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 elosch,

That clarifies things - thank you.

In this example, 'been' is the past participle of the verb 'go.

'Go' is an unusual verb as it has two past participles. When a person has not returned, we use 'gone' but when a person has returned we use 'been':

Where's Sue?

She's gone to the shop. She'll be back soon.

Do we have any bread?

Yeah. Sue's been to the shop. It's over there on the table.

 

Having been is a perfect participle form - you can see more on this on the page above.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by re_nez on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 20:56

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Hello! My question: Can I reduce the following relative clauses to -ing participle clauses? 1. The horse which won the race got a prize.-> The horse winning the race got a prize. 2. The basket which contained groceries was gone.-> The basket containing groceries was gone.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 06:11

In reply to by re_nez

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Hello re_nez,

The second example is fine. The first example, however, is problematic. I think the problem is that the actions are clearly sequential here: winning the race must precede receiving the prize, and a participle clause suggests actions occurring simultaneously, as we state on the page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Raika on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:34

In reply to by re_nez

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How about: Having won the race, the horse got a prize. It does have a similar meaning

Submitted by Raika on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:41

In reply to by re_nez

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Having won implies that the action has been completed, perfect participle clause

Submitted by Mostafa1007 on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 13:17

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Hello, Could you possibly tell me the grammar used in this sentence? Listen to the girl talking ( /talk) about unemployment. Is it OK to use either talking or talk?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 04:13

In reply to by Mostafa1007

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Hi Mostafa1007,

Interesting question! Both are correct, but there's a slight difference in meaning.

  • Listen to the girl talk: the infinitive verb form means the action is complete. You will listen to the girl's whole talk.
  • Listen to the girl talking: the -ing form means the action had a duration. It suggests that you may only hear part of the girl's talk, not all of it.

We can find the same difference with other sense verbs, e.g. see, hear, feel, watch.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ajstat on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 09:21

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More than 80% of the Americans take (/ takes) dinner soon after 6 pm. Proportion of Americans taking dinner soon after is (/ are) 0.80.

Hello ajstat,

'take' and 'is' are the correct answers here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 21:46

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Hello, teachers I have a question, if you don’t mind. I came across this sentence - Six afternoons a week, hundreds of thousands of youngsters from some of the toughest neighbourhoods in Venezuela have free music lessons, (and are provided with free instruments .) My question is, why there is no subject after and in the second part of the sentence, what is the rule here? When we can omit the subject! And can I say ( and they are provided with free instruments)?