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

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Language level

Submitted by lexeus on Tue, 15/11/2016 - 03:43

Permalink
Hi Team What is the difference between a participial clause and a participial phrase? Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 15/11/2016 - 07:04

In reply to by lexeus

Permalink

Hi lexeus,

Both terms are used to describe the forms on this page, and there is no commonly accepted correct term. Some people see these forms as a kind of non-finite clause (a clause with a non-finite verb form) while others see them as a participle phrase.

In terms of English language learning, which is the focus for this site, the term used to describe these forms is less important than the way in which they are used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thanks for your reply. I have to say that it is precisely because of the term used to describe something that causes the confusion and misunderstanding in the first place. A perfect example of this is when one is trying to determine whether an -ing form is a gerund, a verb or an adjective. They all seem to be called participles!

Submitted by lexeus on Sun, 20/11/2016 - 02:42

In reply to by lexeus

Permalink
Dear Team, This is totally confusing, please help: ''She was always practising her English and spent her evenings watching English movies and dreaming that she could one day be a famous actress.'' In the sentence above, I have been informed that the participles 'watching' and 'dreaming' are part of the participial phrases ...and spent her evenings watching English movies and dreaming that she could one day be a famous actress. How can we be sure that 'watching' and 'dreaming' are not objects of the verb spent, and are therefore not gerunds? Thank you so much for your help, Lexeus

Hello lexeus,

We can see that the -ing form here is not the object because there already is an object before it: the object of the verb 'spent' is 'her evenings', and the participle 'watching' describes that noun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thanks for your reply. If the participle 'wanting' describes the noun 'her evenings', can we still call it an adverbial clause?

Hi lexeus,

My apologies! In my last answer there was a mistake. The participle here does not describe 'her evenings' but rather qualifies the verb - it tells us how she spent those evenings. Therefore it does, as you say, have an adverbial function.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your help Peter. Best wishes, Lexeus.
Also, As per your description above: Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause... And according to this web page: http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/participlephrase.htm Participle phrases always function as adjectives.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 23/11/2016 - 07:00

In reply to by lexeus

Permalink

Hello lexeus,

We do not comment on the opinions expressed on other sites. The internet is full of sites with a wide of opinions on any topic you can think of, after all.

Participle clauses are one kind of non-finite clause and have an adverbial function. You can read more about different types of non-finite clause here. Sometimes a relative clause (which generally has an adjectival function, describing a noun) looks like a participle clause when it is reduced and this can be a source of confusion. However, participle clauses tell us, as the information on the page says, about condition, reason, result or time; reduced relative clauses give us descriptive information of some kind about the subject or object of the main clause.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Englishlover on Wed, 19/10/2016 - 19:28

Permalink
Dear sir What's the Meaning and usage of "being helped" in the following sentence: I think "being helped" here implies the continueous process which was in past, "being helped" here refers to "he/she was being helped". But I'm not sure. 1. Share your experiences of being helped by the Air Ambulance. Source: http://www.worksopguardian.co.uk/news/share-your-experiences-of-being-helped-by-the-air-ambulance-1-8057024 2. California Nice victim talks about being helped by a stranger Nice victim Greg Krentzman from Culver City, Calif, talks about being helped by a good Samaritan after being hit by a truck that killed 80. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1311771/California-Nice-victim-talks-helped-stranger.html 3. Being helped by one of the nurses, the patient slipped and fell. (Does it mean "as/while he was being helped"?)

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 20/10/2016 - 06:56

In reply to by Englishlover

Permalink

Hello Englishlover,

While we appreciate your eagerness to learn, I'm afraid it's not possible for us to answer so many questions! The comments sections on these pages are there in order to deal with brief comments about the material on our pages, not examples from other sources. We cannot provide English lessons in the comments sections, I am afraid, and the number of questions you are asking and the length of those questions means that this is what we would have to do.

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that we are a small team and we have many thousands of users. For this kind of detailed one-to-one help you need to ask a teacher of your own.

We will, of course, be happy to deal with any brief questions about the materials on our pages.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Englishlover on Wed, 19/10/2016 - 19:26

Permalink
Dear sir How the following first sentence is formed into passive participle clause: 1. After being arrested, he was taken to the police station. 2. After having been arrested,he was taken to the police station. I know 'after having+past participle' refers to the completed action before the action of main clause but I don't know about 'after being+past participle'. I think the first with 'being+p.p' is an example of passive participle clause. For example: Active: After the police arrested him, the police took him to the police station. passive: After he was arrested by police, he was taken to the police station. passive participle clause: After Being arrested, he was taken to the police station. "After he was arrested" changed into=After being arrested Am i right here ? How the passive participle clause formed? Next, what happens if we remove 'after' ?

Submitted by Englishlover on Tue, 18/10/2016 - 17:54

Permalink
Dear sir, I was told by one of my teacher that the example sentence: 'Being taken to the hospital, he died' is in "continueous participle clause in passive voice". I don't understand what "continueous participle clause in passive voice" mean. Could you please teach me about it ?

Submitted by Englishlover on Tue, 18/10/2016 - 17:50

Permalink
Dear sir, I'm much confused between" being+past participle" and "having+past participle" For example: What's the differences in the meaning in the following sentences: 1. After being arrested, he was taken to the police station. 2. After having been arrested,he was taken to the police station.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 19/10/2016 - 07:06

In reply to by Englishlover

Permalink

Hello Englishlover,

The first sentence ('being arrested') tells us about one event immediately following another. The second sentence ('having been arrested') would be used when we want to provide information not about one event immediately before another, but rather something in the past which is relevant in some way to the present action. Therefore the second sentence is not a natural construction for this context. Generally we do not use 'after' with this construction, because there is not a direct sequence. For example, we might say:

Having been arrested several times in his life, he knew what to do when the police came.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Englishlover on Sun, 16/10/2016 - 14:05

Permalink
Can i use 'being+past participle' to start the sentence as follows: >1. Being taken to the hospital, he died. (To mean: while he was being taken to the hospital, he died) >2. Being beaten by mother to her son, the father arrived. (To mean: While the son was being beaten by his mother, the father arrived.)

Hello Englishlover,

The first sentence, with an adverbial participle clause of time, could almost work, but without context, it's so vague that it's unnatural. Normally, participle clauses occur in somewhat formal sentences and in contexts that provide enough information to make the meaning of the participle clause clear. In this case, there isn't enough context and, I'm guessing, an important fact is that his death occurred on the way to the hospital, so really 'while' is needed. With 'while' (i.e. 'while being taken ...'), the sentence would be fine.

In the second clause, the subject of the participle clause ('the son') is different from the subject of the independent clause ('the father'). Normally the subject of the two clauses has to be the same. There are some exceptions to this rule, but here it doesn't work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by seancheah on Sat, 08/10/2016 - 16:23

Permalink
The lecture being cancelled,we had the afternoon off. Why is 'being' used before 'cancelled'? The team played really bad,being beaten 3-0. Why is 'being' necessary? Can you explain the role of 'being' in participle clause?

Hello seancheah,

The structure here in the first sentence is:

(With) X happening, Y

We use this to show cause/reason. You can rephrase it as Because of X, Y.

The second sentence is slightly different:

Y, doing X

Here the second clause shows the reason or evidence for the first.

The fact that it is 'being' is not important; it could be any present participle (-ing form).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Englishlover on Thu, 06/10/2016 - 07:51

Permalink
dear sir Are the following sentences are correct grammatically: 1.Being busy surfing Facebook,I couldn't do my homework. 2.Having been employed in the job of teaching at a school,I hardly manage time for other works. 3.Being taught about English grammar,I don't have difficulty writing in English. 4.Living in a village,I can't imagine making buildings in a town.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 06/10/2016 - 12:43

In reply to by Englishlover

Permalink

Hello Englishlover,

1, 2 and 4 are correct, though 'work' should be an uncount rather than plural noun in 2. The use of 'taught' in 3 is a bit unnatural, though the sentence is intelligible. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mjwood on Wed, 05/10/2016 - 05:35

Permalink
'Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.' is correct. 'Won the match, Susan jumped for joy' is incorrect. However: 'The match won, Susan jumped for joy' is correct. Can anyone explain why this is the case?

Hello mjwood,

 

The first example is a perfect participle, showing the situation (a completed action with a present result) at the time of jumping.

 

We can use past participles after nouns to describe them, functioning as an adjective. The structure is:

(with) something done... + main clause

This is the structure used in the final example ('The match won...').

 

We cannot, however, use past participles on their own as a main verb, which is what is being attempted in the second (incorrect) example. You need to include a subject and finite verb form here to make it grammatical:

Susan had won the match and jumped for joy.

Effectively, what you have tried to do in the second example is to take a subject and full finite verb form ('she had won') and reduce it to just a participle. Participles cannot fulfil this role in the sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dlis on Thu, 29/09/2016 - 05:25

Permalink
Hi, I'm confusing with present participle and perfect participle, for this, My father has just retired.He was a teacher. Being a teacher,my father has just retired. or Having been a teacher,my father has just retired.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 29/09/2016 - 06:15

In reply to by dlis

Permalink

Hello dlis,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct but neither makes sense as an example of the use of participle clauses. The reason is that, as the information on the page says, participle clauses give information about condition, reason, result or time. 

In your sentences there is no connection between the information. Your father did not retire because he was a teacher, or at the time he was a teacher, so there is no reason to link the information in this way.

You could use this construction if there were a link. For example, if you provide the reason for your father's retirement:

Being now 65 years old, my father has just retired.

Having turned 65, my father has just retired.

Here, the reason for the retirement is his age, so there is a connection. The difference between the two is that in the first sentence your father is still 65 at the time of speaking, whereas in the second we are talking about the moment when he became 65, which was in the past.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dlis on Thu, 08/09/2016 - 05:34

Permalink
Peter M, can we use past participle clauses for conditinal 1,2 both? if I practice more I will win. Practiced more I will win. Is this same?...............wrong.

Hello dlis,

In these constructions the past participle has a passive meaning while the present participle has an active meaning. Both can be used to refer to any time - the time reference is set by the main verb. For example:

Practising more, I will have a better chance to win.

= If I practise more, I will have a better chance to win.

 

Practised more, the game becomes easy.

= If the game is practised more, it becomes easy.

 

Note that the subject is always the same in both clauses.

You can read more about this on our page about participle clauses, which you can find here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sipun0044 on Mon, 29/08/2016 - 19:39

Permalink
If you miss the 6 o'clock train, you won't get here before 7. If you missed the 6 o'clock train, you wouldn't get here before 7. what do these sentences really mean?

Hello sipun0044,

These are examples of different conditional forms and the difference is how likely the speaker considers the situation - likely/possible in the first example, and unlikely/impossible in the second.

You can read more about conditional forms on this page, this page and this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

sorry sir, i didn't get the second one will you please elaborate I've already read all the conditionals. only confused with 1st & 2nd. look like they are same in meaning but they aren't which makes me confused.

Hello sipun0044,

The difference between the sentences is as follows:

If you miss the 6 o'clock train, you won't get here before 7.

The speaker thinks there is a good chance that you will miss the train - it describes a real possibility.

If you missed the 6 o'clock train, you wouldn't get here before 7.

The speaker does not expect you to miss the train - it is a hypothetical statement.

The difference here is in the speaker's perspective and how they see the event.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bretfrag on Tue, 23/08/2016 - 10:16

Permalink
Hi, I'm a bit confused as to why participle clauses following conjunctions like 'because' are called 'result' clauses, while those that follow conjunctions like 'so' are called 'reason' clauses. In the two examples above, both clauses are reasons for the actions in the main clauses. I would therefore refer to both as 'reason' clauses. Have I missed something?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/08/2016 - 13:23

In reply to by bretfrag

Permalink

Hello bretfrag,

You're right that there's a bit of overlap in terms of 'reason' and 'result' in the example sentence above, and I'm sure in many other sentences. I usually think of 'reason' clauses as looking more to the future, i.e. they kind of carry the past or present condition into the future to explain the future action, whereas 'result' looks more to the past. But to be honest I'm not completely sure that thinking works in all cases.

In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about what the clauses are called - in most cases, of course, understanding what they mean is far more important, and, as I've mentioned, the names for these kinds of clauses aren't always very precise, so don't take them too seriously.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by mark roi on Wed, 17/08/2016 - 13:48

Permalink
Hello, I still didn't understand the participle clause (while). E.g. while raining, I was walking (wrong) Should I say it was raining, while I was walking? Or ho w? Thanks in andvance

Hello mark roi,

On this page it says:

We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject.

Your example does not make sense as the subject would have to be the same. In other words your sentence means 'I was raining and I was walking'. You cannot use a participle clause if there are two different subjects, therefore you need to say, as you suggest, 'It was raining while I was walking'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mark roi on Mon, 01/08/2016 - 08:36

Permalink
Hello, I still didn't understand the participle clause (while). E.g. while raining, I was walking (wrong) Should I say it was raining, while I was walking? Or how? Thanks in andvance

Submitted by Tim-Xiong on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 08:53

Permalink
Sorry, the rewritten version should be "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and then directed 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers."

Submitted by Tim-Xiong on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 08:50

Permalink
Hi Learning English team, Reading the sentence "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", I am not sure which of the rules mentioned above apply to this participle clause. To me, it looks like the action in the participle clause happened later than the action in the independent clause. If I rewrite the sentence as "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", does it have the same meaning as the original sentence?

Hello Tim-Xiong,

The time the taxes were imposed and the time that the revenue from those taxes was directed to health care, etc., seems to be considered more or less concurrent here. If we were to measure that time with a watch, surely you would be correct – they are not concurrent actions. But this sentence probably comes from a context when this objective difference in time is not considered relevant, for example an article reviewing the history of sin taxes, which is decades or even centuries long. Within that perspective, they are concurrent.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dany on Sun, 12/06/2016 - 11:41

Permalink
I feel very confused with this clause We were soaked to the skin . We eventually reached the station. how can I turn it into participle clause? Thanks in advance

Hello dany,

You can place the participal phrase in a number of positions:

Soaked to the skin, we eventually reached the station.

We eventually reached the station, soaked to the skin.

We, soaked to the skin, eventually reached the station.

The last of these would be the least common, and has a rather literary feel.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You can even say "we, having been soaked, eventually reached the station" Or, "Having been soaked, we eventually reached the station". This is "perfect participle in passive form.

Submitted by bretfrag on Sun, 12/06/2016 - 03:11

Permalink
Hi, What is the difference between reduced relative clauses and participle clauses? This sentence, for example: 'Located in the Colorado mountains, the Overlook hotel closes every winter'. sounds strange, while 'The Overlook hotel, located in the Colorado mountains, closes every winter', with punctuation matching the structure of a reduced relative clause, doesn't. But I don't understand why!

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 13/06/2016 - 07:02

In reply to by bretfrag

Permalink

Hello bretfrag,

I'm not sure why you think the first sentence sounds strange, to be honest. It seems perfectly fine to me. Although the term 'participle clause' is often used (and is used on this page, and on this page), the correct name is 'participle phrase' as there is no finite verb present. Participle phrases generally have an adjectival function, providing more information about the subject of the main verb in the sentence. Other than the position of the participle phrase being more flexible, there is no difference in meaning between it and the reduced relative clause in your example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sharshar on Wed, 01/06/2016 - 16:13

Permalink
We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. Shouted at loudly, Peter walked to home.(someone shouted at Peter) In the second sentence there two different subjects. Can someone explain it to me plz. Thanks.

Hello Sharshar,

In your example the subject of both clauses is 'Peter'. The confusion arises from the fact that the first clause has a passive verb form ('Peter was shouted at loudly'). In passive constructions the grammatical subject is the recipient of the action. What you wrote inside the brackets is actually a transformed version of the first clause, in which you have changed passive to active and found a different subject, and this is misleading.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Tue, 31/05/2016 - 10:30

Permalink
Thank you Kirik for your kind response ,, I have another question and I would appreciate if you respond to it as well, can I rewrite this following sentence like this???? two of the terrorists who shot the president have been caught. two of the terrorists shooting the president have been caught. and also this one: the man who invented the digital camera has won the award. The man inventing the digital camera has won an award. is it possible and correct to rewrite the above sentences like that? I await your reply. Regards.

Hello monarcy110,

I'm afraid those sentences don't work, as the actions referred to with the participles occurred in the past. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team