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)

Hello Ujin,

It's because of the expression 'spend time'. We spend time doing something (see the third example sentence under entry 1.2 time); in this case, users spend 13% of their time watching or listening. 

There is no real reason for this -- it's just what we say. With the expression 'take time', for example, we use an infinitive: 'it took four hours to clean the kitchen'. 

The best thing to do is check how verbs are used in a good dictionary, like the one I linked to.

We're glad to hear that you've found LearnEnglish useful -- that's what we're here for!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir Kirk, I am happy that you encouraged me to step up. And I would like to ask one more question if it possible? Globalization is here to stay, driven by advances in information technology and resulting in scientific progress and increased international trade. The sentence is being odd for me; I hope that the first line is a reduced clause in a passive form, right? Then why we write just /resulting/ is that also reduced clause? There is some confusion on my mind and I am not even well cognizant of prepositions. Do you have any suggestions? Best regards, Ujin

Hi Ujin,

While I expect you could find that sentence or one similar to it in writing somewhere, if it were my text, I would edit it because, as you point out, it's a unclear. I understand the intended meaning to be 'globalization is driven by ...' and 'globalization results in ...'

I don't think it's worth analysing the grammar behind it, as it's not clear and isn't a very good model in my opinion. I would rewrite the sentence and perhaps even split it into two.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 14:07

This page is useful. Thanks for your teaching! I like participle clauses. ;)

Submitted by Claudia on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 00:47

Hi! I don't understand why in the 2nd test, "_Having been worked_ in prisons..." is incorrect, as is describing an action that took place before the action in the main clause. Thank you!
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 08:54

In reply to by Claudia


Hi Claudia,

Having been worked would be a passive form and, since work is normally an intransitive verb, it would be ungrammatical as well as not fitting the sense of the sentence.

Having worked or After working would be fine, if they were possible choices.



The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 09:44

Dear Teachers, I understand that if a relative clause is a single completed action then it cannot be reformulated using participle clause. How about past continuous tense? The policies in 2000 aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly = The policies in 2000 which was aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly. Thanks

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence with the reduced relative clause is OK, but if I were writing I would change it to 'that aimed to boost' instead of using a participle. It's clearer and nearly as economical.

I'm afraid that the second sentence is a bit awkward. Perhaps in a specific context, the past continuous would make sense there, but in general it would probably be a past simple or past perfect tense. Also note that the subject 'policies' is plural.

I hope this helps you make sense of this.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk, Thank you for your explanation. I wonder why "The policies in 2000 aiming to boost its economy had affected the environment badly = The policies in 2000 that aimed to boost its economy had affected the environment badly" but "The boy who passed the exam was very happy ≠ The boy passing the exam was very happy."? While both "aimed" and "passed" are a single completed action, why "aimed" can be turned into participle clause but "passed" cannot? Thank you.