Participle clauses

Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause which enables us to say information in a more economical way. We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

Waiting for John, the kettle boiled. [This would suggest that the kettle was waiting for John!]

 

Forming participle clauses

Participle clauses can be formed with the present participle (-ing form of the verb) or past participle (third form of the verb). Participle clauses with past participles have a passive meaning:

Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]

Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]

If we wish to emphasise that one action was before another then we can use a perfect participle (having + past participle):

Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.

Having been told the bad news, Susan sat down and cried.

 

 

The meaning and use of participle clauses

Participle clauses give information about condition, reason, result or time. For example:

 

CONDITION (in place of an if-condition):

Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

Compare: If you look after it carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

 

REASON (in place of words like so or therefore):

Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I decided to arrange a meeting.

Compare: I wanted to speak to him about the contract so I decided to arrange a meeting.

 

RESULT (in place of words like because or as a result):

I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework.

Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework.

 

TIME (in place of words like when, while or as soon as):

Sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Compare: While I was sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

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Comments

Hi Zhverb,

As the information on the page above says, we use past participles to express a passive meaning and present participles to express an active meaning.

I have no idea which post you are referring to and we don't comment on information from other sites but I have never heard of any kind of rule like that. In fact, your example about the American Civil War is perfectly fine as an example of a present participle with an active meaning and demonstrates that finished non-repeated actions can be reduced. You could change 'the events' to 'the event' or 'the decision' and the sentence would be perfectly fine.

 

Your second example can be written using either form:

the man who was killed in the accident > the man killed in the accident

the accident which killed the man > the accident killing the man

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks Peter! Can the sentence "He is chasing the boy who broke his window" be reduced to " He is chasing the boy breaking his window" ?

Hello Zhverb,

No, that would not be correct. The time reference of the participle is the same as the verb in the main clause, so if the verb in the main clause has a present time reference (is chasing) then the participle would also refer to the present. Thus this sentence would mean 'He is chasing the boy who is breaking the window'.

The sentence would also suggest that the actions are simulaltaneous - that the boy is breaking the window while he is being chased. This would be true even if the verb was a past form. Thus 'He was chasing the boy breaking the window' would mean that the action occurred in the past, but that the actions were simulataneous - i.e. 'He was chasing the boy who was breaking the window'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you, Peter M, for your reply and the link!

Hello!

Could you, please, help me with the structure in this sentence: "By restricting the ways the state can be changed - we reduce the chances bugs can appear".
Is this sentence grammatically correct?

Is the first part (by restricting the ways the state can be changed ) the nominative participle construction? if not, what is it? why does it have two different subjects? or is it missing the word "how" e.g "by restricting the ways how the state can be changed"?

and is this part itself (by restricting the ways...we reduce the chances bugs can appear) the participle clause of manner? Is the punctuation correct?

Thank you in advance for your attention, time and explanation.

Hello Milhki,

'By' is a preposition and introduces a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases with 'by' show the method by which something is achieved. The prepositional phrase here is perhaps a little confusing because it is so long but we can simplify it easily enough and then it is clear that it is a straightforward prepositional phrase:

By restricting these, we reduce...

We reduce... by restricting these.

The prepositional phrase here has an adverbial function as it modifies the verb 'reduce'.

I would say that a comma is preferable to a dash in this sentence.

 

LearnEnglish is a site for people learning English as a means of communication rather than as a site for linguistic analysis. For questions like this you might find the relevant section of stackexchange helpful:

https://ell.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In my opinion, this answers the question "When did I grab the pizza?"
It can be rephrased as "While returning from the office, ......"

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi,

That is correct. The present participle shows an action which happened at the same time as another action, as you say. Well done.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, could you refer some books regarding the adverbial use of participle phrases / clauses like in "Returning from the office, I grabbed a pizza from Tahzeeb Bakers."

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi

The British Council does not offer recommendations regarding books, I'm afraid. We do not favour or advertise any publishers or authors. My suggestion would be to go to a good bookshop and find three or four different grammar books. Open each to the page for participle clauses/phrases and compare the information there. You'll be able to see which is the most accessible and complete, and which would be the best for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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