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Hi Gracy,

I think the sentence needs a comma before the participle clause. Without a comma, it appears that the participle clause describes the labour protections (i.e. the labour protections exempt factories from...), which would not make sense in this context. With a comma, it is the suspension of the labour provisions which is being described (i.e. the suspension of the labour protections exempts factories from...), which is clearly the meaning intended.

 

The participle clause describes the result of the action (suspending labour protections) in the main clause. We could rewrite it as two sentences as follows:

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, for instance, have suspended significant labour protections. This has exempted factories from even maintaining basic requirements like cleanliness, ventilation, lighting and toilets.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gracy on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 13:43

In reply to by Peter M.

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Thanks indeed Peter. That's really helpful.

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

In reply to by Peter M.

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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

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Hi Kaisoo93,

Yes, that's perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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___ 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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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It's really fascinating.

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

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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.