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 (70 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

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


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.
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.

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.

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


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 :)

The LearnEnglish Team

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


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)
---( In/By having been invited, he attended the party)

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


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,
The LearnEnglish Team