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 ifencing,

There are some problems with the sentences:

 

Condition
Went to Paris tomorrow, you will attend the meeting.
If you go to Paris tomorrow, you will attend the meeting.

The problem here is that you are trying to use 'went' as a passive form, just as 'Look after carefully' in the example is a passive form. However, the verb 'go' does not have a passive form because it is an intransitive verb.

The use of participles for conditions is quite unusual. The meaning is 'provided that...' or 'in the case that...' and establishes a requirement for the result, rather than describing possibility.

 

Reason
Wanting to go away, he left the concert.
He wanted to go away so he left the concert.

Grammatically, this is fine. However, it is rather trivial and repetitive. Leaving is the same as going away, so there is no real reason provided here. The participle should tell us something rather than simply repeat the information in the main clause. For example, you could say Wanting to be alone, ...

 

Result
It being late, he bolted the windows.
Because it’s late, he bolted the windows.

This is fine.

 

Time

Singing the song, the doorbell rang.
When I was singing the song, the doorbell rang.

This sentence is incorrect. Remember that the actor is the same for both parts of the sentence, so your sentence suggests that the doorbell was singing the song. The sentence could read Singing the song, I heard the doorbell.

 

Please note that we generally do not provide this kind of extended feedback. We're happy to answer questions about our material and about English in general but we have many thousands of users and are a small team, so providing comments on lists of sentences is not generally possible for us, unfortunately.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ifencing on Tue, 15/05/2018 - 18:17

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Hello. Can you tell me if the sentenses are correct? Closing my eyes, I felt fresh air. Closing my eyes, I feel fresh air. Closing my eyes, I will feel fresh air. I changed the tense in the main clause. Does it sound normal? Thanks in advance

Hello ifencing,

Yes, all of those are grammatically correct. The participle is a non-finite verb form and has no time reference of its own. It takes its time reference from the verb in the main clause.

Obviously, whether or not the sentence makes sense will depend upon the context in which it is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by eliskh on Thu, 26/04/2018 - 01:38

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There is not a task in this section.

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 13/04/2018 - 09:09

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Sir, I ducked into an arched doorway heading for the subway. In this sentence, does present participle 'Heading' refer to the doorway or the subject of the sentence 'I' ? I think it refers to the doorway because it's after it.

Hi SonuKumar,

Although its position after 'doorway' suggests that 'heading' tells us about the doorway, here it refers to the subject because doorways don't move, whereas people do. If the sentence were something like 'I ran into Priya going home', it could be that I was going home or it could be that Priya was -- in this case, both subject and object of 'ran into' are people so that is possible.

To make it clear, you could say 'Going home, I ran into Priya', though the truth is, people more often say something like 'I ran into Priya when I was going home' or 'I ran into Priya when she was going home'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zhverb on Tue, 10/04/2018 - 08:38

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Hi, What kinds of relative clause can be reduced? Can "the events that led to the American Civil War" be reduced to "the events leading to the American Civil War"? I saw a post saying that if the action is finished and not repeated, it can not be reduced. Is it right? I know all the passive relative clause can be reduced. For example, the man killed (reduced from who was killed) in the accident was a homeless person. But how about the relative clause with an active tone?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 11/04/2018 - 07:16

In reply to by Zhverb

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Hi Zhverb,

As the information on the page above says, we use past participles to express a passive meaning and present participles to express an active meaning.

I have no idea which post you are referring to and we don't comment on information from other sites but I have never heard of any kind of rule like that. In fact, your example about the American Civil War is perfectly fine as an example of a present participle with an active meaning and demonstrates that finished non-repeated actions can be reduced. You could change 'the events' to 'the event' or 'the decision' and the sentence would be perfectly fine.

 

Your second example can be written using either form:

the man who was killed in the accident > the man killed in the accident

the accident which killed the man > the accident killing the man

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks Peter! Can the sentence "He is chasing the boy who broke his window" be reduced to " He is chasing the boy breaking his window" ?

Hello Zhverb,

No, that would not be correct. The time reference of the participle is the same as the verb in the main clause, so if the verb in the main clause has a present time reference (is chasing) then the participle would also refer to the present. Thus this sentence would mean 'He is chasing the boy who is breaking the window'.

The sentence would also suggest that the actions are simulaltaneous - that the boy is breaking the window while he is being chased. This would be true even if the verb was a past form. Thus 'He was chasing the boy breaking the window' would mean that the action occurred in the past, but that the actions were simulataneous - i.e. 'He was chasing the boy who was breaking the window'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Milhki on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 14:13

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thank you, Peter M, for your reply and the link!

Submitted by Milhki on Tue, 20/03/2018 - 10:49

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Hello! Could you, please, help me with the structure in this sentence: "By restricting the ways the state can be changed - we reduce the chances bugs can appear". Is this sentence grammatically correct? Is the first part (by restricting the ways the state can be changed ) the nominative participle construction? if not, what is it? why does it have two different subjects? or is it missing the word "how" e.g "by restricting the ways how the state can be changed"? and is this part itself (by restricting the ways...we reduce the chances bugs can appear) the participle clause of manner? Is the punctuation correct? Thank you in advance for your attention, time and explanation.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 07:33

In reply to by Milhki

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Hello Milhki,

'By' is a preposition and introduces a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases with 'by' show the method by which something is achieved. The prepositional phrase here is perhaps a little confusing because it is so long but we can simplify it easily enough and then it is clear that it is a straightforward prepositional phrase:

By restricting these, we reduce...

We reduce... by restricting these.

The prepositional phrase here has an adverbial function as it modifies the verb 'reduce'.

I would say that a comma is preferable to a dash in this sentence.

 

LearnEnglish is a site for people learning English as a means of communication rather than as a site for linguistic analysis. For questions like this you might find the relevant section of stackexchange helpful:

https://ell.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kamran Saif Qureshi on Sun, 11/02/2018 - 03:36

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In my opinion, this answers the question "When did I grab the pizza?" It can be rephrased as "While returning from the office, ......"

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi,

That is correct. The present participle shows an action which happened at the same time as another action, as you say. Well done.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kamran Saif Qureshi on Sun, 11/02/2018 - 03:34

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Sir, could you refer some books regarding the adverbial use of participle phrases / clauses like in "Returning from the office, I grabbed a pizza from Tahzeeb Bakers."

Hello Kamran Saif Qureshi

The British Council does not offer recommendations regarding books, I'm afraid. We do not favour or advertise any publishers or authors. My suggestion would be to go to a good bookshop and find three or four different grammar books. Open each to the page for participle clauses/phrases and compare the information there. You'll be able to see which is the most accessible and complete, and which would be the best for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by curiouslearner on Sun, 04/02/2018 - 09:56

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"Following this, the surviving Malli surrendered to Alexander's forces, and his beleaguered army moved on, conquering more Indian tribes along the way." I found the above line in an article where the details regarding the Indian campaign of Macedonian King Alexander is mentioned. The above statements specifically mention the information about Alexander's army at that time when it returned to Greece. I searched the meanings of "beleaguer" which are as follows: 1. Lay siege to. 1.1 Put in a very difficult situations I think the first meaning out of these two is applicable in the case of above sentence. However, the past participle form of "beleaguer" doesn't appear suitable here. As per the rules mentioned above, the past participle form shows a "passive voice". But, here the army was the one who beleaguered different places. So, it appears to me that the present participle form "beleaguering" should be used.

Hello curiouslearner,

'beleaguered' is an adjective here, not part of a passive construction. The second meaning of the two that you list is the correct one here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by jarurote on Fri, 26/01/2018 - 03:58

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Dear sir, From the passage, ... "... Result (in place of words like because or as a result): I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework. Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework." My questions are as follows. Could I swap the phrase like this? ... Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book. And... Could we use this passage? “... Using the modern devices as the communication mediums of humans, it could worldwide access the large volumes of data through the internet that creates the social convergence.” Thank you.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 27/01/2018 - 07:33

In reply to by jarurote

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Hello jarurote,

It is possible to change the order and begin the sentence with 'having'.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'could we use this passage'. There are several errors in there if your question is about the accuracy of the language. However, we don't provide a correction service on LearnEnglish but rather answer questions about how the language works and specific aspects of the language system.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 09:19

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Sir, With 365 runs made, He won the match Or Making or having made 365 runs He won the match. what I want to know is are these the same things or is there any difference, Can the one above with (with 365 runs made) interchange with the ones below, Can we do it every time with these two structures I mean Interchanging or does that depends on the context ?

Hello SonuKumar,

There is a slight difference in meaning which might be relevant in some contexts.

'Having made...' and 'With... made' place the run-making before the winning. In other words, the runs were achieved before the match was won.

'Making...' could also mean that the match was won during the run-making. In other words, there was no need to wait until later for the win; the two actions co-occurred. 

In most contexts (and certainly in this one) the forms are interchangeable. However, the dfference above could be important in some contexts.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters. I don't know the justification as to how the above sentence is correct. Particle used attributively always belongs the subject of the following main verb. if the participle belongs to the other subbject, then it must be expressed before it (Thomson & Martinet). I am astonished how BC can mislead learners.

Hello souba73,

The use of past participles in this way is quite correct. The participle has a passive form, and so the subject is 'coat':

If the coat is looked after carefully, it will...

 

You can find many examples of this construction in English. For example, here is a quote from Walt Whitman, one of the greatest writers in American literature:

Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I found the following sentence in Practical English Grammar. The plane crashed, its bombs exploding as it hit the ground. I have no objection to it. But it sounds a little bit awkward to me. Sir, I want to get accustomed to this usage. Could give me some more examples of this. Once again, I am new to this forum. I don't know where to post my questions or creat a new thread. Is it permissible to post any kind of questions under this thread?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 07:42

In reply to by souba73

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Hello souba73,

The sentence is perfectly fine and I don't see any awkwardness in it. Participle clauses (as described on the page above) are efficient ways to combine information which might otherwise be in two different sentences. There are numerous examples already on the page with both present and past participles. Perhaps you can try to create more examples and we'll be happy to tell you if they are correct or not.

 

Please note that we respond to questions as soon as we are able. We have many users on the site and are a small team here providing a service free of charge. Posting reminders or pressing us to answer your question sooner only slows the process.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 24/01/2018 - 15:14

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Sir, Leave (soak) your dirty clothes in water and pour (mix) some washing powder in the water. Now Can I make this sentence using present participle like this= Soak your dirty clothes in water (by) mixing some washing powder in the water or using past participle like this= Soak your dirty clothes in water with some washing powder mixed in the water ?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 07:50

In reply to by SonuKumar

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Hello SonuKumar,

Using the present participle like this implies that mixing the powder and water and soaking your clothes are the same thing. They are not the same thing, so the sentence is confusing.

The sentence with the past participle works, as it shows the powder has already been mixed in to the water.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 23/01/2018 - 13:18

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Sir, with the shop closed we went to the market. Now did we close the shop and went to the market I mean (By closing the shop we went to the market) or because the shop was already closed, so we went to the market ? what does 'with shop closed' mean here ? Leave your clothes wet in the water by mixing or pouring washing powder in them. Leave your clothes wet in the water with washing powder mixed or poured in them Now Do they mean the same thing or not ? are they both right and acceptable ?

Hello SonuKumar,

The sentence about the shop is ambiguous. It does not make clear if the speaker closed the shop or simply found it to be already closed, as you say. The context would presumably make this clear, or else the sentence would remain ambiguous.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say with the other sentences. Neither sentence is correct as written.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rezaya on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 08:22

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hello please help me with this sentences, why participle clauses are used below 1 . hang(verb) means : to fasten or support something at the top LEAVING the other parts free to move not giving information about condition, reason, result or time! 2. the work will vary ACCORDING to your abilities thank you.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 06:13

In reply to by Rezaya

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Hello Rezaya,

The first example is related to time:

To fasten or support something at the top (while) leaving the other parts free to move

The second example looks like a participle phrase/clause but is actually something else. According to is a preposition - you can read more about this here or here, for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by tai nguyen on Thu, 03/09/2015 - 03:52

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I would be grateful if anyone would explain to me this question. I'm so confused with the following sentences, particularly verb-ing or participle clauses in English ?. So sometimes I can't understand the meaning of the author in correct way ?. Among the following sentences which one is correct, could you tell me in detail the meaning of the sentence or why to use Verb-ing ? I often find V-ing in many sentences. thanks a million.. a milliard ! 1. course books ( whether conventional or digital ) have been developed by pedagogical experts and designed to be incorporated into a syllabus, LEADING to testing procedures such as formal examinations. 2.I'd rather make a thousand mistakes TRYING for a better life,than to die not MAKING any mistakes at all. 3.the state has no right telling the people what they can and can't do with their body. 4.the receptionist is busy FILLING a fifth box. 5. I'm tired HEARING of the Duchess of Chiselhurst's ball. 6.Mr Jones said because he was not being properly paid he had trouble GETTING a housing loan and feared he might lose his new home. 7. Fishermen in Scotland have taken a tenis club to court, CLAIMING that its floodlights are driving away the fish in an angling river. 8. Stella Adler was one of the most influential artists of the American theater, TRAINING several generations of actors whose ranks included Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro. 9. See how many words of four or more lettres you can find USING the letters above. 10. yesterday the group issued its strongest warning yet, telling foreigners to leave the country. 11. Thousands like us need help FINDING someone special. 12. The day I say I'm tired PLAYING for my country is the day I hang up my boots. I have read a Hendrik De Smet's documentation about integrated participle clauses (IPCs), adverbial participle clauses, adjuncts and disjuncts in which there are so many sentences like this.

Hello tai nguyen,

I'm afraid it's not possible for us to answer such a long question - for this, you need to ask your teacher. Our role here is to help learners with our materials, and then to provide some other help when time allows, but we do not have the time available to provide what would effectively be personal language lessons.

Your sentences contain a wide range of different structures: adjective + -ing, verb + -ing, -ing as part of participle clause, -ing as a gerund and more. There is no one rule for these as they are entirely different grammatical categories, even though they all have the -ing form. You can find pages on these topics in our grammar sections but remember that the rules are not 'how to use -ing' but, for example, 'verbs which are followed by -ing'. In other words, -ing here is part of a different system, not the key element in that system.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xmen on Tue, 01/09/2015 - 15:04

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I want to now if these abbrevations are correct in future tense? For example: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book lying on my stomach The full sentence: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book while I will be lying on my stomach Thanks for your help!

Hi xmen,

Your first sentence is grammatically correct. The second is except for the second verb form – instead of 'while I will be lying' you should say 'while I am lying'. For an explanation of this, please see the first section of our verbs in time clauses and if clauses page.

By the way, your first sentence is not an abbreviation, but rather a shorter form of the second sentence. You can see examples of what an abbreviation is by looking up the word in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online – see the handy search box on the lower right side of this page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team