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

Hello SonuKumar,

This is a question of word order. The correct word order in these sentences is as follows:

There's something written on the wall.

Some information has been given on the school board.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 04/03/2017 - 11:52

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Good Evening Sir, I and my brother went to the Market, Where I liked a neck Locket and I told to my brother " I like that neck locket" then He asked me " Which Locket" ? At that time I could answer as it follows. On which there or it is written a price worth of 80 rupees. or On which there or it is a price worth of 80 rupees what should I say one of those both ? And One evening I and my friend went to an old cave, where there has been written something on the wall then I wanted to tell it to my friend. what should say that there or it is written something on the wall or there or it is something written on the wall ? There's a passive voice sentence " Information has been given on the school board " Could also say it like this, there or it has been given a information on the school board ? Sir please pls. explain.

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 04/03/2017 - 11:28

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Sir, I think in this sentence also I should use holding rather then held. correct me If I'm wrong. the sentence is I made him stand there holding a 100 rupees note in his hand.

Submitted by Major tom on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 03:20

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How do I know if a clause is reduced relative clause or present participle clause? I know that some reduced relative clause may be moved away from the noun it is describing, which make it even more difficult to distinguish the two clauses. For example, in the following excerpt from the guardian, "The vote was one of the first confrontations at the UN between Russia and the US since Donald Trump took control of the White House in January, pledging to build closer ties with Moscow.", is the last clause " pledging to build closer ties with Moscow" a reduced relative clause to describe donald trump?

Hello Major tom,

It can be hard to tell the difference. A reduced relative clause has an adverbial function: it describes a noun in the sentence. A participle clause (as the page states) has an adverbial function: it gives information about condition, reason, result or time.

Sentences are often ambiguous, but in the case of your example the clause is a participle clause describing how (in what manner) Trump took control of the White House. If it was a reduced relative clause it would immediately follow the noun which it describes.

You can read more about relative clauses and how they are reduced here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 01/03/2017 - 16:18

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But sir why holding and why not held ? I'm asking because the sentence was in past so why present participle instead of past participle

Hello Sonu Kumar,

In participle clauses, a present participle can refer to many different times, not just the present. I can understand that this is confusing, but 'present' in the name 'present participle' doesn't indicate the time that the participle refers to, it just distinguishes it from a past participle (which has an -ed ending instead of -ing).

In this case, since 'holding the same pipe which I had held' is a participle clause, it has to start with a present or past participle. A past participle would indicate an action with a passive meaning, which is not the meaning here, so a present participle is the correct choice.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 28/02/2017 - 11:21

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Sir could you tell me please that which sentence is right, There was standing my brother beside me held the same pipe which I had held or There was standing my brother beside me holding the same pipe which I had hold ? Sir as you can see that I have used " held " In the first question and "holding" in the second what m I supposed to do here ?

Hello SonuKumar,

If I understand what you mean, the sentence should be 'There, standing beside me, was my brother, holding the same pipe which I had held'. Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kelly s. on Mon, 27/02/2017 - 20:13

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Dear Peter, Thank you very much for your quick and elaborate response. I really appreciate it! My best regards, Kelly S.

Submitted by kelly s. on Sun, 26/02/2017 - 14:11

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Hello! I have a few questions concerning participle clauses and I was hoping you might take a look at. 1) Is the following sentence correct in both cases? a. "Washed by hand, the shirt will not lose its colour." b. "Being washed by hand, the shirt will not lose its colour." I'm asking this as I've noticed that the second case seems acceptable when used with passive adjectives eg. "Being exhausted, he decided to get back home." 2) I' noticed that certain conjunctions tend to remain in participle clauses, like after, before, while, if, etc. Eg. "After packing, we were ready to go." How about "since"? Can it also remain? Eg. "Since being tired, I didn't go out." 3) Participle Clauses with different subjects "Joanna being ready, we headed off to her place to pick her up." If we were to replace Joanna with a pronoun, would this be "She" or "Her"? 4) Is the following correct? After having completed my studies, I went back home. Can we use a conjunction with the perfect participle? Thank you so much in advance! Kelly

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 27/02/2017 - 07:30

In reply to by kelly s.

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Hello Kelly,

That's a lot of questions!. We generally don't provide such long answers in the comments sections, which are intended for quick clarifications rather than long explanations but I'll try to answer as concisely as possibe.

1. The first example ('Washed by hand...') means something like 'When/If it is washed by hand...' The second ('Being exhausted...') has a different meaning - something like 'Because he was exhausted...'. We can use the continuous form when the situation is ongoing (like any continuous form), not when we are talking about general truths. A person might say 'Being washed by hand...' when they are actually washing it by hand and are explaining the benefits of the action, not when they are talking in general terms.

 

2. No. After 'since' we would need a subject and verb: Since I was tired...

 

3. The meaning here is 'With Joanna being ready...' and so 'Joanna' is the object. The correct pronoun would be 'her', though it would need to be very clear from the context who was being referred to.

 

4. Using a perfect participle after a preposition is not grammatically wrong but in most cases it would be redundant and not normal use. You would need to have a context in which 'After doing...' was somehow different to 'After having done...' and, though perhaps one could be created, this seems highly unlikely. Generally we would say either 'Having done...' or 'After doing...'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Tue, 21/02/2017 - 13:33

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Hi, You mentioned previously under a past comment that participle phrase and participle clause are both referring to the same thing, however, according to numerous websites, such as Grammar Bytes, a participle phrase functions as an adjective, however, here you state that participle clause functions as an adverbial. My questions are: a) Does a participle clause mean the same thing as a participle phrase? b) Does a participle phrase function as an adjective? or as an adverbial/adverb? b) My understanding of adverbials is that they act as adverbs by modfying adjectives, verbs and other adverbs. However, if participial clause are adverbials and participle phrases are adjectives, how are they the same? Thanks!

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 22/02/2017 - 07:35

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hi Timothy555,

This is a question of terminology and the use of the names varies. You can see my previous answer on the issue here (and there is a short conversation following that answer to clarify some points).

If you look on the wikipedia page for non-finite clauses you can see a number of examples of participle clauses, such as the following:

Playing on computers, they whiled the day away. (a participial clause, using a present participle)

The kids playing on their computers, we were able to enjoy some time alone. (a participial clause with a subject)

Having played on computers all day, they were pale and hungry. (a participial clause using a past participle)

Playing on computers is fun. (a gerund-participial clause)

On the other hand, in the entry for participle, we can find the following (my emphasis):

A verb phrase based on a participle and having the function of a participle is called a participle phrase or participial phrase (participial is an adjective derived from participle). For example, looking hard at the sign and beaten by his father are participial phrases based respectively on an English present participle and past participle. Participial phrases generally do not require an expressed grammatical subject; therefore such a verb phrase also constitutes a complete clause (one of the types of nonfinite clause). As such, it may be called a participle clause or participial clause. (Occasionally a participial clause does include a subject, as in the English nominative absolute construction The king having died, ... .)

 

I quote these to demonstrate the point that the terminology used is not fixed, and both 'participle phrase' and 'participle' clause are used for these forms.

Learn English is a site which aims to provide practical help for learners of English and so from our point of view the terminology is of secondary importance; providing accurate examples and explanations of use are our priority.

I hope that helps to clarify the issue for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nat.ya on Fri, 17/02/2017 - 05:33

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Hello, A student of mine asked me the other day why we use 'having + past participle' in reported speech. Here is an example: 'Adrian apologized for having been rude'. What is the rule here? And how can I explain to him why we can use this? Thank you, Natalia

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 17/02/2017 - 09:57

In reply to by Nat.ya

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Hello Natalia,

The verb here is 'apologise' and it is followed by a preposition ('for'). Prepositions always have objects and the object is most often a noun or a gerund. Here it is a gerund with a perfect form ('having been'). You can compare the regular gerund ('being') with the perfect gerund here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by edo1982 on Mon, 13/02/2017 - 05:51

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Hello, Looking at the passage below. Could you tell me if the phrase "filled with piles of old broken and broken electronic waster" is a participle clause and why or why not? Also, the same for "fueled by automobile tire" "Past the vegetable and tire merchants is a scrap- market filled with piles of old and broken electronics waste. This waste, consisting of broken TVs, computers, and smashed monitors, is known as “e-waste.” Further beyond the scrap market are many small fires, fueled by old automobile tires, which are burning away the plastic covering from valuable wire in the e-waste." Thanks,

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 13/02/2017 - 08:55

In reply to by edo1982

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Hello edo1982,

The phrases you highlight here have an adjectival function. They describe the nouns in the sentence and are really reduced relative clauses:

"Past the vegetable and tire merchants is a scrap- market (which is) filled with piles of old and broken electronics waste. This waste, (which consists) consisting of broken TVs, computers, and smashed monitors, is known as “e-waste.” Further beyond the scrap market are many small fires, (which are) fueled by old automobile tires, which are burning away the plastic covering from valuable wire in the e-waste."

You can read more about relative clauses and how they are simplified and reduced on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mr.Chu on Tue, 21/02/2017 - 10:48

In reply to by edo1982

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Participle clauses are used to explain "condition, result, reason, time" and the 2 phrases you highlighted were used to give more information to the subjects, so they are not participle clauses, but relative clauses.

Submitted by mahmudkoya on Fri, 10/02/2017 - 18:07

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Sir, Would you explain what kind of a clause is that beginning with the -ing participle 'reading' in the following sentence? Thank you. "He plans his trips very carefully for at least three months before he leaves, reading about the places he is going to visit on the Internet and in books."

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 11/02/2017 - 08:36

In reply to by mahmudkoya

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Hello mahmudkoya,

The clause here is a participle clause using a present participle. It is a subsidiary clause which gives us further information about the action in the main clause, telling us how the person goes about his planning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sardonyx on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 05:07

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Hello, You write: "We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject". So please explain what is wrong with this sentence: On being promoted, Maria's colleagues feigned happiness by congratulating her with an applause. Who was promoted? Maria(as follows from the sentence) or her colleagues (as follows from your rule)? Thanks in avdance! Best regards, sardonyx

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 08:34

In reply to by sardonyx

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Hello sardonyx,

The problem with the sentence is that grammatically it means that Maria's colleagues were promoted. Clearly, this is not the intention of the speaker.

When you have different subjects you need to add a possessive adjective:

On her being promoted, Maria's colleagues feigned happiness by congratulating her with applause.

Note also that 'applause' is uncountable, so no article is used here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ebi Soleymani on Tue, 07/02/2017 - 06:40

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Hello. I would be grateful if you tell me whether this sentence is grammatically right? "I would therefore like to request that I'll be given a full refund should I not receive the repaired camera by the end of this week."

Hello Ebi Soleymani,

Your sentence is almost correct. I would change it as follows:

I would therefore like to request that I be given a full refund should I not receive the repaired camera by the end of this week.

After 'request' in formal use we use a form called the subjunctive which is the bare infinitive ('be') rather than 'will'.

Please note that we do not usually provide a correction service.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hang beo on Sat, 04/02/2017 - 05:20

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Hello, Please help me! 1. including requirements for the activities occurring during and after delivery or 2. including requirements for the activities occurred during and after delivery What sentence is correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 04/02/2017 - 13:43

In reply to by Hang beo

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Hello Hang beo,

The first phrase is grammatically correct and the second one is not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by polaroid on Wed, 01/02/2017 - 10:56

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Hello, I found a collocation "working class" in a dictionary which means "a social group that consists of people who earn little money, often being paid only for the hours or days that they work, and who usually do physical work" "...being paid for the hours...'' - "Being" here expresses the reason of why they earn little money, right? How could we expand this sentence from the phrase to clause?

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 01/02/2017 - 17:01

In reply to by polaroid

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Hello polaroid,

In this sentence, 'being' forms a participle clause, and yes, I'd say it expresses the reason for their earning little money. Another way to say this would be '... people who earn little money and who are often paid only for the hours ....' In this case, they've probably decided to use a participle clause since there are already two relative clauses with 'who' in them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Preeti Sharma on Mon, 30/01/2017 - 08:13

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Dear Peter, Isn't it a matter of perspective. Who is the sentence talking about? Me finishing my dinner, and what I did after that OR the waitress bringing me the menu? Couldn't it be read either way? I think both are correct, depending on what we think the main action is? Please verify.

Hello Preeti Sharma,

Both sentences are correct grammatically. However, the original sentence tells us that the waitress offered to bring the menu.  Only one of the two choices keeps this meaning; the other one introduces a different meaning (I asked the waitress). This may or may not be important, but if the goal is to keep as close as possible to the original sentence then this should not be changed.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Preeti Sharma on Sun, 29/01/2017 - 03:08

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Hello, I have a query about the sentence below: Having finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring me the dessert menu. It is wrong. The correction could be either of the two given below a) After I finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring me the dessert menu. b)Having finished my dinner, I asked the waitress to bring me the dessert menu. Which option is correct, and closest to the meaning of the sentence? Regards, Preeti

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 29/01/2017 - 07:11

In reply to by Preeti Sharma

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Hello Preeti,

The original sentence is wrong because the subject of the participle clause is always the same as that of the main clause, so it would suggest that the waitress ate your dinner rather than you.

The difference between the two alternatives is in who speaks about bringing the menu. According to the original sentence it is the waitress who offers and not you who asks; therefore sentence (a) is the correct answer. 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Widescreen on Fri, 27/01/2017 - 14:15

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Hi team, Please explain why we can't use participle clause for a finished action in the past ? Eg, we can say : "the police wanted to interview people who saw the accident " but not " the police wanted to interview people seeing the accident ". In contrast, we can say either : the people who saw the accident had to report it to the police" or " the people seeing the accident had to report it to the police". Why can we use present participle in the later sentence in this case ? Thank you in advance.

Hello Widescreen,

There may be some historical reason for this, but as far as I know this is just the way people speak. English, like any other natural language, developed over time in accordance with the way people use it, so when we talk about 'grammar rules', really these rules are just observations about how people use the language. How people use the language isn't always logical, and I think that's probably the best way to think about this.

I wish I could give you a more logical reason than that!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmedkhairy on Wed, 04/01/2017 - 13:46

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Hey sir,could u please explain the grammar in this sentence " that now, having stumbled, he will be unable to keep from falling"

Hello Ahmedkhairy,

Which part of the sentence are you wondering about? If it's 'having stumbled', that is a participle clause, which you can read more about on our participle clause page. If it's a different part, please tell us which one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Quynh Nhu on Fri, 02/12/2016 - 09:40

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Hi Team, Because you said: "we use a present participle when the verb has an active meaning and a past participle when the verb has a passive meaning" I want to ask which sentences are right cause they both have a participle clause having a passive meaning. Being built of wood, the house was clearly a fire risk. Built of wood, the house was clearly a fire risk. Thankyou very much.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 03/12/2016 - 08:00

In reply to by Quynh Nhu

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Hi Quynh Nhu,

Both of those sentences are correct.

I would say that the sentences are actually rather different, grammatically speaking. I would say that the phrase 'built of wood' in the first sentence has the meaning 'wooden' rather than having a passive verbal meaning:

Being wooden, the house was clearly a fire risk.

In other words, the phrase 'built of wood' here is functioning as an adjective and the participle has an active meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mr.Chu on Tue, 21/02/2017 - 11:24

In reply to by Quynh Nhu

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In the first sentence, the phrase "Being built of wood" emphasizes an action which is in progress.

Submitted by heeppee creepy on Mon, 28/11/2016 - 19:45

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hi all, are these sentences grammatical -1 knowing nothing about math ,she had to get a teacher to help her, 2 being the smartest in class, he had no obstacles to study medicine, 3 having killed the woman , he left the crime scene, having won the world cup, Germany felt unbeatable for years ? Thanks just a lot !

Hi heeppee creepy,

Yes, those are all correct with one exception. In the second sentence you should say 'no obstacles to studying medicine' - the 'to' here is a preposition, not part of an infinitive, and so should be followed by a gerund.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I really appreciate your clarifying about the use of TO as a preposition. Indeed, this is a part of the rules of ING uses that I have never understood , and I have no idea how to use it. Can you please teach me how to recognize when TO must be followed by ING , and when by BARE INFINITIVE ? Your answer would solve a problem I have always had in English. Peter, Thanks a lot !

Hello heeppee creepy,

'To' as a preposition is a part of many phrasal verbs and is used after certain other words. It's not really a case of 'to' having its own set of rules; it's the requirements of the sentence which determine the use. You might find these pages helpful:

verbs followed by -ing clauses

verbs followed by the to-infinitive

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Peter, thanks a lot. I finally understand that the RULE is that there is no rule but learning the verb pattern , thanks for your time . Best regards !

Submitted by heeppee creepy on Sun, 27/11/2016 - 02:30

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I think GERUNDS and all ing forms are essential to master the English language, even more, without mastering them , it's almost impossible to master any aspect of the lenguage. I'm focused on learning all the uses of the ING tenses , so , from now on, I will try to ask very short but elemental questions until I really understand these uses. Peter, tanks a lot for suggesting this page !

Submitted by dlis on Fri, 25/11/2016 - 06:45

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Hi sir, I still confuse with this topic.But i really like to learn it.I know, when i read the phrases with participle clauses,i can't realized what exactly they are saying. can i say it like this, still confusing with this topic,i really like to learn it. reading the phrases with participle clauses,i can't realized, what exactly they are saying.

Hello dlis,

In the section The meaning and use of participle clauses, the sentences with a participle clause are shorter versions of the second sentences, but they mean the same thing. As the explanation says, we use a present participle when the verb has an active meaning and a past participle when the verb has a passive meaning.

BBC Learning English has a page that I think might help you understand how these work, and there's also a video of theirs in YouTube that's very good. Please take a look at those, and then if it's still not clear, please don't hesitate to ask us again here.

As for your sentences, I think how to use the word 'confuse' is part of the confusion! To be more specific, in the sentence 'I still confuse', 'confuse' is not correct. You could say 'This still confuses me' ('confuse' is a verb, but 'I' is not the subject) or 'I am still confused' ('confused' is an adjective, and the subject is 'I').

Your first sentence could be 'Still confused, but I'd really like to learn this topic'. The participle clause in your second sentence is correct, but I'd recommend something like 'Reading the sentences with participle clauses, I realized I didn't understand them very well'.

I hope this helps you!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team