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: 4.7 (15 votes)
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Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 12:12

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 :)
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 14:49

In reply to by Kapil Kabir


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

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

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 04:55

In reply to by Kapil Kabir


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,


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?
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 10:10

In reply to by Kapil Kabir


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,


The LearnEnglish Team