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 (42 votes)

Submitted by ali shah on Tue, 12/10/2021 - 11:08


Dear Sir. Hope you're doing well.
Please address the following query:
1.Widely seen as ‘father of the project’, Dr John experienced the ups and downs that come with being called a hero and a villain and then a hero in one lifetime.
Is the above sentence grammatically correct? Don't you think 'being' should have added before 'widely'? What does we call the first clause?

Hi ali shah,
Yes, it is grammatically correct! The 'widely seen' part is called a past participle clause. As the page above notes, past participle clauses normally have a passive meaning. So, that's why there's no 'being' here - this particular structure already contains this meaning. Have a look at the 'Past participle clauses' section on the page above for some more examples of this structure. I hope it helps :)
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Adam on Tue, 12/10/2021 - 03:06


Hello LearnEnglish Team

Why do consider participle clauses to be Upper Intermediate B2 level grammar?

I have participle clauses included in Advanced C1 English textbooks but never in Upper Intermediate B2 level.



Hello Adam,

Level designations are always subjective. We consider participle clauses to be accessible for learners at this level. Of course, structures can be taught at different degrees of complexity: at lower levels the explanations may be simpler and avoid some of the more complex aspects; these can be introduced later when the topic is approached again.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hyeyoung Min on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 14:57


Hello, LearnEnglish Team.
I want to know about the use of conjunction in participial construction.

Here is a sentence.
"Feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes."
In this participial construction, what the speaker intends to express is not clear. It can be variously interpreted in many ways.
Why? The speaker might want to say with Although, When, While, or Because.
I have been taught that I can put conjunction if I want to make it clearer.
Like below,
- Although feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.
- While feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.
- Because feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.

Are these three all right?

Of course, I know there is also a different grammatical form with the third one.
- Because of feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes.
( 'because of' works as a preposition, and 'feeling nervous' is a noun phrase.)

- Because feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes.
('because' works as a conjunction, and 'feeling nervous' is participial construction.)

In English grammar, especially in the field of participial construction,
Is 'because feeling nervous' wrong?
Or Can I use it?

Thanks in advance.

Hello Hyeyoung Min,

As you say, participle clauses/phrases can be ambiguous, though I think when placed in context rather than presented as isolated sentences the intended meaning is usually clear.

It is possible to use conjunctions like this. However, 'because' is not possible. After 'because' you need to use a subject-verb rather than just a participle:
~ Because she was feeling nervous...

'Because of' is also not possible. We follow 'because of' with a noun and not an -ing form:
~ Because of her nerves, ...

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Mon, 04/10/2021 - 10:44


Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I have just read a sentence like this below,

I spent a whole day listening to the man who was a mechanic telling me a story about when he was young.

Are "listening and telling" in the sentence above participle ?

And can I interpret the sentence above as,

I spent a whole day, which listened to the man who was a mechanic who told me a story about when he was young.

Is that correct or wrong ?

Hello Parikenan,

It sounds to me as if you've understood the sentence correctly, and yes, I'd call both of those participles. In the first case, the verb 'spend' is often followed by a period of time (here 'a whole day') plus a participle that describes what the subject was doing during that time.

In the second case, verbs of perception (such as 'see', 'watch', and 'listen') can be followed by a participle or a bare infinitive that describes what is perceived. When the second verb is a participle, it puts more emphasis on the duration or a specific moment in time -- it's impossible to say without knowing the context or the speaker's intention.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

In my comprehension about the sentence,
I interpret "listening" as a modifier that modifies a clause "I spent a whole day". In this case, I am using "which" after a comma to make sure that "listening" is modifying a clause.

And I interpret "telling" as a modifier that modifies a mechanic.

I just found out that one of the functions of a participle is for emphasizing the duration or a specific moment in time of something that is done by an object when the participle is put in the second verb as you mentioned above - in this case, how a mechanic tells a story about him when he was young. ( I hope I am not misinterpreting your explanation related to the function of a participle as a second verb )

Thank you very much, Kirk.

Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 23/07/2021 - 12:30

Hi fantastic team I am writing to find out more about following sentence. "He has signed a new four-year contract with MANU, keeping him at the club until 2025." I think participle clause 'keeping him at the club until 2025' is reduced from '... contract with MANU, which keeps him at the club until 2025.' It is a reduced adjective clause, describing a new four-year contract. Would it be possible for you to check if my interferences are true? I look forward to hearing from you.