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 Lal,

We can't really say if a sentence is correct or not when it is not finished, but if the first ended after 'operators', it would be a correct, complete sentence. The second would not be correct -- it needs a comma after 'operators' and then a main clause after it (e.g. 'I would like to apply for one') for it to be a complete sentence.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello Peter M & Kirk! Good day! Hope both of you are doing great and have observed this year's Christmas with joy and happiness. Could you please enlighten me with your valuable comments on the following sentence regarding the usage of participle phrase ( indicating that firms.....)? For low levels of quantity supplied, the elasticity of supply is high, indicating that firms respond substantially to changes in the price. Can I rewrite the sentence by using the relative clause instead of participle phrase? For low levels of quantity supplied, the elasticity of supply is high, which indicates that firms respond substantially to changes in the price. If the above sentence is correct, then does 'which' denote 'the elasticity' or the entire clause 'the elasticity of supply is high' ? I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Learner2018,

Thanks for your holiday wishes! You are right about this sentence: you could rewrite it using the relative clause that you suggest. In this case, 'which' refers to the entire clause.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk and Peter M, could you explain whether I can use different tenses with participle clauses. For example, revising for a couple of week, Tom got high mark. Revising for a couple of week, Tom will get high mark. Are these two sentence correct?

Hi Mdanesh,

Participle clauses can be used to speak about different times, but clauses with a present participle tend to speak about two actions that are concurrent or at least very close in time. If they are not, there is usually some clue about the time in the sentence.

In your first example, for example, I'd suggest using 'having' and an adverbial clause ('Having revised for a couple of weeks before the exam, Tom got a high mark.'), which make the sequence of actions clear. Similarly, for your second example, I'd suggest using 'after': 'After revising for a couple of weeks, Tom will get a high mark'.

Please note that participle clauses are not normally used in informal speaking and writing, so in most cases you'd hear something more like 'Tom got a high mark because he revised for two weeks before the exam' or 'Tom should get a high mark if he revises for a couple of weeks before the exam'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Rox4090,

Yes, that's the idea, though normally the participle clause comes first. It's also a bit unusual in informal speech -- this sounds rather more informal than formal. Finally, 'grocery' should be plural.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Good day! Hope both of you are doing well! I need a bit clarification from you regarding the following sentence: Economists often criticize rent control, arguing that it is a highly inefficient way to help the poor raise the standard of living. What is the meaning of participle clause 'arguing that it is a highly inefficient way to help the poor raise the standard of living' in the above sentence? How could the sentence have been restructured by using a dependent clause instead of participle clause? It would be highly appreciated if you could enlighten me with your valuable comments on it.

Hello learner2018,

The participle clause explains the main clause here, telling us how the main action is done: Economists often criticise rent control by arguing that...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Good day! I came across the following sentence while reading my economics text: In our example, free trade in textiles would cause the price of textiles to fall, reducing the quantity of textiles produced in Iceland and thus reducing employment in the Icelandic textile industry. I think the participle clause 'reducing the quantity of textiles produced' demonstrates the result of the main clause 'the price of textiles to fall'. Is it reasonable to think? My second question is: the usage of 'and thus' with the participle clause 'reducing employment in the Icelandic textile industry' is correct? If it is correct, what type of clause 'and thus reducing employment in the Icelandic textile industry' would be? It would be highly appreciated from my end, if you could enlighten me with your valuable comments on the aforementioned issues.

Hello learner2018,

You are correct: the clause beginning 'reducing...' shows the result of the main clause. A second result is given in a parallel clause ('...reducing...'), which is joined with the co-ordinating conjunction 'and'.

'Thus' is an adverb and does not change the structure of the sentence here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M, Good day! Thank you so much for your previous comments on some issues which I got confused about. However, I need your valuable comments on the following two sentences regarding the meaning of participle clauses: 1. Economists often criticize rent control, arguing that it is a highly inefficient way to help the poor raise the standard of living. What is the meaning of participle clause 'arguing that it is a highly inefficient way to help the poor raise the standard of living' in the above sentence? How could the sentence have been restructured by using a dependent clause instead of participle clause? 2. For low levels of quantity supplied, the elasticity of supply is high, indicating that firms respond substantially to changes in the price. What is the meaning of participle clause 'indicating that firms respond substantially to changes in the price'? How could the sentence have been restructured by using a dependent clause instead of participle clause?
Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Hope everything is going great at your end. I am seeking your valuable comments on the usage of 'by directly controlling the price' in the following sentence which I came across in my economics text. Each of these two groups (consumers and sellers) lobbies the government to pass laws that alter the market outcome by directly controlling the price of an ice-cream cone. Wouldn't be grammatically correct writing 'directly controlling the price of an ice-cream cone instead'? Would there be any difference in meaning, though grammatically correct? It would be highly appreciated from my end if you could provide some other examples of using by + verb+ ing and the reasons of using that structure.

Hello learner2018,

We use 'by + -ing' (by + object (gerund)) to show the method or technique by which something was done:

I made my fortune by investing in a tech company.

She scared the tiger away by sounding her car horn repeatedly.

 

Each of these two groups (consumers and sellers) lobbies the government to pass laws that alter the market outcome by directly controlling the price of an ice-cream cone.

Here, the meaning is clear: the method for altering the market outcome is the direct control of the price of an ice-cream cone.

 

Each of these two groups (consumers and sellers) lobbies the government to pass laws that alter the market outcome, directly controlling the price of an ice-cream cone.

Here, the meaning is different. The laws change the market outcome, and that results in the direct control of the.... In other words, by omitting 'by' we have changed the cause (method) into a result or co-occuring event.

 

This is quite common:

I answered, laughing. [I was laughing as I answered]

I answered by laughing. [The laugh was my answer]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being himself not only a very capable proformer but a composer of no ordinary merit. My friend was an enthusiastic musician and he was not only a very capable proformer but a composer of no ordinary merit. I think these two sentences say the same thing don't they ?

Hi SonuKumar,

Yes, I understand the same thing, though the first one has an awkward structure -- the second one sounds much more natural. Please note that the word 'proformer' should be 'performer'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Good day! I have come across the sentence in a finance text: If management so desired, a firm could issue some bonds and use the proceeds to buy back some stock, thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio. I have two queries regarding the above sentence: 1. Is 'Increasing' a 'gerund' or a 'participle'? why? 2. Can I replace 'thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio' with 'which increases the debt–equity ratio'? What function does perform 'thereby' in the sentence? I would be grateful if you could give your valuable comments on it.

Hello learner2018,

The word 'thereby' is an adverb which means 'in this way' or 'through this'. Grammatically, you could use a relative clause (...which increases...) but it does change the meaning. The relative clause tells us the effect of the buy-back, whereas 'thereby' carries a suggestion of intention – it suggests that increasing the ratio was a goal, not just an incidental effect.

In this sentence, 'increasing' is a participle, not a gerund. It introduces a participle clause.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, Thank you for valuable comments on this issue. Now, the meaning of 'thereby' in the sentence is clear to me. However, could you please give me a further clarification why you considered 'thereby increasing the debt–equity ratio' as a participle clause. What is the adjectival or adverbial role performed by the clause? Thanks in advance!

Hello learner2018,

Participle clauses are often used to show the effects (intended or accidental) of an action.

For example:

I spilt coffee on my laptop, ruining it completely. [When I spilt coffee on my laptop, I ruined it]

 

Your sentence works in the same way.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, A Thought or A Qoute can sometimes be words of wisdom coming or come out of someone's mouth. Should I use 'Come Or Coming' in this sentence or Should I just simply write 'That come out of someone's mouth ? Also Can I use the pronoun 'One' rather than 'Someone' ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Both 'coming out of' and 'that (which) come out of' are possible.

You can use 'one' in place of 'someone', but the meaning is a little different. 'Someone' is more general' 'one' is most often used by a speaker as a formal way of referring to him- or herself.

Note that 'thought' and 'quote' are not usually capitalised.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter & Kirk! Good day! I need to know how the following two sentences are different from each other grammatically? My first sentence is: I saw Jim riding his bike. Here, is 'riding' a gerund or participle? why? Second one is: I spent all of my leisure time watching movies. Here, is 'watching' a gerund or participle? why? Please enlighten me with your valued comments on this.

Hello learner2018,

Gerunds are a verb forms which function as nouns. In the sentence they can be subjects or an objects.

Participles are verb forms which have adjectival or adverbial functions. They can modify nouns or verbs (verb phrases).

 

In both of your sentences the -ing forms are participles:

 

riding his bike is a participle phrase describing 'Jim'; it has an adjectival role in the sentence.

 

watching movies is a participle phrase modifying the verb phrase 'spent all of my leisure time'; it has an adverbial role in the sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your valuable comments on it. However, I further need to clarify the usage of verb+ing form in the following sentence: I saw Jim riding a bike. As far as I am concerned, gerund can be used as an object complement. Is 'riding', in the above sentence, a usage of gerund as an object complement? If not, could you please give any example of gerund used as an object complement? I highly appreciate your valuable comments on it.

Hi learner2018,

As Peter said, 'riding a bike' is a participle in that sentence; it tells us more about Jim.

An example of a gerund as an object complement is 'I like riding my bike'. 'riding' functions as a noun (which is why we call it a gerund) and it is the object of 'like'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Apologies for any typo mistakes; haven't quite figured out how to edit my comments afer saving them.
Hi, Marking my students' exams, I've come across the following sentence structures: Example 1 Me using this Shampoo, makes my hair shiny and soft. Would you say the 'me' is wrong? I'm torn between giving 0.5p or just accepting it and give 1p. The Student writing this is simply emphasising the fact that 'he' (or she for that matter) is the subject, though unncessarily….I reckon I don't like the pronouns at the beginning of a participle clause in General (e.g. it being …) though I can't find a good answer to then explain why I give 0.5p. Example 2 By using this Shampoo..... Here I'm not happy with the BY....doesn't the participle clause substitute it? Using language in an economical way … (as written above). Would you count it wrong and give the Student 0.5p or should I accept it? Thank you for your help.

Hello Cristina123,

The use of 'me' here is certainly non-standard, but it is something which you can hear quite often in informal spoken English. The correct form in my view would be 'my', as in 'My using this shampoo...' Here, the -ing form is a gerund, not a present participle, and has the same meaning as 'My use of this shampoo...'

The use of 'me' has come about through a misidentification of a word more often heard than seen written; in other words, people say 'my' but believe they are saying 'me' and then end up writing it as such.

 

It is possible to use 'by' before the -ing form, but then the -ing form is a gerund; when the -ing form is alone it is a participle. Thus we have:

By using this shampoo, I make my hair... [by=preposition; using=gerund object of preposition]

Using this shampoo, I make... [using=present participle]

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

On LearnEnglish we focus on helping students rather than teachers. We have a sister site aimed at teachers which you can find here:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

You might also find this site helpful:

https://english.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between "The IMEI is a unique code given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" and "The IMEI is a unique code which is given to your mobile by its maker just like a vehicle identification number" So tell me why do we use participal phrase if it is an adjective clause. Is there any difference betwee adj clause and participles?

Hello aseel aftab,

There is no difference in meaning between these two sentences. In this and many cases, the participle clause is simply a more economic (i.e. shorter) way of expressing an idea, which is generally preferable in both writing and speaking (though this sounds like a written text). Sometimes people avoid using shorter forms to ensure clarity, but I'd probably use the first version if I were writing it myself, as it seems clear enough.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there! I’ve got a question around this topic. I was teaching a group of EFL students when an example stopped us and made us discuss about it. Here it is: The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world driven by digital media. Rules concerning Past Participle Clauses say that the Participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. But we saw ‘the store’ as the subject of the main clause and ‘world’ as the subject of the participle clause. Could you help me with this idea of having the same subject in these example? I appreciate. Best, Viviane.

Hello vstallone,

The clause driven by digital media is actually a reduced relative clause rather than a participle clause. We can see this if we write the sentence in full:

The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media.

 

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause. It is different from a participle clause.

Compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote (describing the noun 'world'). That participle clause does not describe the noun ('function') but rather refers to the subject of the main clause ('the relative clause') and provides further information about that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Peter M, Thanks for the answer. I couldn't imagine I'd get a faster reply. Thanks a million. I see your point and understood all details. When you say 'compare this with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', the full version of it. I got the idea that the Participle Clause describes the subject of the main clause 'The store'. Right? But, don't you think it's ambiguous? The store has proved to be a breath of fresh air in a world which is driven by digital media. Students may say that 'world' is driven by the digital media, not 'the store'. This discussion is around one of the examples of the Grammar Box we had last lesson. I really agree with students that this sentence does not follow the rule presented (the same subject for main clause and participle clause) and also agree with you about how things changed when we write the sentence in full. I'll be with them again tomorrow evening and I'm clarifying this point. Definitely, that's not a good example to talk about Participle Clauses. Thank you, Peter. Regards, Viviane Stallone. Rio de Janeiro - BRA

Hello again Viviane,

The reduced relative clause here does describe 'a world' rather than 'the store'.

When the sentence has two possible referees for the relative clause there is a possibilty of ambiguity, as you say. Usually the context makes it clear, but where more than one possibility exists it is conventional to place the relative clause immediately after the noun which it describes. For example:

The shop sold the painting, (which was) owned by an old Scottish family.

The relative clause could be describing the shop or the painting, but we assume that it refers to the painting because of its position.

 

In your example, however, there is no ambiguity. The indefinite article before 'world' makes the relative clause necessary. This is because without any other infomation we would say 'in the world'. When we say 'in a world' we are making it clear that we are describing one of many conceivable worlds.

 

When I said 'compare this with with the participle clause in the sentence I just wrote', I meant the sentence immediately before, which was this sentence:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function, describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

Here, the participle clause 'describing...' refers not to the noun 'function' but to the noun phrase 'The relative clause'. We can see this if we write the sentence out explicitly:

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The relative clause is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

not

The relative clause here has an adjectival function. The function is describing the noun 'world' rather than referring to the main clause.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone, Can someone explain to me why the verb-ing form is used in the following sentences “So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step.” These are the lines in the book “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami. I greatly appreciate all the help. Thank you.

Hello Lolipopstar93,

This is an example of a participle clause or participle phrase (different terms are used). Here, it describes actions (closing and plugging) which happen at the same time as other actions (step inside).

You can read more about participle clauses on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thank you so much for the quick reply. As you mentioned above, participle clause is used to describe actions that happen at the same time as other actions, so i’m just wondering whether the aforementioned sentences can be rewritten as followed: “So all you can do is give in to it, stepping right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walking through it, step by step.” The reason I rewrote it like this is because all the actions ( step inside, close the eyes, plug up the ears and walk through it) happens at the same time and help to add more information to the main clause ( so all you can do is give in to it). Is this correct?. Thank you in advance. Regards, Lolipopstar93

Hi Lolipopstar93,

Yes, you could write the sentence like that. It changes the meaning slightly, however.

If you use 'give in... walk thorough' then you are providing two sequential actions. In other words, you are saying 'first give in (doing this and this) and after that walk through'. If you say 'give in... walking though' then you have one action ('give in') which everything else is just a part of.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there. How many tenses are there in English ?? 12 or 16?? why "future in past" and its sub-forms are not counted??

Hello monarchy110,

Tense has a verb specific meaning in linguistics. It is defined as changes in the verb form which show time from the point of view of the speaker. You can find a precise definition here

The consensus amongst grammarians is that English has two tenses: past and nonpast (present). However, these are not tied to fixed times. Both can be used with past, present or future time reference.

For example, I can talk about the past using present forms, such as in an anecdote:

So this guy comes into the pub and he says to me...

I can talk about the future using a past form:

If you saw him next week, what would you do?

 

Beyond this, there are two aspects which can be added to these tenses: perfect and continuous/progressive. This enables us to create very many verb forms to express a wide range of meanings.

The last element of the verb form is voice, which can be active or passive.

 

Future time is expressed in many ways. We can use present continuous forms, a 'going to' construction, modal verbs like 'will' and 'should' and many other forms as well. These are not, however, tenses, grammatically speaking.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Peter, “Nearly seventy percent of people living in the region lack access to electricity, forcing them to spend significant amounts of their income on …” Is this a participle clause? Which is the subject that the “forcing” is modifying? If the subject is the phase before the "forcing", why isn't the "which is forcing" being used? This is article link, https://editorials.voa.gov/a/solar-energy-makes-the-difference-in-africa/4183900.html Thank you!

Hello karewingwong,

This is a reduced relative clause. The full version is '... lack access to electricity, which forces them to spend ...'. Although our defining relative clauses page only explains the simplest ways of reducing relative clauses, you might find it useful to read through it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, Would you illustrate the following sentence if it’s participle or gerund? Teachers and students are both suffering from depression, with most teachers feeling work pressure and one out of two students suffering mentally, say two separate surveys. Best Regards Windy

Hi Windy,

The first -ing form ('suffering') is part of the present continuous verb 'are suffering'. The other two, 'feeling' and 'suffering' are participles. Gerunds are nouns and here these words are modifying nouns ('teachers' and 'students'), so that is a pretty good indication that they are not gerunds.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, A substantial number of students who took part in the canteen's survey said they would be more likely to do this if the canteen offered more healthy food. In this sentence, the writer used ‘ who’ after students. Maybe , the writer could write like this: ‘students taking part’ . How about this? Another sentence: A survey conducted recently by students suggested that many are happy with the food on offer but the canteen staff say that the profit from these would make it possible to offer a more varied and thus healthier selection or at least to provide some kind of 'traffic light' system to guide students towards a healthier balance of foods. It is about past participle guess. The writer wrote: The survey conducted... This one I guess: the survey which has been conducted recently. Please reply. Regards Rox4090

Hello Rox4090,

In answer to your first question, yes, that would be fine. Your rewording of the second sentence is also possible and is correct as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Sir, She faced every problem arised or arising in her life. She faced every problem come or coming in her life. and what if I wrote these sentences in present tense or future tense, would there be a present participle (coming or arising) or a past participle (come or arised) in these sentences ?

Hi SonuKumar,

The past participle doesn't work here -- only the present participle is possible (e.g. 'She faced every problem arising in her life'). That said, it would be much more natural to say 'She faced every problem that arose in her life' -- participle clauses are relatively rare in most writing and speaking.

I'd also recommend a relative clause to speak about the present or future.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Does the following sentence categorize by present particple ? Going home last night, I saw a bus knocked the man down ( I saw a bus knocked the man down, when I was going home last night. ) B.Regards Windy
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