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: 4.7 (15 votes)
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Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sat, 18/12/2021 - 18:45


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.

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


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.

The LearnEnglish Team

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


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. :)

The LearnEnglish Team

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


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.