Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

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 Suhana,

Both forms (being occupied and occupied) are possible here and there is no difference in meaning in this context.

Being + past participle is a continuous passive form. In some contexts it can be used to emphasise that a situation or state was temporary or in progress, like all continuous forms.

 

You can use being + adjective. For example;

Being happy with my work, she agreed to give me a raise.

Since some adjectives have the same form as past participles, there is a potential ambiguity here. Your example could be interpreted in this way if we see occupied as an adjective rather than a verb form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 20:46

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Hello, Mr. I have a question. -Used in this way, participles can make your writing more concise. The full structure of this sentence is. (If you use participles in this way, … ) My question is, why did you use it in past participle although it is active in the full structure and the subject is different in the first part of sentence from the subject in the second part of the sentence?

Hello Reemtb,

The passive turns the object into the subject of the verb:

If you use participles in this way... > the subject is 'you'

If participles are used in this way... > the subject is 'participles'

Thus, when the passive is used the subject is the same in both clauses, allowing a participle clause to be used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lucas_xpp on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 17:55

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It rained for two weeks on end, completely ruining our holiday - How about ",...which completely ruined..."? The team won the championship, shocking their opponents. - How about ", which shocked...."? I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework - How about "Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book." Thanks English Team.

Hello Lucas_xpp,

All of those alternatives are possible. They do not change the meaning in each case, so the choice is one of style and emphasis.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 04:12

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Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the use of ' not....... but' pair. I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but that it seems impractical. In the sentence above, the correction is, use but instead of not, I wanna know that why but is used instead of not, Despite 'not.......but'pair being correct. Please clarify sir. :)
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 07:20

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hello Kapil Kabir,

You need to have clauses which match in form, so if the first clause includes ...not because... then the second clause needs to include ...but because...::

I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but because it seems impractical.

 

If the first clause contained ...not that... then the second clause would contain ...but that...:

I did not promise that I would agree, but only that I would consider your offer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 06:08

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Hello Teachers, "He is chasing the boy who broke his window" cannot be reduced to " He is chasing the boy breaking his window". How about "He chased the boy who broke his window", can this be reduced to "He chased the boy breaking his window"? Thanks

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence is ambiguous. It could mean that the man is breaking the window as he chases the boy, or that the boy is breaking the window while he is being chased. Either way, the suggestion is that the breaking and the chasing are simultaneous. Obviously, the context would suggest something else, but that is what the grammatical structure implies. That is why the most likely form would be '...who broke...', which avoids these issues.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rama Tb on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 17:26

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Hello Mr. I have a question about a sentence. -Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage. The full structure for this sentence is. He walked towards the stage, and he filled with pride.( here the veb is active) Or -He walked towards the stage, and he was filled with pride( here it is adjective ) My question is, why is this sentence a passive?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 08:55

In reply to by Rama Tb

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Hello Rama Tb,

The form is not passive in form. It has a passive meaning, which is not the same thing. The form is a past participle (filled) and participle are examples of nonfinite verb forms, meaning they lack tense, mood and voice.

 

The subject of the main clause (He) is not performing the action. He does not fill anything; he is filled. That is why we say it has a passive meaning. By contrast, present participles have an active meaning. For example:

He walked towards the stage, filling his mother with pride.

Here, he is filling his mother with pride, not being filled with pride.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So you mean with adjectives that give passive meaning in participle clauses we yes past participle, and with adjectives that give active meaning we use present participle in participle clause. Did l understand it right?

Hello again Reemtb,

Past participles in these clauses often have a passive meaning and present participles often have an active meaning. I wouldn't focus on adjecctives, to be honest, as it's the meaning which matters, not whether or not a given word is an adjective or a verb. In your example, filled is a passive verb form, in my opinion, rather than an adjective.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 14:21

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Having finished their training, they will be fully qualified teachers. ;)

Submitted by gramgal on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 17:51

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Hi there!! quick question on a Subjunctive and participle question. Working on this phrase "wish you were here listening to watermelon sugar at your friends annual pool party, while their dog barks at happily passing squirrels." Does "barks" also need to be past tense? Looking forward to your grammar guidance! Thank you so much

Hi gramgal,

The present is fine here as you are talking about a present situation. The hypothetical part of the sentence is that your friend is not 'here'; the rest of the sentence describes a real present as it is written.

There are some other things to correct in the sentence: it should be friend's or friends' rather than the form without an apostrophe.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maxim on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 09:42

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For example i have a sentence: "I saw a girl walking through the park". Who was walking through the park? Me? /When I was walking through the park I saw a girl/ Or a girl? /I saw a girl who was walking through the park/ How to emphasize WHO was doing action?

Hi Maxim,

Yes, it's possible to understand the sentence both ways!

Normally, though, listeners would understand walking through the park as describing the girl, because the words are right next to each other.

If you actually mean that it was me (the speaker) who was walking through the park, this wouldn't be the best way to say it because it's confusing. It needs to be rephrased to make it clearer, as you suggested.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Xxx on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 14:16

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I've got a question here. Is the sentence "cooking, i remember you" correct? It's related to participle, isn't it?

Hi Xxx,

Yes, it is a correct sentence. But it's a bit hard to understand for a reader or listener. It's unusual to have a single word (cooking) as the present participle clause.

Other options would be more commonly used. -ing clauses often follow conjunctions or prepositions (see above for more examples), so this would be a clearer and more common way to say it:

  • While cooking, I remember you.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Sun, 16/08/2020 - 17:55

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Hello sir, Sir, I get confused when I use 'as if, as though and if' when they are used as ' a imaginary situation that may be true' I have an example I was surprised when the hostess smiled as if she saw me before. I don't know how as if is used here. For an imaginary situation we mainly use 'were/ V2' but I think the correction in this example is 'had been.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 04:11

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

Yes, this is an imagined situation. Had seen is correct here: ... as if she had seen me before. It needs to be in the past perfect (not past simple), to show that that action (seeing me) happened before the other actions (I was surprised / the hostess smiled). 

Check our page on the past perfect for more information about this: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/past-perfect

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I don't know why I'm asking that question but I'm curious to know about this The question is that We use Degrees for increase the emphasis or stress on something. Like Hot(Positive Degree) Hotter(Comprative Degree) Hottest( Superlative Degree) But my question is We use adverbs, like very, too....etc, to emphasize or stress the Adjectives as well as Adverbs Very Hot Too Hot I want to know What is difference among these, when we use Degrees(Hot,Hotter,Hottest) and Adverbs(Very hot, Too hot). Can we say The adverb of Degree equivalent to Degree in adjective ? Like Very Hot/ Too Hot = Hottest If it is not equal, then what is difference in the meaning. I hope you to understand what I want to say. Please clarify sir. Thank you.

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 12:12

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Hello sir, I have a great confusion regarding these sentences 1) Some of the students are gone. 2) Some of students are gone. I want to know why we put article 'the' before students. Is it necessary or not? Someone else told me that there is no difference between sentence 1 and sentence 2. Please clarify sir :)

Hello Kapil Kabir,

1 is correct and 2 is not. Instead of 1, you could also say 'Some students are gone' (which means the same thing). You can read an explanation of this in the Members of groups section of our Quantifiers page.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 20:59

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Hello. Is the following sentence correct or not? If wrong, why? - Someone knocked at the door while having my breakfast. Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

The sentence needs a correction: Someone knocked at the door while I was having my breakfast.

The two actions are done by different people. The sentence structure is: Someone X while Y (X and Y are the two actions). Since the first word is Someone, and no other person is mentioned, it would be understood that Someone does both X and Y. But this is not the right meaning. It must be me who is having my breakfast.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 14:30

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Hello sir, I have a confusion regarding the usage of possessive case of Noun. Sir, I want to know what is the meaning of this. 1) a man's shop 2) a shop of man 3) a shop of the man Which one is correct sir? I'm confused to determine which one is correct my question is that sir In phrase 2, man is a singular entity and we know when we write a singular entity which is countable it, we must put a article/ determiner before it. Please explain Sir.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 04:55

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

Good question. Only the first option is correct. In this situation, the man owns the shop. For the meaning of owning or possessing something, we usually use the possessive ('s), especially when the noun is a living thing. So, a man's shop is correct and a shop of the man isn't correct. 

The second one is also missing a determiner before man, as you said. 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I know,sir,the third phrase is wrong but I read an article regarding "omission of articles" a man's shop, in this phrase, there is an omission of articles. If we rewrite it in this form A shop of man, here, man is singular entity and it must be necessary, we must put a article/determiner before it. We can't write a singular entity, which is countable, without a article or determiner. I want to know that Is there any omission of article?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 10:10

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

In a man's shop, the article a describes man (not shop), so man has an article. It would be reworded as the shop of a man (not a shop of the man).

In other words, shop is definite (since it is described by a man's), and man is indefinite (not the other way round). Before shop, the phrase a man's functions as a determiner, so no other article/determiner is needed before shop.

(As mentioned above, though, for the meaning of possession, we would usually use 's. If we change the example to a non-living thing, it might be clearer, e.g.: the front of the building, a page of the book, the roof of the house.)

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, sir. It's very helpful to understand this.

No worries, Kapil Kabir :) Glad to help.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Sir I have a doubt regarding the usages of the word 'half' 1) half a money, 2) a half money, 3) the half money, 4) the half of money, 5) Half the money 6) Half of the money Sir, Which one is correct? And Is it possible, we use articles 'the/a/an' before and after 'half' Please clarify sir.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 10:49

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

Half is a versatile word! It can be various word types.

Noun (e.g. He played the first half of the match; an hour and a half; two halves of an apple)

As a noun, half is countable. It can have an article before it. After it, there can be an of phrase (which can have an article in it). Sentence 4 isn’t correct because the noun money needs an article before it.

Pronoun (e.g. He played half of the match; half of us; I only want half)

As a pronoun, there can’t be an article before half. But after it, there can be an of phrase (which can have an article in it). Sentence 6 is this usage, and it's correct.

Adjective (e.g. a half century; a half hour)

This comes before a noun. There can be an article before it (depending on the noun), but not after it. Sentences 2 and 3 aren’t correct. I think it’s because the noun needs to be countable (but money is uncountable).

Determiner (e.g. The journey takes half an hour; half my life; half the world)

To be precise, half is a predeterminer. That means it comes before another determiner (e.g. an article, or a possessive adjective). It doesn’t have an article before it. So, sentence 5 is correct. Sentence 1 isn’t correct because money is uncountable.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir For providing useful information.

Submitted by giangphan on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 06:35

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Hi, Would you please explain the using of "making identification..." of the following sentence to me? Most of the bodies were badly burned, making identification almost impossible. "making ...." isn't a participle clause because both clauses don't have the same subject, is it? Thank you

Submitted by giangphan on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 11:29

In reply to by giangphan

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In this sentence "Research in the Mediterranean Sea has shown that certain jellyfish are able to revert to an earlier physical state, leading to the assertion that they are immortal". I don't understand why we use "leading to ...". The subject of "leading to ..." is "research in Mediterranean Sea"? Thank you.

Hello giangphan,

The phrase you ask about is a reduced relative clause, i.e. a reduced form of '... physical state, which has led to the assertion that they are immortal' (or the verb could be in a different tense).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 08:51

In reply to by giangphan

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Hi giangphan,

This is an example of a reduced relative clause. It is a non-defining relative clause which describes not the noun preceding it, but rather than whole clause:

Most of the bodies were badly burned, which made identification almost impossible.

Which refers to (the fact that) most of the bodies were badly burnt.

Reduced, we end up with making most of...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It means that we can reduce defining and non - defining relative clauses? Thank you

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