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

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't think either of these are natural constructions.

We use 'in case' to introduce a problem or negative effect which we want to avoid: I took an umbrella in case it rained.

 

We use 'in case of' in two ways.

The first is with the same meaning as 'in case' but with a noun following it instead of a clause: I took an umbrella in case of rain.

The second is with the meaning 'if this happens then...': In case of fire, break glass.

 

In your examples I imagine you are trying to say that you will only go the cinema if the other person goes with you. You can use 'if' or 'unless':

I won't go the cinema unless you go with me.

I won't go to the cinema if you don't go with me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for team, I need you comment on the word ( Given) for the below announcement : - Given the current situation in Myanmar, Western Union service to Myanmar is not available.

Hello Genaib,

Used like this, 'given' means the same thing as 'due to' or 'because of' -- that is, it expresses a reason for a situation or action.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, I have got the meaning above and I've found it similar and useful,But, referring to past particible usage, I couldn't classify it belongs to who? , kindly advice
Hi admins, I've got a question. Are perfect participle clauses informal or formal? I mean are they common in speaking or writing?

Hi Rafaela1,

I think they are neutral in style. They are used in informal and formal language use.

They are used in both speaking and writing, but particularly in writing. In speaking, Having said that, ... is quite commonly used, and there may be other common ones too.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi.. What's wrong with the below sentence :- - Washing at a low temperature, these jeans will keep their original colour for a long.

Hello Genaib,

The first word should be a past participle ('washed') instead of a present participle. Saying 'Washed at a low temperature' has a meaning similar to an 'if' condition: 'If they are washed at a low temperature'. We use a past participle to mean this, not a present participle.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

❝After having spent 6 hours at the hospital, they eventually came.❞ ❝After completing work, I will go for sleeping❞ Could you tell me the difference between "After+having+V3" & "After+verb-ing"?

Hello IjajKhan,

It's a little unusual to see or hear 'after having + v3' in modern British English -- instead people tend to use 'Having spent six hours ...' -- but essentially both mean the same thing: after completing one action, another action happens or is done.

Most of the time, the second form ('after completing') is the form I'd recommend you use. This is because even a form like 'having completed' isn't used very much, at least in standard British English.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

❝The sun having risen, we set out on our journey❞ ❝Her husband being away, she felt lonely❞ -Is this sentences correct? Please help

Hello ljajKhan,

Yes, those sentences are grammatically correct. I'm not sure if they would be the most natural choices, but that would depend on the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Where should I put 'not' in a having+past partciple clause, before or after the participle? Thank you.

Hi Rahmond Aung,

Not normally comes before having. Here are some examples.

  • Not having finished their training yet, they can't start work.
  • Not having seen the news, she couldn't comment on it.
  • Students can take the advanced course, despite not having taken the beginner course.

People sometimes put not after having, but this is less common.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! How do I decide when to use the past participle or present participle in these two situations: To give the reason for an action; To add information about the subject of the main clause? Thanks.

Hi elsa78,

It's a good question :) Past participles are used if the verb has a passive meaning, in relation to the grammatical subject. For example:

  • Worried by the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worried (passive) by the news. This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baked for too long, the cake was inedible. --> The cake was baked (passive) for too long. This is additional information about 'the cake'.

If the verb has an active meaning, present participles are used.

  • Worrying about the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worrying (active). This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baking the cake for too long, we made it inedible. --> We baked it (active) for too long. This is additional information about 'we'.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir/Madam, I saw a sentence in the Oxford Dictionary: "She finds herself increasingly attracted to them and their lifestyle." The word "attracted" here, is it a 'participle clause' here? If not, is it 'adjective'? Don't understand why there's participle used here. Thanks, Nicoletta

Hi Nicoletta,

Yes, attracted is an adjective here. It's connected to She finds herself earlier in the sentence. She finds herself means 'She realises that she's somewhere or doing something, without having intended to'. The structure needs a complement to complete it, to show the unintended thing, e.g.:

  • After a long walk, she found herself in a strange part of the city.
  • When everyone cheered, she found herself cheering too.
  • When everyone left, she found herself alone.

The third example is similar to your example, with an adjective as the complement.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Is this sentence correct? - "Water, turning to ice at 0 C, is the most crucial thing for life to exist.

Hello irismatov,

I'm not sure I'd say that it's incorrect, but I'd recommend you change the sentence a little. My first recommendation would be to use a relative clause ('Water, which turns to ice at 0ºC, is the crucial for life'). Another way would be: 'Turning to ice at 0ºC, water is crucial for life'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Is the following sentence correct using present participle? If not, why. - The camera costing 10000 pounds is over there. Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Sorry, costing isn't correct here. The structure in this sentence is a reduced relative clause, and the full version would be: The camera which/that is costing 10000 pounds is over there. But, the problem is cost is a stative verb, and stative verbs aren't normally used in the present continuous (see this page on stative verbs for more information). So, it should be:

  • The camera which/that costs 10000 pounds is over there.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I wouldn't go along with you, Jonathan. There is nothing at all wrong with "The camera costing £10,000 is over there. It's just as grammatically correct as the relative clause equivalent "The camera which/that costs £10,000 is over there".

Hello BillJ,

Jonathan will get back to you regarding this in the next few days. In the meantime, I wanted to thank you for your other comments and explain why they haven't been published.

The purpose of our grammar explanations are to present the language in a way that is accessible and helpful to non-specialist learners. We're aware that there are different approaches to grammar and different views on how to describe various structures (whether or not 'reduced relative clause' is a useful term being a good example), but our pages are not a place for technical discussions of this type.

Thank you very much, though, for your contributions to the site.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I've got a question concerning a participle clause: When I want to say "Write a text of about 100 words in which you answer the questions above.", is it possible to shorten it to "Write a text of about words answering the questions above."? I'm a bit uncertain because of the preposition "in" which has to be used in the original sentence. Thank you very much in advance!
Hello! Could you help me please? Is this sentence okay? It sounds a bit weird for me, but I can't find the exact problem. I think that "is" after the participle clause is the weird part of it :/ but how can I say it otherwise? "Applying the fundamentals of 3D printing, bioprinting is a special, rapidly evolving sector of medical technology, which explores the possibilities for the additive manufacturing of tissues and organs."

Hello Sz.Kata,

The sentence looks fine to me apart from the comma after 'technology'. The last clause (beginning with 'which') is a defining relative clause and so should have no comma before it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Rafaela,

I think I understand what you mean, but it sounds a little unnatural to me. I'd recommend something like 'Being someone who forgets grammar as time passes ...'

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, That's exactly what I wanted to say. Being someone who forgets who I am as time passes, I think this site is helpful! ;)
Dear Sir Although in the above context mentioned that participle cluase get no tenses and its tense should be realize from main cluase, but it confuses me. For example please consider this sentence, # the man who had stolen the king's crown, was sent to jail.#, so if we want to reduce it how we should do it. Is this sentence correct,# the man stealing the king's crown ... or we should say,# having stolen the king's crown, the man was sent to jail. Pls guide me. Also in my last sentece how we can recognise the used participle have adjectival role or adverbial.

Hello aria rousta,

There's a couple of things to unpack here. First of all, a reduced relative clause is not a participle clause; it remains a relative clause or, to use an alternative term, an adjectival clause. As this name implies, relative clauses have an adjectival function, while participle clauses have an adverbial function, as described on the page above. Relative clauses follow the noun which they describe; participle clauses are more flexible in their positioning.

 

In your example the correct reduction is this:

The man stealing the king's crown was sent to jail.

Here, 'stealing...' has an adjectival function (as it is a relative clause).

 

Having stolen could be used in a participle clause if we want to make it clear that the second act (going to jail) followed the first, and that there was a link between them. As you say, the participles in participle clauses have no time reference of their own but take one from the main verb or the context, so we can use having stolen with a future meaning, for example:

Having stolen the crown, he will be sent to jail.

The speaker here may be imagining or predicting a theft in the future and explaining what the consequences will be.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much sir, your explanation helped me a lot to undrestand the differences of relative cluase and participle cluase. I thought these two are same. Thank you again sir
1.Destroying the building,the bobm exploded Here is it mean result? 2.he was in the kitchen.he was making coffee=he was in the kitchen making coffe? 3.Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre. Here why its not mean the action happen same time instead add information about subject like the sentence (Standing in the queue, I realised I didn't have any money.) 4.if reverse this( Starting in the new year, the new policy bans cars in the city centre.) Putting participle in the last part of sentece,what it will mean?

Hello Esmail Emon,

In the first four example sentences on this page, the order of the clauses is important. The first clause refers to an earlier condition that the second one is somehow related to.

For this reason, your sentence 1 isn't correct because the idea is that the explosion of the bomb caused the destruction of the building.

Your sentence 2 is fine.

As for your question about sentences 3 and 4, the precise meaning of participle clauses can't always be gleaned from the participle clause itself. As I mentioned above, generally the first part of the sentence states a cause or condition for the second one, but sometimes it's either your general background knowledge of how things work (e.g. generally if there is a bomb explosion and a building collapsing, probably the bomb caused the collapse) or the context (i.e. what is said before or after the sentence with the participle clause) that make the meaning clear. Though in some cases, the meaning isn't really clear, in which case it's generally better not to use a participle clause.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

"Narrow stone steps run up the hil-side, flanked by cloesly clustered houses. " 1.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side.Narrow stone steps were flanked by closely clustered houses. Or 2.Narrow stone steps run up the hill-side,which were flanked by closely clustered houses. My main question is the participle flanked modify what?

Hello Esmail Emon,

I think this is a sentence open to several interpretations. In your two explanations/rephrasings (1 and 2), you see 'flanked' as part of a reduced relative clause (which are flanked), used adjectivally to describe the noun phrase 'narrow stone steps'. This is certainly one interpretation.

 

I think I would be more inclined, however, to say that the participle clause here has an adverbial function. It describes the verb 'run up'. The sentence can be seen as similar to these:

I walked down the street alone.

I walked down the street accompanied by my friend.

I walked down the street flanked by my friend.

Here, the adverbial function is clear, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Esmail Emon,

I think the comma here helps to make the sentence less ambiguous.

Without the comma we might think that that 'flanked by...' is used as a reduced relative clause to describe the noun phrase immediately before it, which is 'hillside'. In other words, without the comma the listener/reader might think that it is the hillside which is flanked by..., and in this case it would be a defining relative clause distinguishing which hillside is being referred to: the hillside flanked by... as opposed to another hillside. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. "Worried by the news, she called the hospital." Is it also possible to say: "Being worried by the news, she called the hospital." Thanks.

Hello LindaP,

Yes, that's fine. You could also say 'As she was worried by the news...'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear teachers! As I have an upcoming exam this week I was doing online tests about participle Clauses, other tests and this one have helped me a lot. By know I understand most of the rules we have to use and also why we have to use them. The only thing that is still confusing me is the use of the verb "been" in this context. In some examples the correct answers were formed with "been" for example "having been worked". I don't quite understand why that answer is more different than "having worked". I hope my question was understandable, and I would appreciate an answer!
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