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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Hello Ahmed Imam,

The second sentence is grammatically correct but unlikely. It describes flowers which are growing now. The speaker might be looking out of their window at a panorama of the city and describing how beautiful the flowers are. However, London is such a large place that it seems unlikely it would be used as a location in this way, unless 'London' is a shortened reference for a certain place within the city rather than the whole city itself.

The first sentence is ambiguous. It could refer to some flowers which were grown in London and have been cut, or it could describe the flowers of London more generally: the flowers which are grown in London.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again. I think the following sentences are correct and meaningful, right? 1- I love the flowers which are grown in London. 2- I love the flowers which grow in London. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Yes, those are perfectly fine sentences. As ever, whethere or not they are appropriate will depend on the context and the speaker's intention.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 14:02

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Hi incredible team, I want to ask something about participle adjectives. For example, when I want to write that sentence 'The choked man in the restaurant was immediately sent to the hospital.' (to choke - - >past participle form chocked as an adjective) I looked the dictionary it says different thing https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/choked?q=Choked I would be grateful if you could explain me why it says like that. or I made a mistake. Thank you in advance. Many thanks.

Hello Nevi,

In brief, it's because that's how we use the word 'choked'. Although many adjectives are formed from the past participle of a verb, they don't always have the same meaning as the verb and so can't be used in the way you've tried to use 'choked' in your sentence.

As far as I know, there are no patterns to this -- that is, I'm afraid there's no general rule that explains if or how you can use a past participle as an adjective. That's what the dictionary is for.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

If I want to rewrite the sentence , Like "The man choked in the restaurant was immediately sent to the hospital.'' Is it now possible my changed sentence, teacher ? Thank you in advance.

Hello Nevi,

'choke' can be transitive or intransitive. The way the sentence is written, I understand 'choke' to be transitive (which means someone else tried to kill the man) and the beginning as a reduced version of 'The man who was choked ...'

But I doubt that's what you meant. If you want 'choke' to be intransitive -- in other words, the man chokes on food -- then I'd recommend saying 'The man who choked on some food in the restaurant ...' instead.

As far as I know, there's no rule that explains this difference. It's a matter of usage.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Oh ı understand now, teacher. I really appreciate it.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 12:31

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Having finished responding to emails, he started hitting the hay. ;)

Submitted by Tony1980 on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 14:03

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Hi Kirk I’m reposting my last comment in here. The fashion houses chosen by the magazine provide the clothes they want featured but it’s the stylist’s job to make sure they’re shown in the best possible light. That means finding accessories to set them off , making decisions about the models’ hair. Finding and making are present participle or gerund here? And why please? Best wishes Andi