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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Hello wycam10,

We use present participles (embarrassing) when we want an active meaning and past participles (embarrassed) when the meaning is passive. In your sentence, the meaning is passive: the man is embarrassed by the attention.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, The difference being that I don't like juice and she does. The difference is that I don't like juice and she does. Now I know that 'Being' is being used as a present participle in the first sentence above and I have some people using it that way that means it's a natural use. However It sounds quite unsual to me. I wonder, how can a participle, that is 'being' in this case, replace 'is or are' ? what kind of use of the being is this and can other participles: present ones or past ones be used in this way ?

Hello SonuKumar

This is a structure that some people might say from time to time, but it's fairly unusual in most situations. First of all, it's a bit academic, and in most writing other than transcriptions of a conversation between people (for example, in a story), it would be considered a sentence fragment rather than a complete sentence.

It would normally be at the end of a sentence, and preceded by a semi-colon or dash. In such a case, it would essentially be a kind of adverbial participle phrase. For example: 'She and I have the same tastes apart from one small difference -- the difference being that I don't like juice and she does.' As you have suggested, it means something like 'She and I have the same tastes except for one difference. The difference is that I don't like juice and she does.'

As a sentence fragment, 'being' doesn't replace the verb 'is' or 'are'. There is no main verb in the sentence as you copied it above, which is why we call it a sentence fragment in such a case. When it's part of a sentence (as in my example above), it's a phrase and so doesn't have a main verb.

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Teachers, "Students get a lower grade in some difficult subjects, which will lower their overall score, they thinking they do not perform well as a whole and undermine their confidence." 1) In this sentence, I use participle clause 'they thinking they do not...' to give the result of 'lower their overall score', meaning that lowering their overall score made them think that they do not perform well. Is it correct? 2) Do I need to change 'undermine their confidence' to participle clause 'undermining ...'? because 'undermine their confidence' is the result of 'they think they do not perform well' Can I rewrite this site's example sentence: "The bomb exploded, destroying the building." to "The bomb exploded, the building being destroyed"? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93

It's not correct to begin the participle clause with 'they'. The sentence is difficult to understand as it is; I'm not sure where you found it, but I wouldn't take it as a model. 

Your version of the sentence about the bomb is not correct. You could write 'The building being destroyed, the bomb exploded' but the meaning would be different -- it would mean that since the building was destroyed, the bomb exploded. That doesn't make much sense to me, but the grammar is not incorrect.

I'm sorry, but we can't provide explanations of sentences that don't come from our website. They are not always correct and we can't explain why other people write the way they do, especially when the grammar is non-standard.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, thank you very much for your excellent and understandable explanation. Best regards Jasmina
Hi English Team! I have a problem. We have to link folllowing sentences by using a participle construction: Donald Duck was "born" in 1934. He became the world´s most famous duck. I have three soultions: Born in 1934, Donald Duck became the world´s most famous duck. Being born in 1934, ... Having been born in 1934, ... Which one is the correct one and why? The second example is: The original Disneyland was designed by Disney himself. It opened in California in1955. My solutions: The original Disneyland, designed by Disney himself, opened in California in 1955. The original Disneyland, being designed by DIsney himself, ... The original Disneyland having been designed by Disney himself... When do I use past participle alone and when with have or have being? Thanks

Hi Jasmina,

The correct option for your first example is the first one (Born in, ...). This is because it is neutral in the sense that it simply provides information. The other two options suggest a causal link - that Donald Duck became the world's most famous because he was born in 1934.

 

The second example is similar. The second and third options suggest a causal link of some kind, while the first is simply a factual statement. The difference between the second and third options is that the second describes the situation at the moment (a fact about Disneyland now) whereas the third focuses on how that situation came to pass. It's a difference in emphasis and depends really on the speaker's intention and the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Is the second sentence "The original Disneyland, designed by Disney himself, opened in California in 1955." considered as non-defining relative clause where "which is designed by" is reduced to "designed by"? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

The naming here is complex and there are different views. Some hold that non-defining relative clauses cannot be reduced, and so an example like this is a post-modifying adjectival construction which is not a relative clause. Others would say that it is a non-defining relative clause and so they can be reduced.

 

Personally, I don't consider the labelling of structures and the formulation of strict rules to be the most important thing. A descriptive approach which identifies the structure and its use is preferable in my opinion. Here, we have a past participal post-modifying the subject of the sentence and providing additional, non-essential, information. Whether or not you see it as a reduced relative clause or as an alternative to a relative clause is really not important.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In this sentence, " You can make a lot of money selling old cars." Why "selling" is placed with "by selling"? Because I think "selling" imlies the way to make money.

Hello Hainguyen123

'selling' and 'by selling' mean the same thing here. 'by' is often used before a present participle to speak about how to do something.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, Can we say that the word 'interesting' as in 'I have an interesting story' is participle or adjective? Because the -ing form of 'interest' is interesting and there is 'interesting' as an adjective. Thank you, Sir

Hello Risa warysha

'interesting' functions as an adjective here. The adjective is derived from the present participle, just as the adjective 'interested' is derived from the past participle of the verb.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Reading the paper,he saw the news about his homtetown. You chose reading because it is a reason of seeing the news . But I guess it may be perfect participle . He has read his paper ,after that he saw the news on tv .what do you think ? Thanks .

Hello alsayed

I wouldn't say that participle clause expresses reason, but rather that he saw the new while reading the paper (two actions at the same time). It could also possibly explain how he saw the news.

Because 'reading' ends in '-ing', it is a present participle, not a perfect participle.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Why do we confuse the definitions. By calling Participle clause, you mean participle phrase. Similarly reduced relative clause is adjective phrase. Clauses are only three types-Noun, Adjective and Adverb. So why have new classes of clause? Thank

Hello Bharati,

I can't say why this is the case, I'm afraid. Language descriptions grow and evolve over time, and fashion comes and goes in linguistics as in everything else. All I can tell you is that both names are used for the structure. For example, this article on the topic by Richard Nordquist uses both terms and does not attempt to distinguish between them:

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-participial-phrase-1691588

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi , I would like to ask the following question. He stood on the back,holding on to his shoulders. He lunged for the telephone,lifting the receiver quickly. the participle clauses 'holding on to his shoulders. ' and ' lifting the receiver quickly' for which complete clauses did these two participle clauses come from?Thank you!

Hello Ire

I suppose the second one was something like 'He lunged for the phone and quickly lifted the receiver.'

I'm not sure I understand the first one -- perhaps something like 'He stood on the back while holding on'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Shouldn't these be called Participle phrase rather than participle clause as by definition a clause has a subject and finite verb in it
Hi Some languages use a term transliterated in English as "relative participle" Is there any such term in English grammar? Thank you

Hi Jamil,

This is not a term we use. You can find participles in reduced relative clauses, however.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Jamil,

Yes, that's correct. A finite relative clause may be reduced to produce a non-finite relative clause:

The woman who is riding the bike > The woman riding the bike

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs, Can I use participle to describe a sequence of event? For example, I entered a room, and then in the room, I cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Can I rewrite as the following? 1) I entered a room, clearing all the rubbish, painting the wall, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the windows. 2) I entered a room, and cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use a participle like to describe actions happening simultaneously rather than in sequence, so your first sentence suggests that you did all of those actions while you were entering the room. Obviously, this is not possible, so the sentence would be understood thanks to the context, but grammatically the meaning would be a little different from that which you intended.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello crow,

This site is aimed at helping people improve their English by providing explanations and practice. We don't offer a correction or proofreading service, however.

If you have a questions about how English works or about something you don't understand then we'll be happy to try to help.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Just to understand it better, can you verify if In the following sentences, past participles are working as adjectives or passive voice Get it resolved(adjective or passive) to earn from YouTube have your videos watched (adjective) Made it complicated(adjective or not) Thanks

Hello John Mccan

As far as I know, when 'get' and 'have' are used in causative structures such as these, the verb forms (here 'resolved' and 'watched') are past participles, not adjectives. This is because they have a passive meaning, being another way of saying something like 'I want it to be resolved' (following your example).

In the structure with 'make', an adjective, noun or infinitive can come after the object. So in this case, 'complicated' is an adjective.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs, Can "Dressed in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy." be written as "Dressing in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy" also? where the participle replaces "Sam who is dressed" and "Sam who is dressing" respectively. Is it correct to conclude that for those verbs that are both transitive and intransitive, we can use both past and present participle as in the case above ? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use 'dressed' with a passive meaning, so 'Sam who is dressing' or 'Dressing in a suit...' are not correct here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thank you for your reply. I have further question. From the lesson above: "Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]" "Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]" Why can't we apply participle the same way as 2 sentences above? Sam is dressed in... (passive voice) and Sam dress in ... (active voice)

Hello Kaisoo93,

The reason is that the verbs 'shout' and 'dress' operate in different ways in English.

We do not use the verb 'dress' actively to talk about the subject in modern English. Thus, a sentence using 'dress' must have a different object to the subject, or be used in a passive form so the subject can be omitted:

The servants dressed the king in his finest gown.

The king was dressed in his finest gown.

 

Alternatively, you can use a reflexive pronoun to create an object for the verb, though this is rather unusual and can sound rather archaic:

The king dressed himself in his finest gown.

 

Since the participle in a participle phrase must relate to the same subject as the main clause, we cannot use it with an active meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Is the participle phrase/modifier too far away from the noun 'paintings' in the following sentence: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, the paintings are a unique feature of our church. The sentence seems grammatically correct to me but I am not sure. Does this make more sense: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, are the paintings, a unique feature of our church. Maybe neither are correct? Thanks

Hello MartaC,

The danger with having the participle too far from its referent is that the sentence may be ambiguous or confusing for the reader. I don't see any problem with your sentence. In fact, bring the participle phrase to the beginning like this is quite a common literary device to highlight certain details in the sentence.

Your second version is also correct, though it seems a less elegant structure to me. It's really a question of personal style and taste, though.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind causing blazes to spread to new areas." The word "causing" is a adjectival (reduced form of which causes) or adverbial? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I would say that the participle causing has an adjectival function here. It's hard to reformulate the sentence to create an adverbial clause (see here for a list of adverbial clause types).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thank you for your reply. If I don't use participle, are both sentences below correct? 1) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind and cause blazes to spread to new areas. 2) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind which cause blazes to spread to new areas.

Hello Kaisoo93,

The first sentence is not correct as the verb 'cause' lacks an appropriate subject.

The second sentence is fine. The verb (cause) is plural, so it is clear that the relative pronoun refers back to embers rather than to wind.

 

The original sentence (with causing) is by far the best choice in terms of style, clarity and elegance.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team