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

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Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 07:55

In reply to by Tony1980

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Hi Andi,

Yes, they are objects of the verb 'means'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Thu, 08/04/2021 - 13:51

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Being non native English student, found difficult to understand this lesson. Hi teacher, thanks for the lesson, but I am a little bit confused about the lesson, so it would be great if you share with me a link where I can find more explained lessons about Participle clause. Thanks in advance.

Hello Maahir,

I'm sorry to hear that you found the explanation inaccessible. You could try this Free Dictionary page, but I also wanted to say that I'd probably recommend you study other grammar before devoting too much time to this. This is because unless you need to write or speak in formal contexts, participle clauses are probably something you don't need to be able to produce yourself.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Rafaela1

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Thu, 08/04/2021 - 13:30

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Looking back my work, I should have done better... ;)

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 06/04/2021 - 17:29

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Hi great site administers and teachers, I read "Participle clauses do not have a specific tense. The tense is indicated by the verb in the main clause." in that page. And I was confused when I saw the sentence in the text. 'Small publishers using Google’s advertising sales technology have said for years that their...' Present participle clause in the sentence is 'Small publishers using Google’s advertising sales' However, It is reduced from 'Small publishers who are using...' or 'who has been using' or maybe 'who were using'.? Which one? And how can we know the participle clause is reduced from which tense? Thank you Best wishes.

Hello Nevi,

Relative clauses have an adjectival function: they provide further information about a noun, and they directly follow the noun phrase which they describe. This is the function we can see in your example, where 'using Google's advertising sales technology' describes the noun phrase 'Small publishers' and cannot be moved to another position in the sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher, I mean Small publishers using Google’s advertising sales technology = Small publishers who are using? or have been using? or were using? How do we know which tense participle clause is. Best wishes.

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.

 

Peter

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.'