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)

Submitted by himakochan on Wed, 29/03/2023 - 14:30


Hi LearnEnglish team, I have a question:
The police accused him of ________ fire to the building but he denied ________ in the area on the night of the fire.
(A) setting / being
(B) setting / having been
(C) set / be
(D) having set / having been

What is the difference between "being" and "having been". Thanks for helping me! Have a good day <3

Hello himakochan,

'being' is time-'neutral' here, in other words, it can refer to any time period. 'having been' would suggests that the action occurred just before another action or that they are somehow connected.

In this case, since the phrase 'on the night of the fire' already clearly indicates the time and so 'being' is the correct choice. 'having been' is unnatural with such a specific time adverbial already describing the situation.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by himakochan on Wed, 29/03/2023 - 06:54


Hi team! Can I use both " Having found" and " After having found" for this sentence: ... a hotel, we went to the beach.
Thanks for your help ❤️

Submitted by Amir__760__ on Wed, 15/03/2023 - 09:02


Hello support
Is the the sentence below correct? And is it a participle?
when I thought about translating, I didn't know you should pay attention to texts being old or new.

Hi Amir__760__,

Yes, it is correct!

"Translating" is actually a gerund here (not a participle). It functions as a noun.

"Being" is a participle. It functions as an adjective, describing "texts".

If I may suggest, I might use the wording "... pay attention to whether texts are old or new" or "... pay attention to the age of the texts".

Thanks for your question. I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by TracyHoang on Mon, 06/03/2023 - 03:40


Hi there,
Could you please tell me which of the two sentences is correct:
1. Closing all the windows and doors carefully, my mother went to bed.
2. Having closed all the windows and doors carefully, my mother went to bed.
Thanks so much.

Hello TracyHoang,

Sentence 2 is better. A perfect participle clause is often used in formal situations to speak about actions performed before the action in the main clause; the actions of closing the windows and doors in sentence 2 is a reasonable thing to do before going to bed.

It's possible to use a present participle clause (as in 1) to show an action happening at about the same time as the action in the main clause, but in this case it seems a little odd. I'm not sure I'd say it's wrong, though -- just awkward.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Amir__760__ on Wed, 08/02/2023 - 15:04


I hope you are doing well.
Are these two following sentences wrong? I have a grammar book in which it is written they are wrong. And I don't know why!

Driving to work, he had breakfast.

Having walked along the street, I saw my old friend

Hi Amir_760_,

The first example (Driving to work...) means that he had breakfast while he was driving the car, which is unlikely. However, the sentence is not necessarily wrong. He could have had a sandwich in the car, for example. Assuming he had breakfast at home before he got in the car then we would probably say 'Having had breakfast, he drove to work'.

The second example (Having walked...) suggests that the actions were sequential (first the person walked along the street and then after walking - when the walking was finished - the person saw their old friend. It also suggests that the act of walking was key to seeing the friend, which is a little odd. I think the answer the book is looking for is probably 'Walking along the street, I saw my old friend', which would mean that the person saw their old friend while walking along the street.



The LearnEnglish Team