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: 4.3 (75 votes)

Hello again Nevi,

Unless the context indicates otherwise, we assume that the time reference is consistent with the rest of the sentence. That would mean a present meaning.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher, I appreciate it.I asked a lot teacher because I am so curious about that. Does present continuous or present simple change the meaning? For instance 'The dog that is lying on the floor' ='The dog lying on the floor.' 'The dog that lies on the floor.' = 'The dog lying on the floor.'

Hello again Nevi,

The participle (lying) here describes an action in progress, so we would not use it in place of a verb with a general meaning such as the present simple (lies). In general, the dog that lies on the floor is a strange formulation as all dogs lie on the floor - it is normal behaviour for them so wouldn't be useful as a way of identifying a particular dog. The continuous form (...that is lying on the floor...) can be used this way as it identifies a dog doing something right now, which differentiates it from other dogs.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NevenaR on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 20:40

Hello, could you please tell me if this is a correct sentence? The International Day of Forests is celebrated every year on March 21, reminding us of the importance of forests and trees in our lives. Thank you in advance for your help. Nevena

Submitted by Fiona on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 16:53

Why in the following sentence we use “come” but not “coming”? I thought “coming” is to modify “them”? “Wandering around Camden Town, or going through CDs I couldn’t afford in West End megastores, I’d already had too many of them come up to me, asking how I was getting on since leaving the course to “seek fame and fortune.”

Hello Fiona,

I think you can use either come or coming here.

If you use coming it is a present participle describing 'them', as you say. It functions in the same way as the second present participle ('asking').

If you use come then the construction is 'have somebody do something'. We can use this construction when we require or order someone to do something, but it can be also be used when we have reached a limit of what we can accept:

I had him deliver the documents to my office. > I arranged for this.

I had had too many people shout at me already that day, so I put the phone down. > It was too much for me to accept.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Umoh Margaret on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 21:58

Dear team, please help me explain the meaning of this sentence: Worn under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures. To which of the rules is the above sentence applicable. Is it adding information to the subject of the main clause or is it similar in meaning to an if condition? Please, also notify and correct any sentence that is not written grammatically. Thanks in advance