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 AndreaBuzz on Tue, 29/11/2022 - 05:56

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Dear Professor,
I would like to know if the two following clauses are both correctly or not.
1. On drivinig thorough home, we was singing the Beatle's songs;
2. While drivinig thorough home, we was singing the Beatle's songs;
If they are both correct, exist a difference in the meaning or it is the same?

Hello AndreaBuzz,

I'm afraid neither of those sentences is correct. Do you mean to say 'While driving home, we were singing Beatles songs'?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hagelslag on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 12:54

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Dear LearnEnglish Team,

I would be very grateful for your help looking up a certain grammar term.

I'm trying to explain to my brother how to use the participle-using structures with 'with', like:

With John being at the university, there were fewer people to feed.
With his homework done, Jack could finally go for a walk.

I'm using these intuitively at this point, but what I cannot do is find how these structures are actually called. Consequently, I can't find any relevant grammar articles, webpages etc., because no matter how I google it, it just doesn't pop up.

Could you please help me clarify how these sentence structures using 'with' are called and where I can read up on them?

Many thanks in advance!!

Hello Hagelslag,

As far as I know, there's no special name for this sort of construction; it's just using 'with' to talk about accompanying circumstances or reasons. I'd suggest having a look at the Longman dictionary entry for 'with', especially definitions 12, 14 and 19, where you can see even more specific uses and example sentences.

In terms of the grammar, since 'with' is a preposition, it is followed by a noun phrase (e.g. 'his homework done') and if there is a verb form, it generally goes in the '-ing' form (e.g. 'John being at university').

I'm sorry not to be able to provide you with a more detailed answer!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wywyandkk on Tue, 11/10/2022 - 08:45

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Hi, please advise on the use of the verb "facilitate". Are the following sentences all correct:

1) The platform facilitates easy access to service information by elderly users.
2) The platform facilitates elderly users to access service information easily.

Thank you.

Hello wywyandkk,

The verb 'facilitate' includes the idea of making it easier for something to happen, so it's a bit redundant to say 'facilitate easy access' or 'facilitates something easily'. That said, I expect you could find sentences similar to both of these in many writings, so I wouldn't say they are incorrect.

I might suggest something like 'The platform facilitates elderly users' access to service information'.

The Longman dictionary's entries are particularly useful because most of them show multiple example sentences.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by trankhanhsvn on Wed, 05/10/2022 - 11:00

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I wonder if we can even use the past participle form of verbs such as "walk", "see", "meet", etc.?

For example, let's suppose we have a sentense like this:

> He walked into the conference room and then he saw a very beatiful lady sitting near the window.

Then does the sentence bellow have the same meaning with it?

> Walked into the conference room, he saw a very beatiful lady sitting near the window.

Hi trankhanhsvn,

I can see what you mean but sorry, that sentence isn't grammatical. The past participle normally has a passive meaning, so the grammatical subject should receive or be affected by the action shown by the verb. For example, in "Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage", the meaning is similar to "He was filled with pride (by something)". But in the conference room example, it doesn't make sense to say "He was walked into the conference room". 

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wywyandkk on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 06:07

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Dear Teacher, I would be grateful if you could tell me if the following is correct in appraisal wrirting:

1) Having had stayed in her post for XX years, she was conversant with...
2) Having stayed in her post for XX years, she was conversant with...

Thank you!

Hello wywyandkk,

The second one is correct, but the first one is not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team