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 (81 votes)

Hello again Hieu Nguyen,

I don't think the author is wrong as they hedge their comment with 'usually', making it a description of what is common or typical rather than a fixed rule. I think what they say is correct. For example, while both of these sentences are grammatically possible, the second is preferable in terms of style and convention:

1) Lynn, studying chemistry, wants to become a doctor.
2) Lynn, a chemistry student, wants to become a doctor.

I think the -ing clause is more common when we are describing an action in progress. In other words sentence 1 seems clumsy to me while sentence 2 is perfectly fine:

1) Lynn, studying chemistry, wants to become a doctor.
2) To Robin, sunbathing on the beach, all his problems seemed far away.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Sun, 16/01/2022 - 07:36


1.While Taking a cup of coffee, My Grand father told us a story about his visit to Mussoorie.
sir, Can I drop "While"??
and rewrite this sentence above in this way--- [ Taking a cup of coffee, My grand father told us a story about his visit to Mussoorie OR My grand father, taking a cup of coffee, told us a story about his visit to Mussoorie.]
2. My dog snores while sleeping.
Can I drop "While" in this sentence too??
and, Rewrite it in this way ----[My dog snores sleeping OR Sleeping, My dog snores].
Please do reply!!🙏🙏

Hello Gopal,

Yes, you could drop 'while' and yes, you could rewrite the sentence as you suggest. I would use a different style, but these are all fine grammatically.

In the second sentence, I wouldn't rewrite the sentence in either of the ways you suggest.

As I think Peter and Jonathan have suggested, I'd recommend you analyse participle clauses that you find in your reading or listening as a way to learn how they are used.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Gopal,

How exactly I'd write them would depend on the context, but for the first one I might say: My grandfather had a cup of coffee and told us about his visit to Mussoorie.

Your first version of the second sentence ('My dog snores while sleeping') is fine, or I might just say 'My dog snores', since snoring implies one is sleeping.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Tue, 04/01/2022 - 13:28


Sir(Jonathan), I would like to draw to your kind attention to have a look at the contexts and get your suggestion if I have made any mistake in transforming the sentence into simple sentence. 1.In Afghanistan, Many people were uprooted and they have taken shelter in many countries such as-India, France, U.S.A etc. can I transform it into simple sentence ---- since,[ (Many people were uprooted) shows the cause, but It is a impersonal cause and It was not a motivation for them to leave their mother-land.And, the rest is its effect(result) Now, I wonder which preposition I shall choose between IN and BY, or both are suitable in this context.] (In/By) being uprooted from Afghanistan, Many people have taken shelter in many countries such as- India,France,U.S.A,etc. 2. the father of my dearest friend got infected with Covid-19 and, as a result, he died prematurely. can I write it in simple sentence-- [(the father of my dearest friend got infected with Covid-19) shows cause, but it is an impersonal cause. And the rest is the result] (In/By) getting infected with Covid-19, the father of my dearest friend died prematurely. Are my explanations correct?? Please do reply sir!!!

Hi Gopal Debnath,

Actually I would use "After" instead of "by" or "in" in these two sentences.

"By" shows the method of doing something. But it often implies a deliberate choice (e.g. "By studying hard, she improved her knowledge"), which does not fit in your sentences.

"In" shows that the one action is an integral part of another (see the examples in point 8 on this page: That means the actions normally happen together: when one happens, the other also happens at the same time. "In" might work in your first sentence if we understand "uprooted" and "taken shelter" as happening at the same time, but I would normally think some time passes between these actions, so I would use "after" as my first choice. "In" doesn't work in the second example because some time must pass between one action and the other.

I hope that helps.

The LearnEnglish Team

But, sir, The statement written by you does not show any 'reason' except 'time'. I would like to draw one example discussed by Peter M. Here it is--
By destroying the world's forests, human-being has hastened the effect of global warming.(Mr. Peter M told me to add preposition BY)
If I change this simple sentence into complex and compound sentence, It would look like ----
1. Human-being are destroying the world's forests ,and, as a result, the effect of global warming has been hastened.(Compound)
2. Human-being has hastened the effect of global warming because they are destroying the world's forests.(which is clearly not personal cause and motivation for them; one action causes the other action)
[By destroying the world's forests, human-being has hastened the effect of global warming]
In this sentence [(By destroying the world's forests) does not show any deliberate choice.
so, One request to you that please explain it clearly.
I would be obliged to you if You(Jonathan) and Peter M discuss this explicitly.
Will be wating for your reply!!!
Please do reply!!🙏🙏

Hi Gopal Debnath,

‘By’ shows a method or means by which something is done. Yes, it’s true that it’s not always a deliberate choice. But my point was that that is a typical context for using ‘by’. Returning to your examples, ‘being uprooted’ is the cause of ‘taking shelter’ but is it the method or means? A method/means leads more directly to the result. A more typical means would be, e.g. ‘By crossing borders, many people have taken shelter in other countries’. That is why I suggested using ‘after’ in your sentence instead.

You say that ‘after’ does not show any reason, only time. But in real life, we infer that cause/effect relationship, because the actions make sense that way. It would be unlikely for someone to interpret them as unconnected. This may not be apparent if your focus is on transforming the sentence from one structure to another in a kind of mathematical way, as you are trying to do. But language is not a mathematical system, and even some apparently equivalent sentences such as “The virus infected him” and “He was infected by the virus” differ in nuance, emphasis and context of usage. The point is that meaning comes not just from individual words but also from the sentence/text overall, and the context in which it is said or written. Without considering these other levels of meaning, the sentences you make may be grammatically possible but sound unusual, as we have pointed out before.

This is a good example of why finding a private teacher would be better for these questions. Your questions raise multiple issues needing corrections and explanations, which is difficult to do in the comments here. That makes us worry that our answers may be confusing you rather than helping. Also, by replying further, we don’t want to take you further down the road of a narrow focus on grammar, which we have already recommended against.
So I’m sorry to say that we think it is better not to continue these discussions here any more, but instead suggest that you find a teacher who can interact more closely with you than we can. Or, perhaps you may like to try a discussion forum – have you heard of Stack Exchange?

We wish you the best in your studies.

The LearnEnglish Team