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 English Teacher,

Of your three options, the first one (Wearing a thermal layer...) is correct. However, the sentence in the first grammar task on this page is different:

___ under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures.

a) Wearing

b) Worn

c) Having been worn

Note the comma here. In this sentence, 'worn' is the correct answer as the meaning is passive: When it is worn...



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Prakash

Submitted by Prakash on Sat, 23/09/2023 - 08:41


Regarding the Use of "Be" and "Have" with Perfect Participles

Dear British Council Team,

I am writing to seek clarification on the usage of "be" and "have" with perfect participles in the English language.

•Having + V3
I have encountered instances where "having been" and "having had" are employed as perfect participles.

Could you kindly explain if using "be" and "have" with perfect participles is considered correct and usual in modern English?

I am interested in understanding the grammatical rules and contexts where such constructions are deemed appropriate.

Additionally, if there are any specific examples or resources that you can provide to shed light on this topic, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time and expertise in this matter.

Kesari Prakash, Maharashtra, India.

Hello Prakash,

We'd be happy to try to help you with this. Could you please give us examples of the constructions you're asking about?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

1) having been.

Having been made redundant, she started looking for a new job. (it is on this page)

Having been in the programme, she felt happy.
Having been a student for many years, he finally graduated

2) having had.
having had breakfast, she started working.
having had them work, we went home.
He was well-prepared for the interview, having had extensive practice

Hello Prakash,

First of all, all of those examples are correct. However, though they are ostensibly similar they actually represent a range of structures.

The first example (Having been made...) is a passive form with the same meaning as 'Because they had made her redundant...' This form is often used to express a state resulting from a past event or action. Consider the difference between 'Being unemployed...' (describing the state) and 'Having been made unemployed...' (describing a past action with an ongoing consequence).

The second and third examples are a little different. These do not have passive meanings but are rather alternatives to present perfect forms: Because she had been in...


In your second group of example (with having had...), you also have several different constructions

In the first example, 'having had...' is an alternative to a past perfect form: Once she had eaten breakfast... (Here, 'had' is an alternative to 'eat' rather than an auxiliary verb). 

In your second example, 'having had...' also replaces a past perfect form (Once I had had them work...) and is a causative construction. You can read more about causative forms here:

Your third example is similar to the first in this group: 'having had extensive practice' > 'because he had had extensive practice'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Martian2022 on Mon, 07/08/2023 - 06:12


Hi, teachers! I hope you all are fine.

Could you please help me to clarify the usage of the participle clause in the sentence below?

The establishment of MNCs may trigger changes in market structures and competitiveness, thereby improving resource allocation and overall welfare.

What is the subject of this participle clause "thereby improving resource allocation and overall welfare"? What meaning does the clause add to the main clause? Would the intended meaning prevail, if I removed the word 'thereby' from the sentence?


Hi Martian2022,

'Thereby' means 'in this way' and it has several effects on the sentence. First, it emphasises that the improvement described is the consequence of the action in the main clause. The participle could (obviously depending on the context) have other meanings, as the information on this page shows. Second, in terms of style 'thereby' adds formality to the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Perfect participle means- having + v3

My question is:
Can 'been and had' be used as V3 after having?
Please share 2 examples

Hi Prakash,

Yes, they can. I see you posted a question earlier - the examples you gave are examples of what you are asking about so I'll repost them here.

  • Having been in the programme, she felt happy.
  • Having been a student for many years, he finally graduated.
  • Having had breakfast, she started working.
  • He was well-prepared for the interview, having had extensive practice.

Using perfect participle structures with "be" and "had" is considered perfectly appropriate and correct. However, they are possibly more commonly used in writing than in speaking. As the page above says: "Participle clauses are mainly used in written texts, particularly in a literary, academic or journalistic style." This is true of participle clauses in general, not just those with "be" and "have".

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team