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 (75 votes)

Hello Dewa,

Many grammars teach that the verb forms following prepositions are always gerunds, though other grammarians prefer to say '-ing form' instead of 'participle' and 'gerund' (since both gerunds and present participles have the same form).

So from one point of view the clauses starting with a preposition have a gerund in them. 

In any case, I'd like to point out that in these sentences the clauses with '-ing' are a sort of alternative version of longer clauses. The first, for example, could be written as 'A sharp decrease followed: sales fell to around 15,000 in 1990' and the second as 'The divorce rate peaked in 1980, at nearly 1.5m divorces and then fell back to 1m at the end of the period'.

In both cases, the verbs 'fell' and 'fell back' have a subject ('sales' and 'the divorce rate', respectively). Even though the participles are understood to refer to these same subjects, we don't usually speak of participles as having subjects.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HieuNT on Fri, 10/12/2021 - 09:18


Hi, I have this sentence:

"He seems to have cut himself shaving this morning."

Is it true that "shaving" here an example of present participles used to reduce an adverb clause? I mean, "shaving this morning" = "while he was shaving this morning" in this case.

Or are there any different explanations?

Hello HieuNT,

Yes, 'shaving this morning' is, as you say, a reduced form of the adverbial clause 'while he was shaving this morning'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by 0933810273 on Sat, 27/11/2021 - 07:27


Hi Everyone!
Today, I've just finished "the participle clauses". So, I have some questions about this structure.
1)Past participle clauses
-Been by accident, he was taken to the hospital. Is this sentence right?
-How to use the way of "If condition" for this structure.
2)Perfect participle clauses
-Having finished your homework, you could go to bed. Is this sentence right?
-Finally, I want to question the sentence of the main clause after using the perfect participle clause.

I'm grateful for all your answers. Thank you so much!

Tran Tan Duc, Vietnam

Hello 0933810273,

1) No, that sentence is not correct. We don't use 'been' in this way. You could, however, use a different verb:

> Injured in the accident, he was taken...

2) I'm trying to think of a context in which you would use this sentence. The problem is the modal 'could', which here suggests general possibility. If it were about a specific situation, such as a parent speaking to a child, then 'can' would be used.

I'm not sure what you mean by the last question (starting 'Finally...').

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 03:50


Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

When is the right time ( situation ) to use "I would have thought" ?

Could you please give me some examples with sentences ?

Thank you very much,

Hello Parikenan,

We use 'I would have thought' after expressing an opinion about the present or the future, especially with 'will'. It's similar to 'I expect' in meaning.

She'll be in the office, I would have thought.
We'll need a lot of money, I'd have thought.

The LearnEnglish Team