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

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Language level

No we can't rewrite these sentences the way you have written . we can not use ( verb+ing ) if the action is already taken place . (verb+ing) form is used for action that is not yet finished . If you rewrite these sentences the way you wrote sense will be changed after rewriting . Like Two of the terrorists who shot the president have been arrested. (This sentence refers to the incident that had happened before the police arrested them , i mean they had already shot the president) But on rewriting , the sentence refers to the situation when they had been arrested while trying to shoot the president , it means they had not shot the president .
Hi there, can I rewrite the following sentence like this? the man who stole the car was a professional thief. the man stealing the car was a professional thief. I look forward to your reply.
dear Sir, i am a sales manager in Iran. i wanted my customer giving his information and i said : Sent your Contact information, i will let you know the prices for Products. i was wondering if you could let me know whether this sentence is correct or not.

Hello masoud mahmoody,

We don't generally offer the service of correcting users' texts, but since this is so short, I can give you some feedback. The command form of 'send' is 'send' (not 'sent') and some kind of conjunction, such as 'and', should go between the two phrases: 'Send me your contact information and I will let you know the prices of the products' is what I'd recommend. Still, what you said is perfectly understandable! Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I have met a girl who have scored well in the exams. Can I transform this sentence using participle into it: I have met a girl having scored well in the exams. Thanks!

Hello neha_sri,

When we use a participle like this it always refers to the subject of the first clause. In other words, in your sentnece the person who scored well in the exams is the speaker ('I'), and so the meaning is different.

Note that there are errors in the first sentence too: the verb 'scored' should be in the past simple rather than the present perfect as the action is a completed past action.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! >I can't work under pressure. I can't meet deadlines in time. Can I merge this sentence using participle like this? >I can't work under pressure, not meeting deadlines in time. Thanks!

Hello neha_sri,

That doesn't really work. We use an -ing participle clause like this when one even occurs during another event, so your sentence would mean:

I can't work under pressure when I am not meeting deadlines.

In the original sentence the meaning is different: there are two verbs which are equal in value. To join the sentence and keep the same meaning you could say:

I can't work under pressure or meet deadlines in time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! >There are two boys working with top mnc,who have married under this system. Can I write the above mentioned sentence like this? >there are two boys working with top mnc,having married under this system. Thanks!

Hello neha_sri,

I'm afraid I'm not sure what this sentence is supposed to mean, so it's difficult to say for sure. I expect that 'mnc' means 'multinational companies', but who married? The boys? Companies don't 'marry', they 'merge'. If it's the boys who married, the relative clause might be clearer closer to its antecedent, e.g. 'There are two boys, who married under this system, that are working with top MNC', though your version is also possible. Using 'having married ...' would be unusual and could cause confusion.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, I'm wandering if it is correct for us to use negative present or past participle clauses. I feel worried not receiving message from her. I received the message not written by her. Many thanks, Plamen

Hi Plamen,

Yes, you can use those structures. The second sentence would require a rather particular context to make sense (you would need several messages, of which one was not written by her, and this would be the only message you received), but is grammatically fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Would you please help me understand the difference between the participle clauses that give information about reason and those that give information about result. Looking at the two examples given above, "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." and "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.", I can't help thinking that we could also restate each of the sentences with participle clauses to read: "I decided to arrange a meeting because I wanted to speak to him about the contract." and "I had spent so long doing my homework, so I had no time to read my book." In both cases the participle clause seems to give information about reason, and the main clause - about the result... What am I missing? Thank you for the great grammar reference!
Hi there, 'after getting’, ‘without checking’, ‘for destroying’ are all apparently part of the same grammatical structure, but what exactly is that form called?

Hello 07achogg,

Those are all prepositions + the -ing form of a verb. Prepositions are followed by nouns and/or -ing forms of verbs.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team Could you tell me whether 'die trying' is verb + verb, or something else? I thought 'die trying' was verb + adverb, but it doesn't look like it is. According to the dictionary 'trying' is not an adverb. Thanks

Hi lexeus,

Can you provide a full sentence. It is probably a participle with an adverbial function, but I wouldn't like to say for sure without seeing the full context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter I don't have an actual sentence, but I suppose it would be something like "You have to accomplish the mission, or die trying" or "I will either pass the selection course or die trying".

Hi lexeus,

Thank you. 'Trying' here is a participle and has an adverbial function. It gives us more information about the verb 'die':

... or die (while) trying (to do it)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between having been and being? Why is the second sentence wrong? 1. Having been in England for the last three years, I've a good knowledge of the language. 2. Being in England for the last three years, I've a good knowledge of the language.

Hello BunnyBunny,

'being' is incorrect because it refers to the present time, whereas the first clause of the sentence is about the past ('for the last three years' clearly indicates the past). A perfective form such as 'having been' is used to refer to the past.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks so much Kirk for your reply. Can second sentence be written as 'Living in England for the past three years, I've a good knowledge of the language' ? Like someone started living in England three years ago and is continuing to live there. Thanks in advance.

Hello BunnyBunny,

You're welcome! I'm afraid that's not correct, either, for the same reason: 'for the past three years' clearly refers to the past, and so 'having lived' is correct and 'living' is not. English and Spanish are quite similar in many ways, but this is one difference!

By the way, these kinds of participle clauses (beginning a sentence with 'living ...' or 'having lived ...' are usually only used in fairly formal situations. If you're speaking in an informal or even slightly formal context, it'd be much more typical to say something like 'Since/As I've been living in England for the past three years ...'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

The difference between the two forms is the perennial difference between perfect and non-perfect meanings. A situation which began in the past and continues to the present is expressed in a perfect tense. This is obligatory, so if you say 'for the last three years' your sentence has to take the form in (1) and not (2). On the other hand, when we refer to the current situation without reference to when it began, we use a non-perfect form (Present Simple or Present Continuous). So, if you take 'for the last three years' out of the sentence, (2) is acceptable (although 'living' might be a better choice of verb).

Hello SIEST,

Participle clauses very often, though not always, begin with a present or past participle, so that's the first thing I'd recommend looking for. Then check to see that the participle is not part of a verb form (e.g. a continuous verb form) or an adjective. If not, it could be a participle clause. You could also try transforming what looks like a participle clause into some kind of other clause, e.g. 'While I was waiting for John, I made some tea'. That is another good sign that it could be a participle clause.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I would be grateful if anyone would explain to me this question. I'm so confused with the following sentences, particularly verb-ing or participle clauses in English ?. So sometimes I can't understand the meaning of the author in correct way ?. Among the following sentences which one is correct, could you tell me in detail the meaning of the sentence or why to use Verb-ing ? I often find V-ing in many sentences. thanks a million.. a milliard ! 1. course books ( whether conventional or digital ) have been developed by pedagogical experts and designed to be incorporated into a syllabus, LEADING to testing procedures such as formal examinations. 2.I'd rather make a thousand mistakes TRYING for a better life,than to die not MAKING any mistakes at all. 3.the state has no right telling the people what they can and can't do with their body. 4.the receptionist is busy FILLING a fifth box. 5. I'm tired HEARING of the Duchess of Chiselhurst's ball. 6.Mr Jones said because he was not being properly paid he had trouble GETTING a housing loan and feared he might lose his new home. 7. Fishermen in Scotland have taken a tenis club to court, CLAIMING that its floodlights are driving away the fish in an angling river. 8. Stella Adler was one of the most influential artists of the American theater, TRAINING several generations of actors whose ranks included Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro. 9. See how many words of four or more lettres you can find USING the letters above. 10. yesterday the group issued its strongest warning yet, telling foreigners to leave the country. 11. Thousands like us need help FINDING someone special. 12. The day I say I'm tired PLAYING for my country is the day I hang up my boots. I have read a Hendrik De Smet's documentation about integrated participle clauses (IPCs), adverbial participle clauses, adjuncts and disjuncts in which there are so many sentences like this.

Hello tai nguyen,

I'm afraid it's not possible for us to answer such a long question - for this, you need to ask your teacher. Our role here is to help learners with our materials, and then to provide some other help when time allows, but we do not have the time available to provide what would effectively be personal language lessons.

Your sentences contain a wide range of different structures: adjective + -ing, verb + -ing, -ing as part of participle clause, -ing as a gerund and more. There is no one rule for these as they are entirely different grammatical categories, even though they all have the -ing form. You can find pages on these topics in our grammar sections but remember that the rules are not 'how to use -ing' but, for example, 'verbs which are followed by -ing'. In other words, -ing here is part of a different system, not the key element in that system.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I want to now if these abbrevations are correct in future tense? For example: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book lying on my stomach The full sentence: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book while I will be lying on my stomach Thanks for your help!

Hi xmen,

Your first sentence is grammatically correct. The second is except for the second verb form – instead of 'while I will be lying' you should say 'while I am lying'. For an explanation of this, please see the first section of our verbs in time clauses and if clauses page.

By the way, your first sentence is not an abbreviation, but rather a shorter form of the second sentence. You can see examples of what an abbreviation is by looking up the word in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online – see the handy search box on the lower right side of this page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello neha_sri,

Participle clauses are often described as reduced relative clauses, but this can be misleading as not all relative clauses can be turned into participle clauses. For example, if the action is a single completed action then we cannot use a present participle to describe it:

The boy who passed the exam was very happy.

The boy passing the exam was very happy.

Similarly, not all participle clauses can be reformulated into relative clauses:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

I, who was waiting for John, made some tea. (though grammatically correct, this is not natural English)

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

please tell if there any particular section where i can ask doubts regarding grammar??

Hello Dhofari Lover,

You're welcome to ask questions about grammar here in the Quick Grammar or in the Grammar Reference – our only request is that you try to find a relevant page to ask them on. For example, if you asking about the verb forms in 'If I went to Salalah, would I need a visa?', you should ask on a past simple, would or conditionals page if possible. If you're not sure what page to ask on, just ask on the page you think is most relevant, and please note that you can often find relevant pages by using the search box on the top right of the page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please tell me the sentences mentioned below are correct or not? >A translator speaking several languages is very valuable. >A man reaching his goals will be very happy in life. However,I read that full adjective clause should be written in place of participles(speaking,reaching): >A translator that can speak several languages is very valuable. >A man who can reach his goals will be very happy in life. I get confused when to use adjective clause and when participles.Are there certain rules of using these two differently?

Hello neha_sri,

In general, reduced relative clauses are used when the full clause contains some kind of prepositional phrase or a verb in the continuous. For example, 'The translator sitting next to the President (who is sitting next to the President) is my sister' or 'The man swimming over there (who is swimming over there) wants to be very happy in life'.

The two sentences you wrote don't fulfil these conditions, so I'd recommend using a full clause with them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I always prefer to see these as 'participle phrases' rather than 'participle clauses'. However, surely they are adjectival rather than adverbial. For example, in your first example, surely 'waiting for John' is describing me (the 'I' in the sentence), not the making of tea. Regards.

Hello CJM,

As far as I know, both terms are used, but if you prefer one over the other, then of course go ahead and use it. 'Waiting for John' in the first example is adverbial – think of it as meaning something like 'while I was waiting'.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there! Could you kindly clarify a query on participle clauses? The sentence "The cast chosen , they could start the rehearsals" means "Once the cast had been chosen, they could start the rehearsals" . The question: Would "The cast chosen, they will be able to start the rehearsals" work for "Once the cast has been chosen, they will be able to start the rehearsals"? Thank you very much in advance. Oleg

Hello Oleg,

Yes, that's correct. The time reference of the first part is dependent on the second part, rather that having a fixed time reference itself.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team LearnEnglish, 1. "We watched the students jogging round the campus". 2. "We watched students jogging round the campus". can we say first sentence to have got jogging as a participle? And also that in second sentence jogging to be 'gerund' since determiner 'the' is not present? If not,how can we distinguish jogging between these two sentences?. Help please. Regards, Nandish BC.

Hi 

Hello Nandish BC,

As I said in a previous answer, a gerund functions as a noun. Here, in both sentences 'jogging' is an adjectival form which describes 'students'; the definite article tells us only whether or not we know which students we are talking about (as opposed to just general students).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter I would have thought that "jogging " in both sentences is indeed a participle form and structurally represents a reduced relative clause i.e "the students/students (who were) jogging round the campus. Regards basm
Hi Team learnenglish, Here is the sentene,"We rely on our neighbours watering the plants while we're away." what is the verb form of watering here,is it a gerund or a particple? the book i read says it is a gerund.Bit confused with these type of usage of gerund after subject. Regards, Nandish BC.

Hello Nandish BC,

A gerund is a verbal noun; it can only act in the sentence in the way a noun can. Here, 'watering' is a participle. However, it is not a participle clause as the subject in the main clause ('I') is not the thing doing the watering. Here, we have an adjectival form, describing 'neighbours' - a kind of simplified relative clause.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team