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

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Submitted by HieuNT on Thu, 24/02/2022 - 11:30

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Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I came across this article:

"We all wanted to see him tear it up at FC Barcelona but his health comes first.

His 426th and last ever goal came in his first El Classico, classic Kun always stepping up in the biggest game."

I have two questions for you:

1/ Why did they say "We all wanted"? I suppose even now the fan still want Aguero to shine at Barclenona. Shouldn't they have used "want" instead of "wanted"? My explanation could be because Aguero can no longer play football, so everything has to stay in the past, an so does the verb "want", right?

2/ Why did they use the participle clauses "classic Kun always stepping up in the biggest games" here? Is it "to add information about the subject of the main clause"?

Look forward to your answers.

Hi HieuNT,

About 1, if you say "We all want to see him ...", that would mean that it is still possible for that to happen. But since it's not possible any more (because, as you may know, Kun Agüero has officially retired from football), "wanted" is the correct tense.

About 2, yes - you're along the right lines. The sentence is saying that scoring that goal on that important occasion was him "stepping up in the biggest game".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mainsdorff on Mon, 14/02/2022 - 11:10

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Hi!

Thanks for this useful post! Can you help figure out if the following sentence is correct?

"Doing groceries for home, it’s easy to lose your mind and buy too much."

To me it seems wrong. Shouldn't the main clause start with "you", not the anonymous "it" — "Doing groceries for home, you can lose …"

If my suspicion is correct, could explain the grammar behind it?

Hi mainsdorff,

It's true that the implied subject of a participle clause (e.g. Doing groceries from home) is usually the same as the subject of the main clause. However, this is not always the case.

I think the important thing to note is that the participle clause has an implied subject, rather than an explicit one. That means that the reader/listener must make some inference about it. In this example, although the grammatical subject of the main clause is it, as you pointed out, this is only a dummy subject and refers to lose your mind. So, it's clear enough that the intended meaning for readers/listeners is that 'you' is the subject of 'doing groceries'. This is not considered an error as long as the intended meaning is clear.

Your version of the sentence is also fine and means the same thing.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 07:47

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Sir, I have come across a new sentence in one of India's leading dailies.

1.Mr.Reddy shoot to fame defeating Mr. Narshima rao,former Prime minster of India.
Here, (Defeating Mr. Narshima rao) gives the answer of How Mr. Reddy shoot to fame.
But, It is adverb of means or methode instead of adverb of manner.
So can I put preposition"BY" before "Defeating".

2. Criticizing the government about snooping on the private life through pegasus, Opposition leader raised questions on the intention of the Government.

Here, (Criticizing....) gives the answer of How opposition leader raised questions.And, it is the adverb of manner instead of adverb of means or methode
3. Sitting on a bench in the park, Two elderly persons discussed
about the current situation.
Here, (Sitting on a bench in the park) gives the answer of what is state of them instead of how they discussed.
So, (-ing form ) is simply acting as an adjective by modifying the subject(Two elderly persons)
Can I also re-write this vey one in this way [just by placing "While" before "SITTING"]--
While Sitting on a bench in the park, Two elderly persons..........
Here (While.....) phrase is acting as adverb of time.
SO, Can I draw a conclusion that Participle phrase can act as an ADJECTIVE AND ADVERB as well.
Please reply to me whether the above explanations are valid, especially the THIRD ONE.

Waiting eagerly for your reply Mr. peter M or Mr.Jhonathan.🙏

Hi Gopal Debnath,

1. Yes, you can add 'by' if 'defeating Mr. Narshima rao' is the means of shooting to fame. But could 'defeating Mr. Narshima rao' be the result of shooting to fame, rather than the means? To me, reading the sentence alone, it could also mean that, and it is unclear which meaning is intended.

2. It could be the manner or the means (in which case, I would prefer to add 'by'). Both make sense to me.

3. Yes, you can add 'while'. These are two independent, simultaneous actions. But "Sitting on a bench in the park" is an adverbial that modifies the whole other clause. It doesn't just modify "Two elderly persons". It's not an adjective because the meaning is not that the elderly persons are "sitting-on-a-bench-in-the-park elderly persons". Sitting on the bench is just an action simultaneous to their discussion. 

If it functioned as an adjective, it would be "Two elderly persons sitting on a bench in the park discussed the current situation." When it functions as an adjective, the participle clause usually directly follows the noun.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, In 3rd example Can I call the participle phrase a sentence adverb??
because It is modifying the whole clause rather than the subject( Two elderly persons) or the verb( discussing..).
While waiting for your valuable reply to my questions, I have come across a few new sentences from an online source; They are---
1. A little boy went out of the room, crying.
Here, (Crying) is neither modifying the subject(A little boy) nor the verb( went).But, it is modifying the complete clause and It( crying) is an Independent action occurring at the same time frame.
2. A drunk person went staggering.
It is given the (Staggering) is an adverb of manner because It is answering to the question of how that drunk person went.
But, To me ,It seems as adverb of means because One action ( went) depends on the other action(staggering) to be accomplished Or I can see this in this way that (That drunk person went) as result of (Staggering) ????
Do my explanations hold water??
Kindly reply,sir!!!