Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

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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Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 20:41

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SIR, (Mr.Peter M) I would like draw your humble attention to these three doubts. I hope you help me understand this by answering to my questions.
1.Walking down the stairs, A gentleman was speaking on phone.
In this context (Walking down the stairs) gives the answer of 'When'. So, It is an 'ADVERB' phrase.
2.COMING, A BULLET PIERCED A SOLDIER IN THE BATTLE FIELD.
(COMING) GIVES THE ANSWER OF ADVERB(OF MANNER), "HOW".
SO, IT IS AN ADVERBIAL PHRASE.
3.[COMING LATE, HE COULDN'T CATCH THE TRAIN]
Here, {He was not motivated by the fact,(Coming late); so It is an Impersonal cause}
It would be better to say(saying)this------
In coming late, He couldn't catch the train.
ARE MY EXPLANATIONS CORRECT??
PLEASE DO REPLY!!

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

I think you're going about this the wrong way. You're trying to reduce the language system to very fixed rules and then create sentences to test those rules but the examples you're creating are not examples of natural language even if they are grammatically correct. For example, none of the sentences here are accurate for various reasons.

My suggestion to you is this: instead of trying to create examples to fit rules you have identified (which may themselves not be accurate), work from the meaning. Start from a context so you know what you want to say and then think about how to express it. It may well be that a particular grammatical construction is not suitable because of some potential ambiguity or because of some feature of the vocabulary used.

I think working from meaning to expression is a much better approach than going from rule to example. After all, we don't communicate by thinking of rules; we communicate by having a need to say something which makes sense and using the language as a tool to do this.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

I agree with you, sir. However, As this much space is not enough to express my words, I have written short sentences( which are taken from contexts). I will definitely join a one-In-one class on British Council with you.
I hope you to help me in this way in future.
Well, Happy new year!!

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Mon, 27/12/2021 - 10:56

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My question is to Mr. Peter M

1. Seeing my school friend in the coffee house, I approached to him to have a talk.
( Here I was motivated by the fact; I approached to him to have a talk because I saw my school friend in the coffee house(It is the personal motivation and personal cause as well)
2. Noticing a man caught in burning house, his neighbours rushed to his house to help him( Again, His neighbours rushed to his house to help him because He was caught in a burning house; It is the personal motivation and personal cause)
Are my explanations in both examples correct??
Please do reply!!!

Hi Gopal Debnath,

I'm just replying for Peter. We work as a team here :)

Yes, your explanations are right! Nice work.

It's great to see that you're deepening your understanding of grammar. But if I may suggest, some of your questions would be more easily answered by a teacher in a lesson than here in the comments section. Some of your questions need longer and more detailed explanations than we can provide in our limited space and interactions here. We do welcome all questions and try to answer as many as we can, but a teacher (in a private lesson perhaps) might be able to give more individual attention and interaction than we can, if you're looking for in-depth responses.

Best wishes :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Mon, 27/12/2021 - 09:26

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He was invited, so he attended the party.
Can I transform them into simple sentence by using participle?
(He was invited)=REASON
(He attended the party)= RESULT
(Invitation) not his motivation rather than CAUSE.
So, can write this way---
BY USING ABSOLUTE PHRASE:------ (He having been invited, he attended the party)
BY USING PREPOSITION
---( In/By having been invited, he attended the party)
PLEASE DO REPLY!!!

He was motivated by the fact that hes was invited.So, it would be better to use present participle, following grammar rule rather than using gerund. Therefore, the simple form would be--- (being) invited, he attended the party.

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Thu, 23/12/2021 - 08:14

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Hello sir, Being angry, John hit his friend onto head with a glass bottle.
Here, John's intention was not to become angry nor was motivated by anger. So, It is clear that It is an impersonal cause.
So, correct form is (In being angry, John hit his friend onto head with a glass bottle)
Is my explanation correct??
Kindly Reply!!

Hello Gopal,

It's not completely clear to me what this sentence means. My best guess, based on looking at it with no other contextual clues, is that it means that John hit his friend because John was angry.

That's a personal cause in my book. It might be that John's anger was caused by something else, but that's not what this sentence seems to be about. It describes how John hit his friend and gives some idea as to why.

I understand that you're trying to learn to use these clauses, but please note that this sentence is quite unnatural. Except for this '-ing' clause at the beginning, it's quite informal, but such '-ing' clauses aren't really used in informal speaking. A far more natural sentence would be something like 'John was angry and his friend on the head with a glass bottle' or 'John was angry and so he hit his friend ...'

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Can I write this in this way, by using ABSOLUTE PHRASE:-----He being angry, he hit his friend on head with a bottle glass.

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

I don't think that's a natural construction. We'd simply use a participle phrase and not repeat the pronoun:
> Being angry, he hit his friend...
> He, being angry, his his friend...

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Thu, 23/12/2021 - 08:00

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coming with a great speed, A ball hit me.
In this context, (coming with great speed) this is acting as an adjective phrase because it is adding information to 'the ball' and these two actions happened less immediately not at the moment. is this explanation correct??

Hello Gopal,

I'm afraid I'd rather not explain this sentence because it's really not very natural. I'd suggest something like 'A ball [that was] coming at a great speed hit me', though even that sounds rather strange to me -- it's a strange mix of informal and formal. But in this latter case, as you can see from the brackets, 'coming at a great speed' is a reduced relative clause and is indeed adjectival in function.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I would say that we can write in this way---A ball came at great speed and it hit me.Two actions happened very immidiately. can't I transform into simple sentence by using present participle??

Hi Gopal Debnath,

Grammatically, that would be fine, but I think it's important to remember that grammar is not the only aspect of language.

Your first message used the phrase "with a great speed", which is grammatically OK but less commonly used (i.e., less natural-sounding) than "at great speed", which you used in your last message.

Also, in my view, it would be better to put the subject first: "A ball hit me, coming at great speed". This way, it's clear to readers straight away what thing was "coming at great speed".

And another thing to consider is that the verb "coming" might be redundant. We could just say "A ball hit me at great speed", with the same meaning. Often, speakers prefer more economical and simpler phrasings.

So, overall, it's good to practise grammar but try to remember that not all grammatically correct sentences are actually or equally used in real life. You should also consider how natural the sentence sounds, as Kirk has suggested, including whether alternative ways of saying the same thing are better.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sokhom on Wed, 22/12/2021 - 04:46

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Hello, Sir!

1. She walked out the door, her head turning for a last look at home. (her head turning for a last look at home is "Absolute Phrase".)
2. She walked out the door, turning her head for a last look at home. (turning her head for a last look at home is "Participle Phrase".)
I was wondering if the two sentences are the same in meaning and if the actions in both sentences happened simultaneously. Could you please explain how "the absolute phrase(1)" and "the participle phrase(2)" modify the sentences?
Thank you for your valuable time.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom,

In these particular examples there is little difference in meaning. Both sentences describe simultaneous events. However, the first sentence's construction could be used to describe the actions of a different person to the subject of the main clause:

> She walked out of the door, our heads turning to follow her.
> She walked out of the door, the wind lifting her hair.

The second sentence's construction can only be used to describe actions performed by the same actor.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sun, 19/12/2021 - 08:07

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I went to my grandfather's house on vacation, staying there to revive my chilhood memories.
is this correct to use participle(as to show purpose; because both actions took place in the same time more or less immidiately) in this context grammartically.
Or, Can I write it in this way- I went to my grandfather's house to stay there and to revive my chilhood memories.
Please reply🙏🙏!!

Hello Gopal,

I think the second version of the sentence with an infinitive of purpose ('I went to stay at my grandfather's house to revive my childhood memories') is better since it seems that the purpose of going to his house was to do this.

We'll get to answering your other comments as soon as we can.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, as Mr. peter k said earlier in one of my posted questions that participle clauses can describe motivation or purpose(reason) but not impersonal cause( what makes an action occur). So according to this can I use participle in this context.
at last, Would you please explain the impersonal cause to me.

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

Both forms are grammatically correct. Which is better is a question of style, so that's really a subjective choice.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, reveling the secret, Johnson spoiled the enjoyment of surprise.
1.[can I interpret this context in this way- Johnson's motivation was to revel the secret] - if I interpret this in this way, can I use PRESENT PARTICIPLE.
2. (2nd scenario is that Johnson did not have such intention to revel secret , but he did it by mistake)- if I interpret this way, should I use PREPOSITION (BY or THROUGH)

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

It's hard to be sure when looking at sentences which are removed from any context, but I don't think the first interpretation works. Revealing the secret is not the motivation here, but the action, and the rest of the sentence describes the effect of this action.

The most likely prepositions here are 'by' and 'in', I think, but 'through' is also possible. It's not necessarily true that the revealing was accidental, however. It may be also that Johnson did not mean to spoil anything / did not realise that this would be the result.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sun, 19/12/2021 - 07:28

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Our dog lay under the bed, gnawing on a bone.
In this context does "gnawing on a bone" give only information?
can we write this in this way- Our dog lay under the bed while it was gnawing on a bone
Therefore, we can say that we reduced the adverbial clause and after reduction it became 'adjective phrase' only qualifying the subject 'the dog'.
Kindly reply🙏🙏!!

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sun, 19/12/2021 - 07:14

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starting in the new year, the new law bans car parking near the parliament.
can I write this in this way- The new has been introduced and enforced in the new year and from then, car parking near the parliament is prohibited.
So, my question is that time in the main clause puts any effect on the participle( starting in the new year,.........).And give more examples regarding it.

Hi Gopal Debnath,

Yes, that's right. We need to interpret the time of the -ing clause by using information in the main clause.

For example, this sentence has the same "Starting ..." clause, but a different tense in the main clause:
-- Starting in the new year, the new law BANNED cars parking near the parliament.

In this sentence, we should understand the "Starting ..." clause as having occurred in the past (rather than the future, as in your original example).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sat, 18/12/2021 - 18:54

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Destroying forest, people are increasing the effect of global warming. is this grammartically correct?
if it is so, we can use present participle as adverb of manner.
Please reply🙏🙏🙏!!!

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

The sentence is not correct. Participle clauses can describe motivation or purpose (reason) but not impersonal cause (what makes an action occur).

Take a look at the example above:
"Knowing she loved reading, Richard bought her a book."
Richard's action was motivated by his knowledge; he bought the book because he knew she loved reading.

Now think about your example:
"Destroying the world's forests, people are increasing the effect of global warming."
[You need the plural form 'forests' here]
People are not increasing the effect of global warming because they are destroying the world's forests; it is not a motivation for them.

I don't think a participle clause is appropriate here. Instead, I would use 'By destroying...' or 'Through destroying...'

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Revealing the secret, She ruined all enjoyment of surprise.
Is it correct grammartically ?
Here participle clause is showing cause; please explain elaborately if it is not correct.

Sir, I have learnt a new concept from you. so, I thank you from bottom of my heart.
Now, Let me come to my next doubt and I hope you shall help me clear it.
Doubt- 1.[Jacob goes to school by cycling]
( by cycling)= acting as an adverb
can I write it in this way- 2.[Jacob goes to office cycling]
Is 2nd one correct grammartically??
Kindly reply🙏🙏!!

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

No, I don't think we would use this construction. The -ing form in constructions like this suggests simultaneous actions:

> Jacob walked to the office singing a song.
> Paul wrote an email listening to the radio.

Your sentence would separate the two actions, making them distinct actions which happened at the same time rather than being linked through one being the method by which the other is accomplished.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

So, you mean to say as I have connected both actions that happened at the same time, but according to the context one has been accomplished by the other(One action is directly dependent on the other), I have to use PREPOSITION and in this context the PREPOSITION is (BY).
Kindly reply 🙏🙏!!

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

The problem is that the person is going to work and presumably they are doing this by cycling. The sentence 'Jacob goes to office cycling' would suggest that Jacob is going to work (by car or bus or something else) and at the same time is cycling. This is clearly not the intention. In other words, 'cycling' is not a second action which happens at the same time as another, but rather the means by which the first action is done.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sat, 18/12/2021 - 18:45

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Knowing she loved reading books, Rechard brought her a new book. If we re-write this in this manner - (Rechard knew that she loved reading books , so he brought her a new book), it is clear to us that both actions happened in the past time. but, it is not clear that they took place at same time(maybe more or less immidiately). As one action is showing reason, we can change it to present participle. Sir, is my explanation correct?
Kindly reply🙏🙏!!

Hello again Gopal Debnath,

Yes, I think your explanation is correct. Richard's knowledge is not something that exists only at the moment of buying the book but is rather something which is more or less constant, and it shows a reason, as you say.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

coming with a great speed, A ball hit me.
In this context, (coming with great speed) this is acting as an adjective phrase because it is adding information to 'the ball' and these two actions happened less immediately not at the moment. is this explanation correct??

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sat, 18/12/2021 - 18:23

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sir, I haven't understood the 4th number use of present and past participle. Does they add information to the subject of the main clause at the same time when the action in the main clause takes place??
Kindly reply🙏. And give some more example regarding this.

Hello Gopal Debnath,

This use of the participle is adjectival in the sense that it adds information about the subject of the main clause. This could be information which is always/generally true and not only at the time of the main clause action.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rori on Wed, 15/12/2021 - 22:33

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Mentioning in the question use present participle while the question requires using past continuous is this correct?!
He ——-(play) yesterday at 3’oclock.

Hi rori,

It seems a bit unusual, but without knowing the context that this question appears in and the intentions of the question writer, I don't think I can say more than that, I'm afraid. :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LongLongg on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 17:02

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Hello learn English team,
I am very confused about the use that is " to give the reason of activities " of the past participles and present participles. so what is the difference? please explain for me.
Thanks very much.
Long from Viet Nam.

Hi Long,

Past participles here normally have a passive meaning, so the subject is receiving the action, or being affected by it. In the example "Worried by the news, she called the hospital", the past participle "worried" shows that "she" was affected by the action. She didn't do the action of "worrying" all by herself - something else did the action and she was affected by it (here, "the news" - "the news worried her").

Present participles here normally have an active meaning, so the subject is doing the action. In the example "Knowing she loved reading, Richard bought her a book", Richard knows she loved reading.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dewa on Sun, 12/12/2021 - 08:20

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Hello, The LearnEnglish Team,
I got two sentences from the internet:

~A sharp decrease followed, with sales falling to around 15,000 in 1990.
~The divorce rate peaked in 1980, at nearly 1.5 million divorces, before falling back to 1 million at the end of the period.

I am curious about whether the last clauses in each sentence are the participle clause or gerunds? and can I use “fell” instead of “ falling”?

Thanks in advance.

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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?