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)

Hello Meherun,

In this example the relationship is not causal. Here, 'with' introduces an example of the different effects mentioned at the beginning of the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Martian2022 on Sun, 30/07/2023 - 19:25


Hi support team,

Could you please clarify the meaning of the sentence below?

The Babylonians began to measure time, introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities.

What meaning does the participle clause "introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities'' carry in the above sentence?
If I did not use the participle clause, would I rewrite the sentence this way?

The Babylonians began to measure time, and they introduced calendars to coordinate communal activities.

Using the participle clause, could I modify the main clause "The Babylonians began to measure time"? If yes, then how could we modify the main clause?

Thank you in advance for your clarifications on the above sentence.

All the best,

Hi Martian2022,

This participle clause adds more detailed information about the main clause. "Introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities" is the specific way in which they did the measuring of time. I think this rewrite is closest to that meaning: The Babylonians began to measure time by introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities.

Your rewritten sentence with "and" is quite similar, but the word "and" has several different meanings and does not always show that one clause adds more detail about the other. For example, "and" can link two actions together in sequence, i.e. action 1 and then action 2, which does not seem to be the intended meaning here. Using "and" may therefore make the meaning slightly less clear.

You could also write the sentence like this: The Babylonians, introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities, began to measure time.

I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by M.H.Thein on Tue, 04/07/2023 - 08:10


In past participle phrase,which one is correct?
Being shocked by the sad news,she did not know what to do next.
Shocked by the sad news,she did not know what to do next.
These two sentences are confusing me.Please help me with explanations.

Hi M.H.Thein,

They are both grammatically correct, and they mean the same thing!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by hanaelsoudi on Tue, 04/07/2023 - 06:13


I'm a bit confused. Would you please explain the difference between participle clauses and participle phrases?

I have another question if you do not mind.
"Before cooking, you should wash your hands. "
Is "before cooking" a participle clause or a non-finite clause? Are they the same?
Thanks in advance!

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