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

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Hi Reemtb,

Well spotted! It's because this sentence has two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and), and the subject of both clauses is the same (hundreds of thousands of youngsters). We don't need to repeat the subject in the second clause, in this case. But it's also fine to repeat it, as you suggested.

 

We can't leave out the subject in complex sentences, i.e. sentences with a main and subordinate clause (e.g. I made a salad for lunch because I wanted something healthy). Both subjects must be stated.

 

Does that make sense?

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 13:01

In reply to by Jonathan R

Permalink
Thanks, this is very clear. Can we do this with all coordination conjunction or just with some of them? Is this sentence right? -) He always forgets to switch off the lights, and never closes the door before he goes out.

Hi Reemtb,

Yes, it is right :) We can do this with most of the coordinating conjunctions in common usage today: and, but, or, nor and yet.

The only one that we can't do it with is so. Both subjects are needed, e.g.:

  • I was tired, so I had a nap.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 20:47

Permalink
The lesson is very challenging with clauses that is not more suitably used for every daily, it becomes an ambiguous to me and hard to understand, as my wish you can provide more notes and exercises about this. Emmanuel The learner English Team

Hi Emmanuel,

Thanks for your suggestion :) We will keep this in mind when we plan new content.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kyawkyawsoezhu on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 19:09

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Giving very little examples, I find this lesson hard to understand. And also, it will be better to show long-form besides very examples.

Submitted by yogesh on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 08:48

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Hello sir, I have a doubt about the present participle clauses. Kindly check the sentence below and parse it and let me know the sentence below is a type f cause and effect or activities happening at the same time. Pls, check below. 1) I was willing to follow up with potential clients, developing relationships with them until they were ready to make a deal with us.

Hello yogesh,

The sentence is fine.

The sentence could be read either way: developing relationships with... could be the result of the speaker's action, or it could be the reason for it. Without context both interpretations are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

1) I have worked successfully in sales for over 10 years. One of my first sales jobs was in college, where I majored in business. I worked for the college newspaper selling advertising space, and as an extrovert who likes interacting with people, I was very successful in the job. What also helped me sell more than any other salesperson was my persistence. I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months, developing a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. The full context is here

Hello again yogesh,

Thank you for adding the context. I think it's fairly clear that the reason why the speaker followed up with clients was because he or she wanted to develop a relationship with them in order to achieve his or her desired deal, so I would say that that particple clause here shows purpose or reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team