Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

Hello Ujin,

We're happy to help you understand a specific answer in our exercises if you let us know which exercise and which question you want to ask about. If you do ask us such a question, please explain to us what you thought the answer was and why -- this way we can help you better.

I'm afraid there is nothing else on our site about participle clauses, but I'm sure you can find some explanations by doing an internet search for 'participle clauses in English' or something similar.

I'd also suggest you pay attention when you're reading or listening so that you can analyse participle clauses when you come across them. It will probably take you some time to find some, as they are relatively rare, especially in speaking.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Karan Narang

Submitted by Karan Narang on Tue, 14/07/2020 - 04:42

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After reading this lesson having understood how can I make sentence with these participle of present or past And having been got good mark in these test. Could you explain me in past or present participle form use past tent then how will I understand which is present or past participle sentence ?

Hello Karan Narang,

Could you please rephrase your question? I'm afraid I don't understand exactly what you're asking.

It's also really helpful if you ask as specific a question as you can. It's very difficult to answer general questions about grammar.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 13:43

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Hello sir, I have a question and I couldn't understand it. Money from poor countries is flowing into richer ones in large part due to active purchase of foreign assets by central banks. Here, the correct word that is used is Poorer instead of poor. I want to know that why it is happened. Is there any rule for this. Please clarify sir.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I'm afraid I didn't understand whether you were asking about 'poor' or 'poorer', but in any case, both words are possible here, with little difference in meaning since they are compared to 'richer'.

I don't think there's any rule that explains this -- it's just that in this context, 'poor countries' and countries that are 'poorer than richer countries' seem to mean pretty much the same thing. I could be wrong about that, but without context, that's what it looks like to me.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hyungu Kim on Mon, 06/07/2020 - 12:05

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Hello sir. I'd like to know whether the follow sentence is grammatically correct. 'He always reminds us that everyone is important to a team's success, though their role on the team being small.' In particular, is the phrase 'though' grammatically possible? Thank you for your concern.

Hello Hyungu Kim,

The way the clause is written here is incorrect. I would recommend something like 'even if their role on the team is small' in most situations.

In an older style of English, it would be possible to use a clause beginning with 'though' if you changed the verb from 'being' to 'be'. But this would sound quite strange to most people nowadays, so I would not recommend using it.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 01/07/2020 - 17:43

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Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the use of Present participle amd gerund. Sir What is the main difference in the meaning of these two sentences 1) He doesn't like me going there. 2) He doesn't like my going there. What is the difference in the meaning of these two sentences. Are these grammatical correct or not?
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 03:59

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir, The two sentences mean the same thing. There's no difference in meaning. They are both grammatical, but have slightly different structures, as you've noticed. Here's my analysis: - In sentence 1, 'me' is an object pronoun, and 'going there' is a participle phrase modifying 'me'. - In sentence 2, 'my' is an adjective, which modifies 'going there' (a gerund/noun phrase). Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reza on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 17:55

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Hi Peter, Could you please tell me if these sentences are grammatically OK? Surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. While he was surrounded by thunderous applause, he stood up. He stood up while surrounded by thunderous applause. He stood up while he was surrounded by thunderous applause. Having been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. After he has been nominated for the prize, he is a rich man now. He is a rich man now after having been nominated for the prize. He is a rich man now after he has been nominated for the prize. Thanks