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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No votes yet

Submitted by A.Ramakrishna on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 16:54

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No instances have so far been found in which a participle clauses are used as extraposed object. Hope there will be useful discussion on this topic.

Submitted by rahul5843 on Wed, 15/06/2022 - 05:41

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Hi, Greetings,

My query is whether a present participle modifier can be used to modify another present participle modifier?

For eg. in the following sentence, the modifier gives the result of the action.
--A desecrated B, provoking riots.
Would the following be correct:-

-- A desecrated B, provoking riots, forcing the police to ......

Does the modifier " forcing the police to...." correctly modifies the modifier "provoking riots" as a result of it.

I want to understand whether there's a concept such as consecutive modifiers, a modifier modifying a previous modifier that modifies a previous clause.

Any suggestions will be immensely helpful

Hi rahul5843,

Yes, it's quite possible to build a sequence of consequences like this:

There was an earthquake, causing many building to fall, leading to many people being homeless, resulting in many problems for families with young children.

However, sentences like this are often ambiguous. It's not clear if we are talking about a range of consequences from a single event (x causes a, b, c and d) or a sequence of cascading consequences (x causes a, a causes b, b causes c and c causes d). To avoid this ambiguity we can use lexical markers:

There was an earthquake, causing many building to fall, leading in turn to many people being homeless, and finally resulting in many problems for families with young children.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mahmoudlatif on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 23:56

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Dear Sir,
Is this sentence correct ? Knowing that he wouldn't be able to buy food on his journey, he took large supplies with him .If it is , how can we use knowing and it is a stative verb!

Hello Mahmoudlatif,

The sentence is correct.

In this sentence, knowing is not a continuous form (present continuous, for example) but a participle, which is a non-finite verb form. Stative verbs are generally not used with the continuous aspect but they do have participle forms, so you can find present participles like being, knowing, understanding, liking, loving etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mahmoudlatif on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 23:10

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Dear Sir ,
Could you please give further explanation on using the present participle and the past participle at the beginning of a sentence ?

Hello again Mahmoudlatif,

The page is intended to give this kind of general information so I'm not what we can add to it. However, if you have a more specific question about a particular example or if you have something you would like to say but are not sure about then we'll be happy to respond as best as we can.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Wed, 01/06/2022 - 20:45

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would you please explain what the difference is between (In the backdrop of/Against the backdrop of) with examples.

Hi Gopal Debnath,

I just want to give a reminder to please keep comments and questions related to the content on the page above. We're happy to help, but we hope to keep the discussion comments more focused in this way. Thanks!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team