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

Hi Reemtb,

Well spotted! It's because this sentence has two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and), and the subject of both clauses is the same (hundreds of thousands of youngsters). We don't need to repeat the subject in the second clause, in this case. But it's also fine to repeat it, as you suggested.

 

We can't leave out the subject in complex sentences, i.e. sentences with a main and subordinate clause (e.g. I made a salad for lunch because I wanted something healthy). Both subjects must be stated.

 

Does that make sense?

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, this is very clear. Can we do this with all coordination conjunction or just with some of them? Is this sentence right? -) He always forgets to switch off the lights, and never closes the door before he goes out.

Hi Reemtb,

Yes, it is right :) We can do this with most of the coordinating conjunctions in common usage today: and, but, or, nor and yet.

The only one that we can't do it with is so. Both subjects are needed, e.g.:

  • I was tired, so I had a nap.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

The lesson is very challenging with clauses that is not more suitably used for every daily, it becomes an ambiguous to me and hard to understand, as my wish you can provide more notes and exercises about this. Emmanuel The learner English Team

Hi Emmanuel,

Thanks for your suggestion :) We will keep this in mind when we plan new content.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Giving very little examples, I find this lesson hard to understand. And also, it will be better to show long-form besides very examples.
Hello sir, I have a doubt about the present participle clauses. Kindly check the sentence below and parse it and let me know the sentence below is a type f cause and effect or activities happening at the same time. Pls, check below. 1) I was willing to follow up with potential clients, developing relationships with them until they were ready to make a deal with us.

Hello yogesh,

The sentence is fine.

The sentence could be read either way: developing relationships with... could be the result of the speaker's action, or it could be the reason for it. Without context both interpretations are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

1) I have worked successfully in sales for over 10 years. One of my first sales jobs was in college, where I majored in business. I worked for the college newspaper selling advertising space, and as an extrovert who likes interacting with people, I was very successful in the job. What also helped me sell more than any other salesperson was my persistence. I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months, developing a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. The full context is here

Hello again yogesh,

Thank you for adding the context. I think it's fairly clear that the reason why the speaker followed up with clients was because he or she wanted to develop a relationship with them in order to achieve his or her desired deal, so I would say that that particple clause here shows purpose or reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If it is a purpose or reason then why not " to develop a relationship" instead of "developing relationship". then what is the difference between the sentences below. 1) I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months, developing a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. 2) I was willing to follow up with a potential client over weeks and even months to develop a relationship with them until they were ready to make a deal with us. Kindly elaborate.

Hello yogesh,

I think the difference is that the participle requires contextual interpretation. In other words, the participle could describe either situation. The infinitive (an infinitive of purpose) is only used to describe purpose or reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hey, thanks, you have been of great help. one more question. 1) London, like the rest of the UK, is committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2050. That means greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change. I don't understand the sentence " and any remaining emissions offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change. " Can you parse the above sentence.

Hello again yogesh,

The sentence uses ellipsis to avoid repetition. The full sentence would be as follow:

London, like the rest of the UK, is committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2050. That means greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions would be offset, neutralizing environmental impact and slowing climate change.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I come across a sentence from a book. "Underwater research used to require divers to find shipwrecks, but recently, various types of underwater vehicles were developed, some controlled from a ship on the surface, and some of them autonomous, which means they don't need to be operated by a person" Could you explain what is the type of structure used in the part " some controlled from...and some of them ...". What is the function of that part in the sentence? Thank you. Giang

Hi giangphan,

The clause provides extra information about the subject ('various types of underwater vehicles'). The verb here is a past participle as the meaning is passive. Some shows that the information does not apply to all examples of these vehicles; if the clauses were headed only by the participle then it would apply to all examples.

In terms of grammar, this is an adjunct clause, which means a clause which adds extra non-essential information to the sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers , could you help me with this question? 1-The audience are on their feet, stomping and roaring, doing the Mexican wave, demanding encore after encore. 2-Heading a national system, known simply asElSistema, the Orchestra comprises over 200 young musicians aged from 16 to 20. -) Can we make participles in two clauses and more like the two examples above? Are these two sentences correct? -) And the phrase (aged from 16 to 20) is it the reduce relative clauses with adjective ( who are aged from 16 to 20 )?

Hello Reemtb,

The sentences you ask about look grammatically correct to me, though I'd recommend using more than one participle clause (actually, participle clauses in general) sparingly in your writing for stylistic reasons.

Yes, I think you could consider that a reduced relative clause. It's a commonly used phrase to express an age range.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers, I came across the following sentence in one of the text books. Please tell me why the present participle is used instead of past participle. Being occupied with important matters, he had no leisure to see us. Can we convert this to: Occupied with important matters, he had no leisure to see us. If both are correct, then why the present participle is preferred over the past participle.

Hello Suhana,

Both forms (being occupied and occupied) are possible here and there is no difference in meaning in this context.

Being + past participle is a continuous passive form. In some contexts it can be used to emphasise that a situation or state was temporary or in progress, like all continuous forms.

 

You can use being + adjective. For example;

Being happy with my work, she agreed to give me a raise.

Since some adjectives have the same form as past participles, there is a potential ambiguity here. Your example could be interpreted in this way if we see occupied as an adjective rather than a verb form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Mr. I have a question. -Used in this way, participles can make your writing more concise. The full structure of this sentence is. (If you use participles in this way, … ) My question is, why did you use it in past participle although it is active in the full structure and the subject is different in the first part of sentence from the subject in the second part of the sentence?

Hello Reemtb,

The passive turns the object into the subject of the verb:

If you use participles in this way... > the subject is 'you'

If participles are used in this way... > the subject is 'participles'

Thus, when the passive is used the subject is the same in both clauses, allowing a participle clause to be used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It rained for two weeks on end, completely ruining our holiday - How about ",...which completely ruined..."? The team won the championship, shocking their opponents. - How about ", which shocked...."? I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework - How about "Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book." Thanks English Team.

Hello Lucas_xpp,

All of those alternatives are possible. They do not change the meaning in each case, so the choice is one of style and emphasis.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the use of ' not....... but' pair. I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but that it seems impractical. In the sentence above, the correction is, use but instead of not, I wanna know that why but is used instead of not, Despite 'not.......but'pair being correct. Please clarify sir. :)

Hello Kapil Kabir,

You need to have clauses which match in form, so if the first clause includes ...not because... then the second clause needs to include ...but because...::

I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but because it seems impractical.

 

If the first clause contained ...not that... then the second clause would contain ...but that...:

I did not promise that I would agree, but only that I would consider your offer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Teachers, "He is chasing the boy who broke his window" cannot be reduced to " He is chasing the boy breaking his window". How about "He chased the boy who broke his window", can this be reduced to "He chased the boy breaking his window"? Thanks

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence is ambiguous. It could mean that the man is breaking the window as he chases the boy, or that the boy is breaking the window while he is being chased. Either way, the suggestion is that the breaking and the chasing are simultaneous. Obviously, the context would suggest something else, but that is what the grammatical structure implies. That is why the most likely form would be '...who broke...', which avoids these issues.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr. I have a question about a sentence. -Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage. The full structure for this sentence is. He walked towards the stage, and he filled with pride.( here the veb is active) Or -He walked towards the stage, and he was filled with pride( here it is adjective ) My question is, why is this sentence a passive?

Hello Rama Tb,

The form is not passive in form. It has a passive meaning, which is not the same thing. The form is a past participle (filled) and participle are examples of nonfinite verb forms, meaning they lack tense, mood and voice.

 

The subject of the main clause (He) is not performing the action. He does not fill anything; he is filled. That is why we say it has a passive meaning. By contrast, present participles have an active meaning. For example:

He walked towards the stage, filling his mother with pride.

Here, he is filling his mother with pride, not being filled with pride.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So you mean with adjectives that give passive meaning in participle clauses we yes past participle, and with adjectives that give active meaning we use present participle in participle clause. Did l understand it right?

Hello again Reemtb,

Past participles in these clauses often have a passive meaning and present participles often have an active meaning. I wouldn't focus on adjecctives, to be honest, as it's the meaning which matters, not whether or not a given word is an adjective or a verb. In your example, filled is a passive verb form, in my opinion, rather than an adjective.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there!! quick question on a Subjunctive and participle question. Working on this phrase "wish you were here listening to watermelon sugar at your friends annual pool party, while their dog barks at happily passing squirrels." Does "barks" also need to be past tense? Looking forward to your grammar guidance! Thank you so much

Hi gramgal,

The present is fine here as you are talking about a present situation. The hypothetical part of the sentence is that your friend is not 'here'; the rest of the sentence describes a real present as it is written.

There are some other things to correct in the sentence: it should be friend's or friends' rather than the form without an apostrophe.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

For example i have a sentence: "I saw a girl walking through the park". Who was walking through the park? Me? /When I was walking through the park I saw a girl/ Or a girl? /I saw a girl who was walking through the park/ How to emphasize WHO was doing action?

Hi Maxim,

Yes, it's possible to understand the sentence both ways!

Normally, though, listeners would understand walking through the park as describing the girl, because the words are right next to each other.

If you actually mean that it was me (the speaker) who was walking through the park, this wouldn't be the best way to say it because it's confusing. It needs to be rephrased to make it clearer, as you suggested.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I've got a question here. Is the sentence "cooking, i remember you" correct? It's related to participle, isn't it?

Hi Xxx,

Yes, it is a correct sentence. But it's a bit hard to understand for a reader or listener. It's unusual to have a single word (cooking) as the present participle clause.

Other options would be more commonly used. -ing clauses often follow conjunctions or prepositions (see above for more examples), so this would be a clearer and more common way to say it:

  • While cooking, I remember you.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Sir, I get confused when I use 'as if, as though and if' when they are used as ' a imaginary situation that may be true' I have an example I was surprised when the hostess smiled as if she saw me before. I don't know how as if is used here. For an imaginary situation we mainly use 'were/ V2' but I think the correction in this example is 'had been.

Hi Kapil Kabir,

Yes, this is an imagined situation. Had seen is correct here: ... as if she had seen me before. It needs to be in the past perfect (not past simple), to show that that action (seeing me) happened before the other actions (I was surprised / the hostess smiled). 

Check our page on the past perfect for more information about this: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/past-perfect

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I don't know why I'm asking that question but I'm curious to know about this The question is that We use Degrees for increase the emphasis or stress on something. Like Hot(Positive Degree) Hotter(Comprative Degree) Hottest( Superlative Degree) But my question is We use adverbs, like very, too....etc, to emphasize or stress the Adjectives as well as Adverbs Very Hot Too Hot I want to know What is difference among these, when we use Degrees(Hot,Hotter,Hottest) and Adverbs(Very hot, Too hot). Can we say The adverb of Degree equivalent to Degree in adjective ? Like Very Hot/ Too Hot = Hottest If it is not equal, then what is difference in the meaning. I hope you to understand what I want to say. Please clarify sir. Thank you.
Hello sir, I have a great confusion regarding these sentences 1) Some of the students are gone. 2) Some of students are gone. I want to know why we put article 'the' before students. Is it necessary or not? Someone else told me that there is no difference between sentence 1 and sentence 2. Please clarify sir :)
Online courses
Learn English online – with the world's English experts