Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

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

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Language level

Hi Everyone!
Today, I've just finished "the participle clauses". So, I have some questions about this structure.
1)Past participle clauses
-Been by accident, he was taken to the hospital. Is this sentence right?
-How to use the way of "If condition" for this structure.
2)Perfect participle clauses
-Having finished your homework, you could go to bed. Is this sentence right?
-Finally, I want to question the sentence of the main clause after using the perfect participle clause.

I'm grateful for all your answers. Thank you so much!

Tran Tan Duc, Vietnam

Hello 0933810273,

1) No, that sentence is not correct. We don't use 'been' in this way. You could, however, use a different verb:

> Injured in the accident, he was taken...

2) I'm trying to think of a context in which you would use this sentence. The problem is the modal 'could', which here suggests general possibility. If it were about a specific situation, such as a parent speaking to a child, then 'can' would be used.

I'm not sure what you mean by the last question (starting 'Finally...').

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

When is the right time ( situation ) to use "I would have thought" ?

Could you please give me some examples with sentences ?

Thank you very much,
Parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

We use 'I would have thought' after expressing an opinion about the present or the future, especially with 'will'. It's similar to 'I expect' in meaning.

She'll be in the office, I would have thought.
We'll need a lot of money, I'd have thought.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I got this sentence, as written below, from the internet,

"either way" is
used for saying that it does not matter which of two things happens or is true, because the result will be the same.

Why don't they use "to" as a preposition here, so the sentence would be,

"either way" is used to saying that it does not matter which of two things happens or is true, because the result will be the same.

Thank you very much,
Hudi parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

The form 'be used for' describes a thing's purpose: a pen is used for writing.
The form 'be used to' describes something which has become normal: I am used to my new house.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher
Can I use present participle in this way to add information to the first clause?
"The figure for Food production in China was determined to be the highest one, rising from nearly 5 million tonnes to about 9 million tones between 2010 and 2012."
Thank you very much!

Hello datdo14102004,

The comma is necessary. Without the comma, the participle would form part of a defining relative clause describing 'the highest one'. In other words, the sentence would be about the highest figure out of all those which are rising, rather than the highest figure, with some additional detail added.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers,
Are adjectives -ed like "annoyed and tired" called past participle?

I read adjective with -ed on the other page, and it says "annoyed" cannot be put before noun. Is there any explanation for adjective -ed (or past participle) that can or cannot be put before nouns?
Thank you, sir.

Hello Risa warysha,

Past participles are a verb form, what is sometimes known as the 'third form'. Some past participles can be used as adjectives -- but not all -- and I'm afraid there is no easy rule to say which ones can be used this way.

When we talk about the position of adjectives (i.e. where they go in a sentence), we often use the terms 'attributive' and 'predicative'. The first one indicates a position before a noun (e.g. 'red shoes' or 'expensive car') and 'predicative' refers to an adjective used after a link verb (e.g. 'The sky is blue').

Most adjectives can be both predicative and attributive, but there are some that are only used in one way. 'annoyed' is an example of an adjective that is only predicative; others include 'asleep' and 'alone'.

You can read a bit more about this on https://www.lexico.com/grammar/attributive-and-predicative-adjectives

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Sir. You're doing a great job by sorting out our problems relating to grammar. Keep it up! Best wishes your way.

Now coming to my question.

1."Even as the US president has immense powers, the incumbent has the Congress breathing down his neck at all times and has to engage with its members."

Which structure is this: 'the incumbent has the Congrss breathing down'? What grammar rule does apply here? Please explain.

2." Like so many other issues relating to women's health in England, breast cancer is not a subject of serious discussion in the country, largely on account of social taboos."

Which phrase is this: 'largely on account of social taboos'? I didn't get the grammar rule behind it.

Regards.

Hi ali shah,

1. This structure is used to talk about things we experience which are currently in progress. The structure is: subject + have + object + -ing verb. Here are some more examples.
-- It's very hot. I have sweat running down my forehead.
-- I don't feel lonely because I have my friends sending me lots of messages.
-- When I worked in an office, I had people calling me all the time.

You can read more about this on this Cambridge Dictionary page. See the 'Talking about an experience' section: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/have-something…

2. This is a prepositional phrase, 'on account of + noun'. The adverb 'largely' is added at the front.

Thanks for your kind comments :) We are glad to hear that.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

''As Gorman finished her poem, four US presidents and first ladies, two former vice presidents and their spouses, dozens of lawmakers and scores of diplomats gave her a standing ovation, some struggling to hide their tears.''

What is the grammar behind using the last clause ''some struggling to hide their tears'?
Is it present participle? If yes, why didn't the writer use 'with' before 'some struggling...' as the participle has not the same subject as the main clause?

Please asnwer this, Sir.

Hello Wrakshamara,

You certainly could use 'with' here. However, you can also read the sentence as 'some of whom were struggling...'. This structure is often reduced in this way.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

''A new group of strangers crowded around, united by nothing more than the sound of a young American’s fingers on the keys.''

Is the second clause beginning with ''united by...'' a past participle clause , or is it a reduced relative clause(who are united by nothing...)?

Thanks and regards.

"Environmental disasters are pummelling the planet, intensely and frequently."

Sir, why has a comma been put before 'intensely and frequently'? Don't you think there shouldn't have been a comma before as those are not sentence adverbs?

Hello ali shah,

I'm afraid that I can't explain why the writer chose to write his sentence this way, but to me it looks like a way of lending emphasis to the two qualities of the effects of the disasters.

I do agree that it is a bit unusual, but it doesn't strike me as wrong. Some editors might ask the writer to change the sentence, but I'm afraid this is a topic we don't deal with on LearnEnglish.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Sir. Hope you're doing well. Let me put my query.

''All parties involved in this war were rival sovereign nodes, yet united in spilling blood on local streets.''
Is the second clause starting with 'yet united...' is the reduced form of 'yet they are united...'?

Thanks and regards.

'I got calls telling me to be thankful that I had not been physically hurt, and I am.'

Would you please shed some light on the structure of this 'got calls telling me' phrase and the type of phrase it is?

Hello ali shah,

Here 'telling me to be thankful that I had not been physically hurt' is a present participle clause that adds information about the kind of calls received. It's similar in function to a relative clause in this way.

So the basic structure is 'I got calls' and then the clause beginning with the present participle 'telling' gives more information about those calls.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir. Hope you're doing well.
Please address the following query:
1.Widely seen as ‘father of the project’, Dr John experienced the ups and downs that come with being called a hero and a villain and then a hero in one lifetime.
Is the above sentence grammatically correct? Don't you think 'being' should have added before 'widely'? What does we call the first clause?

Hi ali shah,
Yes, it is grammatically correct! The 'widely seen' part is called a past participle clause. As the page above notes, past participle clauses normally have a passive meaning. So, that's why there's no 'being' here - this particular structure already contains this meaning. Have a look at the 'Past participle clauses' section on the page above for some more examples of this structure. I hope it helps :)
Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello LearnEnglish Team

Why do consider participle clauses to be Upper Intermediate B2 level grammar?

I have participle clauses included in Advanced C1 English textbooks but never in Upper Intermediate B2 level.

Cheers

Adam

Hello Adam,

Level designations are always subjective. We consider participle clauses to be accessible for learners at this level. Of course, structures can be taught at different degrees of complexity: at lower levels the explanations may be simpler and avoid some of the more complex aspects; these can be introduced later when the topic is approached again.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, LearnEnglish Team.
I want to know about the use of conjunction in participial construction.

Here is a sentence.
"Feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes."
In this participial construction, what the speaker intends to express is not clear. It can be variously interpreted in many ways.
Why? The speaker might want to say with Although, When, While, or Because.
I have been taught that I can put conjunction if I want to make it clearer.
Like below,
- Although feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.
- While feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.
- Because feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her note.

Are these three all right?

Of course, I know there is also a different grammatical form with the third one.
- Because of feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes.
( 'because of' works as a preposition, and 'feeling nervous' is a noun phrase.)

- Because feeling nervous, she was carefully studying her notes.
('because' works as a conjunction, and 'feeling nervous' is participial construction.)

In English grammar, especially in the field of participial construction,
Is 'because feeling nervous' wrong?
Or Can I use it?

Thanks in advance.

Hello Hyeyoung Min,

As you say, participle clauses/phrases can be ambiguous, though I think when placed in context rather than presented as isolated sentences the intended meaning is usually clear.

It is possible to use conjunctions like this. However, 'because' is not possible. After 'because' you need to use a subject-verb rather than just a participle:
~ Because she was feeling nervous...

'Because of' is also not possible. We follow 'because of' with a noun and not an -ing form:
~ Because of her nerves, ...

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I have just read a sentence like this below,

I spent a whole day listening to the man who was a mechanic telling me a story about when he was young.

Are "listening and telling" in the sentence above participle ?

And can I interpret the sentence above as,

I spent a whole day, which listened to the man who was a mechanic who told me a story about when he was young.

Is that correct or wrong ?

Hello Parikenan,

It sounds to me as if you've understood the sentence correctly, and yes, I'd call both of those participles. In the first case, the verb 'spend' is often followed by a period of time (here 'a whole day') plus a participle that describes what the subject was doing during that time.

In the second case, verbs of perception (such as 'see', 'watch', and 'listen') can be followed by a participle or a bare infinitive that describes what is perceived. When the second verb is a participle, it puts more emphasis on the duration or a specific moment in time -- it's impossible to say without knowing the context or the speaker's intention.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

In my comprehension about the sentence,
I interpret "listening" as a modifier that modifies a clause "I spent a whole day". In this case, I am using "which" after a comma to make sure that "listening" is modifying a clause.

And I interpret "telling" as a modifier that modifies a mechanic.

I just found out that one of the functions of a participle is for emphasizing the duration or a specific moment in time of something that is done by an object when the participle is put in the second verb as you mentioned above - in this case, how a mechanic tells a story about him when he was young. ( I hope I am not misinterpreting your explanation related to the function of a participle as a second verb )

Thank you very much, Kirk.

Hi fantastic team I am writing to find out more about following sentence. "He has signed a new four-year contract with MANU, keeping him at the club until 2025." I think participle clause 'keeping him at the club until 2025' is reduced from '... contract with MANU, which keeps him at the club until 2025.' It is a reduced adjective clause, describing a new four-year contract. Would it be possible for you to check if my interferences are true? I look forward to hearing from you.

Hello Nevi,

Sentences like this can be ambiguous. You can often read the -ing form in two ways: adverbially describing the action in the main clause or adjectivally providing more information about the noun phrase which precedes it. I think that's the case here too. You can say that it is the act of signing the contract which will keep him at the club, or the contract which will keep him at the club. I think the second is more likely, as you say, but it is ambiguous.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teacher, In business email, we always write: "As discussed, here's the price list.", or "As mentioned, here's the price list." The use of "as discussed" and "as mentioned" here, is it a participle clause? So the full sentence of "as discussed" should be "As it is discussed, xxx.". Is this correct? If not, why suddenly we have a clause with a past participle here? I wonder if you could help to explain. Thank you. Nicoletta

Hello Nicoletta,

I wouldn't say those are participle clauses. They are reduced forms of longer clauses which have become fixed expressions due to being used so frequently.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Rafaela1,

First of all, remember that participle clauses aren't used much in speech or writing -- it's really only in quite formal writing or very formal speaking that you find them. This means you probably won't find that you need to use them very often.

Assuming that you don't urgently need to learn to use participle clauses, I'd recommend that you look out for them as you listen to and read English. Write them down somewhere and analyse them using the explanation above. As you do this, I think you will start to remember the structures and thus be able to begin to use them. You're welcome to ask us for help if you have further questions.

How does that sound?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi superb team! I am writing to find out more about the pattern 'understand somebody doing something ' in the following sentence. - I can understand her wanting to live alone. - Here I am not sure whether participle clause 'wanting to live alone' is reduced relative clause. I would be grateful if you could explain which grammatical structure is that. Thank you in advance. Best wishes!

Hello Nevi,

I'd say that 'her wanting to live alone' is a noun phrase; it's the same structure as 'her desire to live alone'; that is, 'wanting' is a noun, just like 'desire' is.

Note that you could also say 'Her wanting to live alone is understandable' -- in this case, the clause is also a noun phrase plus the verb 'be' plus an adjective.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your explanations,teacher. I really appreciate them. Lastly, I didn't know we can put possesive adjectives like my,your, his... in front of gerunds before you said wanting is a gerund. Can we put possesive adjectives in front of all gerunds? For example, His studying English is more effective than mine.

Hi Nevı,

Yes, that's right :)

But for your example, I would say one of these versions instead:

  • His studying is more effective than mine.
  • His studying of English is more effective than mine.

The reason is that a gerund (e.g. studying) is somewhere between a verb and a noun (see this comment thread for a more detailed explanation). If you add a possessive adjective, it makes it more noun-like than verb-like, and nouns have a preposition before an object - that's why I added 'of' in the second sentence. 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain the below structures and their differences in more detail because they are more confusing? can they be used interchangeably? 1.English learners sometimes have trouble choosing between the endings. choosing ( present participle followed by a noun "trouble") 2.English learners sometimes have trouble in choosing between the endings. noun (trouble) + preposition + gerund (choosing) 3.English learners sometimes have trouble to choose between the endings. noun (trouble) + infinitive (to choose).