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)
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Hello hanaelsoudi,

A participle is a non-finite verb form, but not all -ing forms in English function as participles. Often, an -ing form functions as a noun phrase, traditionally called a gerund. In your example, 'before cooking' is a prepositional phrase. 'Before' is a preposition and can be followed by a noun (before today) or an -ing form (before doing that).


For other examples such as those on this page, the correct term is debated. Some prefer 'participle clause' and others 'participle phrase'. I prefer the former but it is a debatable point. Here are some links to discussions on the subject:



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Martian2022 on Wed, 21/06/2023 - 16:55


Hi, support team.

I need a bit clarification on the sentence below:

Standing near the window, Marie could see the entire village.

Does the participle clause 'Standing near the window' act as an adjective clause, modifying the subject of the main clause 'Marie'? or does it work as an adverbial clause modifying the verb 'could see the entire village'?

I would like to have your opinion with clarifications. Thanks in advance.

Hello Martian2022,

I'd say the participle clause you ask about -- and most similar ones -- is an adverbial. It describes the manner in which Marie is standing, and this manner of standing allows her to see the entire village.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sep80 on Mon, 12/06/2023 - 20:45


Hello LearnEnglish team,

Is it correct to use 'him' after 'told' in the following sentence? I would appreciate an explanation of why it is correct or incorrect.

Not having been told him how to deal with his career challenges, he could not proceed well through the year.

Hello Sep80,

It is not correct to use 'him' here. The reason is that 'Having been told' is a passive form, so there is no object after it. It is a participle here so the actor is identified only in the second clause ('he could not proceed...'), but it is still grammatically incorrect to add an object. It would be similar to saying 'He was told him...'



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hanieh1315 on Wed, 10/05/2023 - 05:29


Hi, could you please answer this question 🌱
The old woman walked slowly to the elevator, assisted by porter
is this sentence a reduced relative clause ?
i mean : , which she was assisted by porter
my second question: can we reduce this kind of non-defining relative pronouns?

Hello hanieh1315,

No, that's not a reduced relative clause. Adding 'which she was assisted by the porter' is not grammatically correct.

Since the clause refers to the old woman rather than the elevator, it would best go at the beginning of the sentence:

Assisted by the porter, the old woman walked slowly to the elevator.

In this position, it's also easier to see that it's a past participle clause, as described in the explanation above. It gives information about the subject of the main clause.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Sorry, i made a mistake.
i wanted to say this sentence
The old woman walked slowly to the elevator, which was assisted by the porter
Now, is this correct?( reduced non-defining relative clause)