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 (70 votes)
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 03:59

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

Hi Kapil Kabir, The two sentences mean the same thing. There's no difference in meaning. They are both grammatical, but have slightly different structures, as you've noticed. Here's my analysis: - In sentence 1, 'me' is an object pronoun, and 'going there' is a participle phrase modifying 'me'. - In sentence 2, 'my' is an adjective, which modifies 'going there' (a gerund/noun phrase). Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reza on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 17:55

Hi Peter, Could you please tell me if these sentences are grammatically OK? Surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. While he was surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. He stood up while surrounded by thunderous applause. He stood up while he was surrounded by thunderous applause. Having been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. After he has been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. He is a rich man now after having been nominated for the prize. He is a rich man now after he has been nominated for the prize. Thanks
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:09

In reply to by Reza


Hello Reza,

I'm afraid your question is too long for us to handle here -- that's eight different sentences, and explaining each one could take some time.

If you'd like to ask us about one of them, please feel free, but please remember that our purpose here in the comments is to help users make use of the content and materials on our site, not to correct users' writing. We are simply too small a team with too much other work to be able to do this.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MJ21 on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 18:35

In the sentence "Tom nervously watched the woman, alarmed by her silence", the participial clause comes after the comma because it is far from the subject. However, the same structure doesn't seem to work in the sentence "Felicia directs the play, not included in the cast". May I ask why this is so?

Hello MJ21,

I would suggest that the sentence is missing a word:

Felicia directs the play, not being included in the cast.

Without this, I think the sentence scans very awkwardly.


You could put the clause elsewhere in the sentence:

Felicia, not included in the cast, directs the play.

Felicia, being not included in the cast, directs the play.

Not included in the cast, Felicia directs the play.

If the sentence is taken from a published text then it may be that during the editing process the clause was moved from a different position, mistakenly creating a very awkward structure.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tifflora on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 15:22

in what ways does the present perfect differ from the past perfect and the present participle

Submitted by Fulsawange2020 on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 03:36

Sir What is an active meaning and a passive meaning that you have mentioned while giving reply to some questions. The sentence which I have written is grammatically correct.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

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

In reply to by Fulsawange2020


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:



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.