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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Language level

Submitted by dlis on Wed, 21/06/2017 - 13:31

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Hi Mr.Kirk, I'm confused with participle phrases and gerund phrases. Eating too much fat,causes your arteries clog up. in here,how does first phrase work? I feel it as a subject.

Hello dlis,

That's correct -- the noun phrase 'eating too much fat' is the subject of the verb 'causes'. In general, we call an -ing form a gerund when it acts as a noun (though note that gerunds have can objects -- in your example, 'too much fat' is an object) and a participle when it acts as an adjective, a part of a verb or as part of a participle clause.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 20:15

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Sir, Which is the rule by which you are able to tell if "Challenging" refers to subject or object as in this case it refers to object plea, in my sentence above In the previous comment and generally How to know if a present participle refers to a subject or a object ?

Hello SonuKumar,

The participle follows the noun which it modifies. For example:

 

The lady waiting at the bus stop saw me. [the lady was waiting]

The lady saw me waiting at the bus stop. [I was waiting]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 05:30

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Sir, Is there any difference in using the conjunction 'While' or not in both sentences below ? "An aeroplane crashed while taking off" And "An aeroplane crashed taking off" ? And In this sentence below what form is participle "Challenging" in, in adjective form or is it just referring to the subject "Supreme court", that how it works ? "Supreme court will hear a plea today challenging centre's notification banning cattle trade for slaughter" What does Challenging refer to Subject 'Supreme court' or object a plea and How to Know simply what a present participle like that refers to subject or object in the sentence like this ?

Hello SonuKumar,

There is no difference between the examples with and without 'while'.

'Challenging...' describes 'plea' and has an adjectival function.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Azim on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 07:40

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Hi When we reduce adverb clause to reduced form,which cojunction should be omitted and which of them are better to keep? Thankyou

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 08:29

In reply to by Azim

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Hello Azim,

There are many different possibilities. If you'd like to tell us how you think it should be with an example sentence, we'll be happy to help you with it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 12/06/2017 - 05:27

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Sir, There some sentense "Are you the one who will come at my home tomorrow ?" Could I change it like- "Are you the one coming at home tomorrow ?" And also I think I should use "Coming rather than Come" in this reduced clause sentence Should I not ? apart from it please take a look at sentences below. "I have seen all the episodes of a serial coming yet" I think coming yet rather than Come yet right ? and "He is the boy best known ever for his work" is a right sentence changed from this one-He is the boy who is best known ever for his work. "He is the one ever coming at my home" Sir could use "Yet" rather than "ever" and are these interchangeable in some conditions like "Coming yet and coming ever" please help understand ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Those are a lot of questions! Answering all of them would take a long time, as I'm afraid most of them are not grammatically correct. So I will answer the first one.

Yes, the reduced relative clause here should have an -ing form, not a baseform. So 'Are you the one who will come to my home tomorrow?' and 'Are you the one coming to my home tomorrow?' are both correct. Though note that we say 'go home', but 'come to my home'.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 12/06/2017 - 05:02

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Sir, There is sentence "Are you the person like that who needs to be reminded something again and again ?" and I think Its clause can't be reduced I don't know why but I feel little strange in making it like this- "Are you the person like that needing to be reminded something again and again ?" Could we make it like this or not and also where should we not reduce clause ? Please help understand...

Hello SonuKumar,

I'm afraid I'm not completely sure what your sentence is supposed to mean. Perhaps 'Are you the kind of person who needs to be ...'? If so, you're right, a reduced relative clause cannot be used in it because reduced relative clauses are used to modify the subject of a sentence.

In any case, reduced relative clauses are fairly rare, used mostly in quite formal writing or speaking. It would sound quite odd for you to actually use this in a conversation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khuder on Sat, 10/06/2017 - 01:19

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Hello Sir, Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I am waiting here. Wanted to speak to him about the contract, I am waiting here. Do these tow sentences have the same meaning, in case not what are the differences? Best Wishes,

Hello khuder,

The first sentence is correct; the second is incorrect.

The reason is that particile clauses with present participles (-ing) have an active meaning while those with past participles (-ed) have a passive meaning. Here, it is the speaker ('I') who is waiting and so a present participle is required. The past participle would have a meaning of *I was waited* here, which does not make sense. Indeed, 'wait' is an intransitive verb so it does not have a passive form in any case.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zynah on Mon, 05/06/2017 - 01:25

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Hello Kirk I mean to say that in case of first conditional sentences, "if clause" is replaced by a past participle if we want to shorten it. For example, Came on time, I will teach you the whole chapter about Conditionals. (If you come on time, I will teach you the whole chapter about condtionals) Does it sound correct that I have started my first sentence with "came"?

Hello Zynah,

No, I'm afraid we can't replace the if-clause in that way. It is possible to use a present participle but the meaning then is not conditional:

Coming on time, he taught the whole chapter.

This would mean 'He came on time and so taught...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 03/06/2017 - 06:17

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Sir, Could I use the structure 'Having done' With future tense like- having had my lunch at 1:00 'O' clock at the afternoon I will catch my train at 2:00 p.m, or Should I Only use 'after doing' with future tense ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Yes, you can use a participle clause like that -- your sentence is correct. Participle clauses are a bit rare in ordinary speaking and writing, however. You're much more likely to hear or see 'after having' instead of 'having had'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zynah on Sat, 03/06/2017 - 05:28

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Hello Sir I am a bit confused here. If we want to shorten a long sentence starting with an if clause then we will use a past participle in the beginning. But for all the sentences with a past participle in it , we are using a present participle in the beginning. Am I correct? This is what i have understood.

Hello Zynah,

Could you please give an example of what you mean? Participle clauses cannot replace all kinds of conditional sentences and are not regularly used to do so.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Zynah, The subject of the participle must also be the subject of the other verb.

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 01/06/2017 - 00:01

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Sir, "She is standing in front of me with a ruler taking in her hands" "She is standing in front of me 'with' taking a ruler in her hands" Can omit word with in second sentence and is first sentence right with participle taking after word ruler or can it come only before with as in second sentence?

Hello SonuKumar,

I'm afraid neither sentence is correct. We don't use the word 'taking' in this way. You could use the word 'holding' (without 'with') or use just the preposition 'with' (without any participle after it). In other words:

  1. She is standing in front of me holding a ruler in her hands.
  2. She is standing in front of me with a ruler in her hands.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 30/05/2017 - 15:51

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Sir, Is there any difference between these two sentences or are both correct ? "She is standing in front of me with taking a ruler in her hands" "She is standing in front of me with a ruler taken in her hands" And yes one last question, Is in first sentence word with interchangeable with the word By and can with or by both be omitted in first sentence?

Hello SonuKumar,

Both sentences are incorrect. The second sentence would be correct without the word 'taken'.

You cannot use 'by' instead of 'with' here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Tea

Submitted by alvin_ryan on Sun, 28/05/2017 - 09:54

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Hello! what is the difference between participles simple form and perfect form? Thank you very much!!!

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 29/05/2017 - 06:45

In reply to by alvin_ryan

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Hello alvin_ryan,

English has two kinds of participles: present and past. Participles are non-finite verb forms, which means that they are not marked for time, in spite of their names. In other words, we can use present and past participles to refer to any time - past, present or future.

Participles have many uses and I can't list them all in a comment such as this. Perhaps you have a particular example in mind which we can comment on. If so, please post the sentence and we'll be happy to comment.

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Fri, 26/05/2017 - 12:32

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Hi, You described participle clause as a form of adverbial clause. By adverbial clause, do you mean to say that the participle clause act as an adverb? And since an adverb modifies a verb, adjective or adverb, quoting your example above "Waiting for John, I made some tea", does the "waiting for john" modifies the verb "made"? But it seems to me that "waiting for john" is modifying the noun "john", in this case, Wouldn't this mean that "waiting for john" is functioning as an adjective since it modifies the noun "John"? Appreciate your advice on this, thanks! Regards, Tim

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 26/05/2017 - 13:32

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's right -- that means that the participle clause acts like an adverb. 'Waiting for John, I made some tea' could be rephrased as 'While I was waiting for John, I made some tea'. As you can see, the clause 'while I was waiting for John' doesn't describe John, but rather explains the situation in which 'I' was making some tea.

Since it describes the situation, which, due to the structure of such sentences, will also include some kind of action, we call it adverbial. This is perhaps a bit arbitrary, i.e. one could argue that it's adjectival (since it describes 'I'), but I think calling it adverbial makes more sense and that is how I've always seen it in grammar references.

By the way, there's a page similar to ours at the BBC -- perhaps you'll find it useful as you seem to be interested in this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 21:37

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Hello, ''There's no sound when answering calls'' According to above the subjects of both clauses have to be the same, but here we have a dummy subject. The context is that I was reading on a web page why people are bringing one kind of phone and encountered this. It was the reason why. Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/05/2017 - 07:09

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

This could be an example of non-standard usage, or you could see the 'when' clause as having omitted words, i.e. the full form could be 'There's no sound when [you're] answering calls'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali-k on Mon, 22/05/2017 - 08:41

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Hi, Thank you for your nice website. I read and learned this grammar part and I should say it is very nice since it has helped me a lot to understand complex english structure. however, i got a problem with participle clause in this sentence"Attached to each arm is a clip-like device." I know its meaning but I am unfamiliar with the structure. I think i should become A clip-like device is attached to each arm. And it does not follow participle clause rules i read from this website. please tell me what is its grammar point . thanks in advance.

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/05/2017 - 12:10

In reply to by Ali-k

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Hello Ali-k,

Your analysis is good! In other words, the phrase is as you suggest ('A clip-like device is attached to each arm'). The order of this basic sentence has been inverted, probably for emphasis -- I can't really say for sure without the context.

This is fairly uncommon and is quite an advanced point that it will be difficult to find explanations of. This Cambridge Dictionary page mentions other times when inversion is typically used, but those are different than what's in your example. Yours sounds to me as if this phrase comes inside a text that sequentially describes an object, though other uses are also possible.

I'd say the best thing to do would be to make a note of this somewhere so that you can refer to it again in the future. As you read and listen to English, if you find another similar example, add it to the same place you note down this example. Compare the two and notice how they are used. This should help give you a sense for when this sort of structure is used.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 16:59

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Hi, May I know if its true that only past participle forms of transitive verbs can be turned into past participle phrases, and that past participle forms of intransitive verbs cannot be used in/as a past participle phrase? Regards, Tim

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 06:49

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Please provide a concrete example of what you mean. I think it's much clearer that way and there is less chance of misunderstanding.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 17:56

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Hello, ''There's no sound when answering calls'' Does this sentence correct? According to above the subjects of both clauses have to be the same, but here we have a dummy subject. Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 14:36

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

I expect you could find examples when people have used a similar structure, but, as you point out, it's a bit incomplete. Do you have a specific context in mind?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Tue, 16/05/2017 - 17:03

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Hello Teachers, 1) The information above says that participle clauses give information about: time, reason, result and conditional. However, I cannot match the usage of participle clauses with these in the sentence below: "Connecting" In the sentence: "We stood on the bridge connecting the two halves of the building, .." 2) Can we convert ALL "relative pronoun + verb" to present participle? For example: which connect=>connecting, people who are paid only for the hours=>being paid only for hours 3) This sentence I copy from the previous comment: "We were soaked to the skin . We eventually reached the station". My question is: why can't we rewrite this to "Having soaked to the skin, we.." or "Being soaked to the skin, we..."? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I'm going to answer your questions in reverse order. In 'we were soaked to the skin', 'soaked' is an adjective. It could possibly be part of a passive verb, but in most cases it would be an adjective. You could write 'Having been soaked ...' or 'Being soaked ...' and both forms would be correct. Participle clauses are not so common in informal speaking, so they'd sound strange in that context, but they are grammatically correct.

I'm afraid I can't confirm that there are no exceptions to this, but I can say that in general, yes, many relative clauses can be reduced in this way. There are also cases, e.g. very formal contexts, when such reductions are possible, but probably not advisable. This structure is called a reduced relative clause.

A full grammar reference of English would require many hundreds, if not thousands, of pages, so it's not difficult to find grammatical points that are not described in our pages. But in this case, 'connecting' is a reduced relative clause (originally 'which connects'), so you shouldn't think of it as a participle clause.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:14

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Sir, Could you please tell me What does the participle Eating refer to I or Boy In This Sentence? 'I beat a boy eating pizza in the street' Now If Eating refers to boy, so Should I write it like this, 'I beat a boy, When I was eating pizza in the street' If I want the participle Eating refer to I ? Please help

Hello SonuKumar,

Grammatically speaking, the sentence is ambiguous and could refer to either 'I' or 'the boy':

I beat a boy (who was) eating pizza in the street.

I beat a boy (while I was) eating pizza in the street.

However, the second seems to be a highly unlikely scenario so most people would assume the first option. Hopefully, of course, no beating of children happens in any case!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 07/05/2017 - 12:44

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Sir, He was made to sleep in this sentence Could we change the verb made into got, had, caused, helped, brought and then to sleep. like He was got or 'other verb as above' to sleep is it possible?

Hello SonuKumar,

I think only 'helped' would really fit in that sentence. However, it has a completely different meaning. You could say 'was forced to' but all changes carry different connotations and emphases, and context is also important in determining whether a given alternative sounds acceptable or not.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Thu, 04/05/2017 - 10:55

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Hi there, 'I'll have him meet me' and 'You can watch them dream' Are these structures describing objects after the verbs infinitives? Why don't they have 'to' in the front? In my opinion, the meaning is similar to present participle (meeting, dreaming) Many thanks

Hello JakiGeh,

'have' + object + infinitive (without 'to') is commonly used to talk about instructing someone to do something. You can see more examples on this Cambridge Dictionary page under the heading Asking or instructing.

'watch' and other verbs of perception ('see', 'hear', etc.) are often followed by an object + infinitive (without 'to'), though, as you say, an -ing form is also possible. If an infinitive is used, it has a general meaning or suggests that you watch the action from beginning to end, whereas the -ing form emphasises that you watch the action in progress. For example, 'I watched my children play football' and 'I watched my children playing football' are both correct. The second one puts more emphasis on seeing the action, whereas the first has a more general meaning.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 21:32

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Hello, ''A gift was cracked while being delivered'' This sentence is correct, but conjunctions ''when, while, once, until, and till'' can take a noun phrase as well. If ''delivering'' was a noun, would it be possible to use it instead of ''being delivered'' which is correct choice according to information on this page(I'm giving the sentence as an example of a similar situation) Thank you in advance

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 02/05/2017 - 07:20

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

'While' is a conjunction here and is followed by a clause, not by a noun. The phrase 'while being delivered' is a reduction of 'while it was being delivered'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cb25288 on Sun, 09/04/2017 - 23:03

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Hello, I came across this sentence in a page: 1. "The Maoists just went 50metres, before making Anturam kneel down, his hands tied behind his back." 2. His hands tied by the police, his face went pale with fear 3. The supermarket having closed early, we couldn't buy anything Sentence 2 and 3 is the key of two questions in a book for gift students. I haven't heard about participle phrase with different subjects, but I don't know what grammatical points there are in the sentences above. ( tied: passive meaning; having closed: meaning of time )