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: 4.2 (81 votes)
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 03:50

In reply to by Ahmed Imam


Hi Ahmed Imam,

Sorry, costing isn't correct here. The structure in this sentence is a reduced relative clause, and the full version would be: The camera which/that is costing 10000 pounds is over there. But, the problem is cost is a stative verb, and stative verbs aren't normally used in the present continuous (see this page on stative verbs for more information). So, it should be:

  • The camera which/that costs 10000 pounds is over there.

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

I wouldn't go along with you, Jonathan. There is nothing at all wrong with "The camera costing £10,000 is over there. It's just as grammatically correct as the relative clause equivalent "The camera which/that costs £10,000 is over there".

Hello BillJ,

Jonathan will get back to you regarding this in the next few days. In the meantime, I wanted to thank you for your other comments and explain why they haven't been published.

The purpose of our grammar explanations are to present the language in a way that is accessible and helpful to non-specialist learners. We're aware that there are different approaches to grammar and different views on how to describe various structures (whether or not 'reduced relative clause' is a useful term being a good example), but our pages are not a place for technical discussions of this type.

Thank you very much, though, for your contributions to the site.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

Profile picture for user Sz.Kata

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

Profile picture for user Rafaela1

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??