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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Hello again giangphan,

When the relative clause describes the whole clause before, we can reduce it to a participle:

I gave Paul the day off, which I hoped might improve his mood.

I gave Paul the day off, hoping it might improve his mood.

 

When the relative clause describes the subject of the main clause, we can also use a participle:

The directors, who have finally finished their meeting, are going home.

The directors, having finally finished their meeting, are going home.

 

However, when the relative clause refers to the object of the main clause, we cannot reduce it:

I gave Sue a book, which I'd read when I was younger, for her birthday.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ujin on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 11:17

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Dear educators! I have been learning English by-self using this great website, however; I have faced some difficulties while I am reading essays. For instance: The third most popular use of the tablet is for consuming entertainment, with users spending 13% of their tablet time watching videos and listening to music. I aware that spending is a reduced clause of who spends 13% ... but why we say 13% of their tablet time watching videos instead of to watch videos? Pls kindly help me to grasp it properly. Sincerely, Ujin

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,

Kirk

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

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

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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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

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

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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