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 KK1991 on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 15:03

Hello, I've got a question concerning a participle clause: When I want to say "Write a text of about 100 words in which you answer the questions above.", is it possible to shorten it to "Write a text of about words answering the questions above."? I'm a bit uncertain because of the preposition "in" which has to be used in the original sentence. Thank you very much in advance!
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 08:02

In reply to by KK1991


Hello KK1991,

Yes, that's fine -- well done!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Sz.Kata on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 23:13

Hello! Could you help me please? Is this sentence okay? It sounds a bit weird for me, but I can't find the exact problem. I think that "is" after the participle clause is the weird part of it :/ but how can I say it otherwise? "Applying the fundamentals of 3D printing, bioprinting is a special, rapidly evolving sector of medical technology, which explores the possibilities for the additive manufacturing of tissues and organs."
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 08:30

In reply to by Sz.Kata


Hello Sz.Kata,

The sentence looks fine to me apart from the comma after 'technology'. The last clause (beginning with 'which') is a defining relative clause and so should have no comma before it.



The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 12:51

Forgetting grammar as time goes, I found this site very useful. Is this sentence correct??

Hi Rafaela,

I think I understand what you mean, but it sounds a little unnatural to me. I'd recommend something like 'Being someone who forgets grammar as time passes ...'

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, That's exactly what I wanted to say. Being someone who forgets who I am as time passes, I think this site is helpful! ;)

Submitted by aria rousta on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 21:25

Dear Sir Although in the above context mentioned that participle cluase get no tenses and its tense should be realize from main cluase, but it confuses me. For example please consider this sentence, # the man who had stolen the king's crown, was sent to jail.#, so if we want to reduce it how we should do it. Is this sentence correct,# the man stealing the king's crown ... or we should say,# having stolen the king's crown, the man was sent to jail. Pls guide me. Also in my last sentece how we can recognise the used participle have adjectival role or adverbial.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 08:56

In reply to by aria rousta


Hello aria rousta,

There's a couple of things to unpack here. First of all, a reduced relative clause is not a participle clause; it remains a relative clause or, to use an alternative term, an adjectival clause. As this name implies, relative clauses have an adjectival function, while participle clauses have an adverbial function, as described on the page above. Relative clauses follow the noun which they describe; participle clauses are more flexible in their positioning.


In your example the correct reduction is this:

The man stealing the king's crown was sent to jail.

Here, 'stealing...' has an adjectival function (as it is a relative clause).


Having stolen could be used in a participle clause if we want to make it clear that the second act (going to jail) followed the first, and that there was a link between them. As you say, the participles in participle clauses have no time reference of their own but take one from the main verb or the context, so we can use having stolen with a future meaning, for example:

Having stolen the crown, he will be sent to jail.

The speaker here may be imagining or predicting a theft in the future and explaining what the consequences will be.



The LearnEnglish Team