Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

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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Submitted by nicolettalee on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 13:09

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Hi Sir/Madam, I saw a sentence in the Oxford Dictionary: "She finds herself increasingly attracted to them and their lifestyle." The word "attracted" here, is it a 'participle clause' here? If not, is it 'adjective'? Don't understand why there's participle used here. Thanks, Nicoletta

Hi Nicoletta,

Yes, attracted is an adjective here. It's connected to She finds herself earlier in the sentence. She finds herself means 'She realises that she's somewhere or doing something, without having intended to'. The structure needs a complement to complete it, to show the unintended thing, e.g.:

  • After a long walk, she found herself in a strange part of the city.
  • When everyone cheered, she found herself cheering too.
  • When everyone left, she found herself alone.

The third example is similar to your example, with an adjective as the complement.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by irismatov on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 21:03

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Is this sentence correct? - "Water, turning to ice at 0 C, is the most crucial thing for life to exist.

Hello irismatov,

I'm not sure I'd say that it's incorrect, but I'd recommend you change the sentence a little. My first recommendation would be to use a relative clause ('Water, which turns to ice at 0ºC, is the crucial for life'). Another way would be: 'Turning to ice at 0ºC, water is crucial for life'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 12:59

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Oh... participle clauses! ;) It slipped my mind!
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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 18:45

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Hello. Is the following sentence correct using present participle? If not, why. - The camera costing 10000 pounds is over there. Thank you.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 03:50

In reply to by Ahmed Imam

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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?

Jonathan

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

In reply to by KK1991

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Hello KK1991,

Yes, that's fine -- well done!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

In reply to by Sz.Kata

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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,

Kirk

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

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

In reply to by aria rousta

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much sir, your explanation helped me a lot to undrestand the differences of relative cluase and participle cluase. I thought these two are same. Thank you again sir

Submitted by Esmail Emon on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 11:17

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1.Destroying the building,the bobm exploded Here is it mean result? 2.he was in the kitchen.he was making coffee=he was in the kitchen making coffe? 3.Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre. Here why its not mean the action happen same time instead add information about subject like the sentence (Standing in the queue, I realised I didn't have any money.) 4.if reverse this( Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre.) Putting participle in the last part of sentece,what it will mean?

Hello Esmail Emon,

In the first four example sentences on this page, the order of the clauses is important. The first clause refers to an earlier condition that the second one is somehow related to.

For this reason, your sentence 1 isn't correct because the idea is that the explosion of the bomb caused the destruction of the building.

Your sentence 2 is fine.

As for your question about sentences 3 and 4, the precise meaning of participle clauses can't always be gleaned from the participle clause itself. As I mentioned above, generally the first part of the sentence states a cause or condition for the second one, but sometimes it's either your general background knowledge of how things work (e.g. generally if there is a bomb explosion and a building collapsing, probably the bomb caused the collapse) or the context (i.e. what is said before or after the sentence with the participle clause) that make the meaning clear. Though in some cases, the meaning isn't really clear, in which case it's generally better not to use a participle clause.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Esmail Emon on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 05:07

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"Narrow stone steps run up the hil-side, flanked by cloesly clustered houses. " 1.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side.Narrow stone steps were flanked by closely clustered houses. Or 2.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side,which were flanked by closely clustered houses. My main question is the participle flanked modify what?

Hello Esmail Emon,

I think this is a sentence open to several interpretations. In your two explanations/rephrasings (1 and 2), you see 'flanked' as part of a reduced relative clause (which are flanked), used adjectivally to describe the noun phrase 'narrow stone steps'. This is certainly one interpretation.

 

I think I would be more inclined, however, to say that the participle clause here has an adverbial function. It describes the verb 'run up'. The sentence can be seen as similar to these:

I walked down the street alone.

I walked down the street accompanied by my friend.

I walked down the street flanked by my friend.

Here, the adverbial function is clear, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for reply. if it does advervial function,then why comma is put before flanked Hope you explain as before

Hello again Esmail Emon,

I think the comma here helps to make the sentence less ambiguous.

Without the comma we might think that that 'flanked by...' is used as a reduced relative clause to describe the noun phrase immediately before it, which is 'hillside'. In other words, without the comma the listener/reader might think that it is the hillside which is flanked by..., and in this case it would be a defining relative clause distinguishing which hillside is being referred to: the hillside flanked by... as opposed to another hillside. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LindaP on Fri, 06/11/2020 - 20:18

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Hello. "Worried by the news, she called the hospital." Is it also possible to say: "Being worried by the news, she called the hospital." Thanks.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 08:01

In reply to by LindaP

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Hello LindaP,

Yes, that's fine. You could also say 'As she was worried by the news...'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by elosch on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 22:27

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Hello dear teachers! As I have an upcoming exam this week I was doing online tests about participle Clauses, other tests and this one have helped me a lot. By know I understand most of the rules we have to use and also why we have to use them. The only thing that is still confusing me is the use of the verb "been" in this context. In some examples the correct answers were formed with "been" for example "having been worked". I don't quite understand why that answer is more different than "having worked". I hope my question was understandable, and I would appreciate an answer!

Hello elosch,

We use been in the case to form a passive participle:

having watched - active

having been watched - passive

 

If you have a particular example you'd like to ask about then we'll be happy to comment, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

First all, thank you! Knowing this cleared up nearly all of the confusion. One example I found was the sentence "As I had been to England before, I knew where to find a good hotel", which was turned into "Having been to England before, I knew where to find a good hotel."

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)?

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

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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

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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