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 Kaisoo93,

The sentence structure does not hold together in that way. The sentence 'with', everything describes the object (of the preposition) 'embers'; you cannot change that object into a subject for a new verb without starting a new sentence:

Once fires have started, other areas are at risk. Embers blown by the wind cause blazes to spread to new areas.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Two questions 1. We don't use Possessives with such verbs to show its a gerund, so when ing word follows does it represent gerund or present participle as adjective. I saw him singing (participle as adjective defining him who is singing or as gerund defining the process of singing) Or both, just the way we look at it 2. Ing word following verbs generally act as gerund ( verbs object) But if it follows an infinitive would.it be a participle or gerund. Let's get (infinitive) moving(gerund or participle) Also can participle-ing(adjective) follow a verb? Like --Complete working (this is gerund) right? Thanks

Hello John Mccan,

In both examples, I would say that the -ing form is a participle.

 

In the first example, 'singing' is a participle with an adjectival function. It describes the pronoun 'him'. The way the sentence is constructed tells us this, as the object is the pronoun. In other words, you hear the person who is singing, not the singing which belongs to the person. In the latter case, you would say 'I heard his singing'.

 

In the second example, the construction is get + participle. You can use present and past participles in this construction, where present participles have an active meaning and past participles have a passive meaning. The verb 'get' here has a meaning between 'start' and 'become', depending on the context:

Let's get going. [active meaning, get going = start moving]

Let's get cooking. [active meaning, get cooking = start cooking]

Let's get dressed. [passive meaning, get dressed = become dressed]

 

As an aside, the participle/gerund distinction is really a false one in English, and is a relict of a neo-classical view of English which imposed Latin forms and terms on it in an inappropriate way. Modern English views of grammar prefer the term -ing form, which avoids trying to create two items from one. Instead, we treat the -ing form as a single item with a range of uses.

You can find a nice summary of this on this page:

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/participles-and-gerunds

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sure understood all your points. Thank you Actually i have read it in a book that using possessive with verbs of perception is not correct? That's why this question. Second query -- with progressive tense if we use if we use ing with bare gerund not ing (witnessed complete act) than what does it signify? I was watching him sing 3. To+ verb+ verbing (is this gerund as verbs object or as a participle of noun(to+ verb) working as modifier, this was my question? Because I think with verb ing always signifies an action/gerund and with noun it becomes modifier? Thankyou again
I one question I should get going here going is gerund Let's us get going here going is modifier/participle of Object complement phrase (get going) right?

Hello John Mccan,

In both sentences going is a present participle, in my view.

As I mentioned previously, most modern grammars of English use the term -ing form rather than trying to impose a participle/gerund distinction. I think getting distracted by such labelling is not going to help you to improve your English.

 

The pattern get + ing is an example of patter 5a on this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund#cite_note-26

As you can see, the entry highlights the debateable nature of the form:

Some grammarians do not recognise all these patterns as gerund use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

One more thing we can use ing as noun ( with possessive) ''within a phrase" or as adjective ( without possessive) but infinitive can only be used as adjective modifier never as a noun within a phrase.

Hello again,

I don't know of any reason why using possessive forms after verbs of perception would be incorrect. It is certainly less common. The possessive changes the meaning, as I explained in my earlier comment:

I heard him singing - I heard him at a time when he was singing

I heard his singing - I heard the singing which he produces

 

The verb 'watch' is often followed by a bare infinitive:

I watched her paint.

I watched him cook.

It does not give us any information about whether the act (painting or cooking in these examples) is complete or not. If you use a continuous form ('was watching') then it implies that the act of watching was incomplete or interrupted in some way, not the act that was being watched - though that may be a logical conclusion, if the watching was cut short.

 

I'm afraid I'm not sure I follow your third question. Perhaps you can provide an example to clarify.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello 1. When we form a participle clause, we MUST delete a conjunction ? Ex) Two men seem similar if we compare them with a woman. If we write comparing in the sentence, is it completely wrong? Always thank you.

Hello Sunny0713,

Remember that the participle must refer to the subject of the sentence. Here, the subject is 'two men', so we need a passive meanings, which means we need a past participle:

Compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

You can include a conjunction:

If compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

When compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

At the beginning of this article, you say that participle clauses are adverbial. Given that, what would you make of the participle clause in this sentence? Assured of a place on the team, Jack went out with his friends. Isn’t this just the reduced form of the following adjective clause? Jack, who was assured of a place on the team, went out with his friends. If so, it does seem that participle clauses can be either adjectival or adverbial depending on the construct from which they are reduced. Thanks in advance for your response.

Hello Tim

You're right -- participle clauses can also be used to modify noun phrases, which makes them adjectival rather than adverbial in such a case.

We are currently revising this whole grammar section and this is one of the pages that hasn't yet been finished. Within a month or two, this page will have a new and improved explanation, as well as a couple of new exercises.

Sorry for any confusion.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

If I have such crucial info using which one can make lots of money; why he would share this info with others. In the above sentence, is the word "using" used as the preposition or gerund, please clarify. thanks.

Hello SUCHIT35,

'Using' here is a participle, not a preposition or a gerund. However, the sentence is not correctly constructed in several areas and would need to be rewritten:

If I have such crucial info, with which one can make lots of money, why would I share this info with others?

 

We try to answer questions posted as quickly as we are able, though we are a small team here at LearnEnglish. Please do not post the same question multiple times as it only slows down the process.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello please help 1. What is the difference between "Compound Noun(gerund+noun)" vs any expression that uses participle as adjective(present participle +noun), are these two different things? for example working professional, walking stick etc. what are these, Gerund or participle+noun? 2. Subject complement- Gerund vs Participle/Participle clause How to know difference btn the two. Eg. The book is boring to read is this an Example of subject compliment ie a type of gerund or is it a participle/Participle clause? what is the difference between the two? Thanks you

Hello John Mccan

Re: 1, I'd say that 'walking' in 'a walking stick' is a gerund, i.e. 'walking stick' is a compound noun or noun + noun construction where the first noun has an adjectival function. I suppose you could also argue that 'walking' is an adjective, but 'walking stick' is such a common collocation that I see it more as a noun with an adjectival function.

Re: 2, 'boring' is an adjective. There are many adjectives that can be followed by infinitives -- please see the Adjectives with to-infinitives section on our Infinitives page.

Please note that we respond to user comments as we can and at our own discretion. If a comment of yours goes unanswered for more than a week, it could be that we've missed it and you are welcome to ask us about it. Otherwise, please just be patient.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I am confused with this adverb clause. I saw this as an example of an adverb clause. But it does not start with a.conjuntion. Please confirm whether it is an adverb clause and the reason. Jeff stared at the animal with his widely opened eyes

Hello sumanasc

I'd suggest you have a look at the Adverbials section of our Grammar reference. As you can see there, a prepositional phrase (such as 'with his eyes wide open') is a kind of adverbial.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir Please tell whether the following sentence is correct as an adverb clause: The ships returned to the harbour which took a long time in sea.

Hello sumanasc,

The sentence is not correct. I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to say, and there are several issues with word selection, but in terms of grammar you have a relative (adjective) clause beginning with 'which' and this clause describes the noun preceding it. In other words, in your sentence it is 'the harbour' which has taken a long time at sea.

Perhaps you mean this:

The ships returned to the harbour after a long time at sea.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, In a book review, my student has written: "Carmen tries to persuade Jack to kill her husband, but strongly refusing, he decides to leave". I have corrected this to ..."but he strongly refuses and decides to leave". My student's sentence is wrong, but I am struggling to explain why. "Strongly refusing" I'd say is wrong because the -ing form is used for simultaneous actions, but even if I were to correct this to "...but having strongly refused, he decides to leave." still sounds strange. Any thoughts greatly appreciated!

Hello Kali12,

The actions here are simply a sequence. A participle clause would imply either that they happen simultaneously, as you say, which is not the case, or that there is some kind of link between them, such as one action causing the other or one action only being possible after another. In this case, your correction is the best option.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi...excellent answers participle clause questions. My student wrote the following...it was a book review: "He inevitably runs into danger, having to fight to stay alive". This doesn't sound good to me. I would say..."and has to fight to stay alive". But I can't for the life of me think why. The actions are closely related, causal, closely related, but it sounds strange. Any comments greatly appreciated!

Hi Kali12,

There is a problem with the sentence, but it is not grammatical. The participle clause here would explain the reason for an action. In other words, it would tell us why he runs into danger. Thus, the sentence can be expressed like this:

He runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive.

This seems to me to get the cause-effect relationship backwards. It is not, I imagine, that he runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive, but rather than he has to fight to stay alive because he runs into danger.

The best way to express the idea would be with a simple conjunction, as you suggest:

He inevitably runs into danger, and has to fight to stay alive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, I would like to know if the sentence "I haven't read the book recommended by my teacher last week." constitutes as a participle clause. If so, i would love to know why. Many thanks

Hello slopedasian,

In your sentence 'recommended by my teacher last week' is a reduced relative clause which describes the noun 'book'. It has an adjectival function.

The action in a participle clause must refer to the same subject as the main clause, and that is not the case here (the teacher, not 'I', is the person who did the recommending).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, I would like to know if we can use participle clauses to express reason when the participle and the verb in the main clause do not have the same subject. For example, can I say: 1. "My mum having prepared a delicious meal, I stayed in and had dinner with my family"?; or 2. "the weather being too windy, we didn't go sailing"? thanks a lot.

Hello antopuglia

People do indeed use participle clauses in this way -- the sentences you suggest are fine -- but most writers and editors try to avoid them, especially when they are ambiguous or otherwise confusing. It's also important to note that these forms are fairly formal and so quite unusual in everyday use.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi team Could you tell me if this sentence is correct - By June next year, I would have been working with Access for one year.

Hello Kosi

Whether this sentence is correct depends on the context it's used in, so I'm afraid I can't say for sure. If, for example, you started working with Access in June 2019 and are saying this sentence in October 2019 and speaking about June 2020, then the correct way to say it would be 'By June next year, I will have been working with Access for one year.'

You might want to take a look at our 'will have' and 'would have' page for an explanation of this grammar.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team Could you tell me if the following sentence is correct? He spotted Karen sitting with a middle-aged western guy who didn't appear to be showing any interest in her. Given that the sentence starts in past tense 'He spotted...' I'm not sure whether the part that reads '... appear to be showing any interest in her' should be past tense, as the verb 'appear' in this sentence is present tense. Thanks for your help, lexeus

Hi lexeus,

The sentence is fine. The verb 'appear' is part of a negative past tense form: 'didn't appear'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, There was a downward fluctuation in the amount of acid rain, followed by a steady decline. Is "followed by a steady decline" a past participle clause? If yes, what is the common subject of main clause and the past participle clause? Thanks

Hi giangphan,

The clause here is a reduced relative clause:

...of acid rain, (which was) followed by...

The clause does not reference the noun 'acid rain', but rather the whole phrase 'a downward fluctuation in the amoun of acid rain'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi, Is present participle used when both actions are happening at the same time? Does the the above e.g., 'Shouting loudly, Peter walked home.' mean 'While Peter was walking home, he was shouting loudly.'? For the following, do 2. and 3. have the same meaning as 1.? 1. Although I worked hard, I failed my test. 2. Despite working hard, I failed my test. 3. Despite having worked hard, I failed my test. Since 'working hard' is the first past action, am I right to say that using 'having' is thus optional/redundant in a sentence that has 'despite' in it? Thank you.

Hello Leen

Often the two actions do occur simultaneously, and in general this is probably the first assumption to make, but that is not always necessarily the case. The participle form in itself doesn't specify the timing -- it's the context that makes the timing clear (or in some cases ambiguous). In the example you cite from this page, it makes sense that the walking and the shouting occurred simultaneously and that's how I and I'm sure most people would understand the sentence.

Yes, 2 and 3 mean the same as 1, and yes, 'having' is optional in 3 because the context already makes it clear that the working occurred before the test. But there is nothing wrong with using 'having' here; if you wanted to be very precise, for example, in formal writing, that would be a better option. In informal speaking, however, it would sound more natural to say 2 instead of 3.

Sorry that we missed responding when you posted your first comment!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Having seen it all his life, he knows every aspect of it. Having lived there all his life, he knows everything about the place. Does the participle clauses mean that he still sees it and lives there? should I use "knew" instead than "knows"?

Hi sam61,

The action described in the participle clause does not have to be ongoing. It simply has to have a present effect.

For example:

Having been married most of his life, he can give some good advice.

In this sentence the person may be still married now, but may equally be divorced or widowed. What is important is that he has the experience and knowledge which allows him to give good advice.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team! I have a question. What is the grammar rule of this sentence, "Trust having served you herewith"? It was at the end of one of e-mail.Is it kind of phrase? Thank you for your help!
Hi I have a problem with two sentences that have been written above. 1- CONDITION (with a similar meaning to an if-condition): Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters. Compare: If you look after it carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters. Why in this sentence you used "looked". I think according to explanation in this case we should use "looking", instead in this sentence: RESULT (with a similar meaning to so or therefore): The bomb exploded, destroying the building. Compare: The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed. we should use "destroyed" instead of "destroying". Please let me know what's my problem. Thanks.
Hello hamid2231 'Looked' is the correct form in the first sentence because in relation to the subject of the main clause ('this coat'), it has a passive meaning, i.e. 'if this coat is looked after carefully'. You could use gerunds here ('Looking after the coat carefully will result in it keeping you warm through many winters'), but it would no longer be a participle clause since the two '-ing' forms acting as nouns. 'destroying' is correct in the second example because in relation to the subject of the main clause ('The bomb'), it has an active meaning. 'The bomb exploded and destroyed the building' might be a more helpful way of thinking about it. Does that make sense? All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
Hi, Do the participle clauses for result and reason need a comma to introduce them every time like the ones shown in the examples.
Hello sam61 Yes, they normally need a comma. Clauses that explain reasons are also commonly written with the reason clause first, and in this case they also have a comma. For example in 'Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book', the comma is also used. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
Hello Britishcouncil English team. I have three sentences, 1. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book lying on my stomach. 2. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book and I will be lying on my stomach. 3. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book while lying on my stomach. Do they all have the same meaning ? And what subject should I read related to the form of the first sentence ? Because I want to be able to write sentences like the form of the first sentence.