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: 4.2 (81 votes)

Hello Nevi,

I'd say that 'her wanting to live alone' is a noun phrase; it's the same structure as 'her desire to live alone'; that is, 'wanting' is a noun, just like 'desire' is.

Note that you could also say 'Her wanting to live alone is understandable' -- in this case, the clause is also a noun phrase plus the verb 'be' plus an adjective.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot teacher. I wonder if 'wanting' is a gerund.

Hello Nevi,

Yes, 'wanting' is a gerund in this case.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your explanations,teacher. I really appreciate them. Lastly, I didn't know we can put possesive adjectives like my,your, his... in front of gerunds before you said wanting is a gerund. Can we put possesive adjectives in front of all gerunds? For example, His studying English is more effective than mine.

Hi Nevı,

Yes, that's right :)

But for your example, I would say one of these versions instead:

  • His studying is more effective than mine.
  • His studying of English is more effective than mine.

The reason is that a gerund (e.g. studying) is somewhere between a verb and a noun (see this comment thread for a more detailed explanation). If you add a possessive adjective, it makes it more noun-like than verb-like, and nouns have a preposition before an object - that's why I added 'of' in the second sentence. 


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Wed, 23/06/2021 - 12:17

Could you please explain the below structures and their differences in more detail because they are more confusing? can they be used interchangeably? 1.English learners sometimes have trouble choosing between the endings. choosing ( present participle followed by a noun "trouble") 2.English learners sometimes have trouble in choosing between the endings. noun (trouble) + preposition + gerund (choosing) 3.English learners sometimes have trouble to choose between the endings. noun (trouble) + infinitive (to choose).

Hello Mussorie,

I think the first two forms can be used interchangeably. The third one does not look correct to me as a UK English speaker.



The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain the difference in meaning between the first two sentences, if possible, then the third sentence?

Hello Mussorie,

The first two sentences can be used interchangeably, which means there is no difference in meaning between them. The third sentence is not a correct form, so there is no meaning to explain.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sun, 13/06/2021 - 15:45

Hello fantastic team! I am writing to find out more about participle clauses with conjunctions. I saw following sentence in the reading text. "She became very tearful when pressed to talk about it." Here I can see -when+past participle phrase-. But I haven't known we can use past participle phrases with conjunctions, until I saw the sentence above. I just knew sentences like 'I saw her while walking on the street' (Subjects must be the same.) Would it be possible for you to explain how I can use past participle phrases with conjunctions? Thank you in advance.