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

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Average: 5 (2 votes)
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 08:15

In reply to by monarchy110

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Hi monarchy110,

Modern English grammar recognises two tenses in English: past and present. Other verb forms involve aspect (perfect and continuous), mood (modal verbs) and voice (active and passive).

As to your question, we can't explain to you why someone (who we don't know) has chosen to include or not include certain things on a list they made. You need to ask the author of the list.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by egorkazakov12345 on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 20:02

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Dear Sir, I have a question regarding the usage of participle clause. I have come across the following sentence: 'Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme has reaching crisis point over the last few weeks'. I do not really get why participle clause is used here. I would say: 'Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme has reached crisis point over the last few weeks' instead. In my opinion, the participle in the first sentence acts like a main clause, but I can not find similar examples in any of grammar books. Does the first sentence make sense to you? If yes, could you make some other examples with similar structure, please? Thank you for your help!
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 08:43

In reply to by egorkazakov12345

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Hello egorkazakov12345,

I'm afraid the sentence is not grammatically correct. To make it correct, you need to remove 'for' and use a present perfect form, or else remove 'has' and use a participle:

Underfunding is the reason the youth employment scheme has reached crisis point over the last few weeks.

 

Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme reaching crisis point over the last few weeks.

 

The first version has no participle clause.

 

In the second version for is a preposition with the object 'the youth unemployment scheme reaching crisis point over the last few weeks'. The participle phrase 'reaching...' describes the noun 'the youth unemployment'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by learner2018 on Sun, 27/01/2019 - 16:00

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Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Good day! Hope everything is going great at your end! Can you please illuminate me with your suggestions on the usage of the participle phrase 'selling the bond when...' in the following sentence: the investor may have difficulty selling the bond when other bond offerings enter the market, with more attractive rates. My first question: Does the participle phrase 'selling the bond when other bond offering...' act as a complement of the adjective 'difficulty'? My second question: Would it be possible to rewrite the sentence in following way: the investor may have difficulty in selling the bond when other bond offerings enter the market, with more attractive rates. What is the different between in+selling and selling in the above examples? Thanks in advance!

Hi learner2018

In response to your first question, the phrase is actually 'have difficulty selling the bond', i.e. 'have difficulty' + verb-ing and yes, 'selling the bond' is the complement of the word 'difficulty' (though note that it's a noun instead of an adjective).

As for your second question, yes, it's possible to use 'in' in this and similar cases; it is a generally accepted usage and means the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Sat, 26/01/2019 - 18:46

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Hi , is this reduction right ? Is there anyone who has access to paypal? Is there anyone having access to pal??

Hello monarchy110,

No, that is not correct. We do not use 'have' with the meaning of possession in participle clauses. You could simply use 'with', however: Is there anyone here with access to...?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But I found this following reduction with "have" with the meaning of possession in the grammar book named " Communicate what you mean" by "Carroll Washington pollock" page 150 Reduction of Adjective Clauses. anyone who has a library card may check out books. anyone having a library card may check out books. how do you explain this reduction based on this above reference?

Hello monarchy110,

'Have' is used in many ways, often as a replacement for another verb (have a shower, have dinner etc).

We do not use 'have' for possession in participle clauses. Thus we would not say:

Anyone having a dog knows they are wonderful creatures.

Anyone having a house understands the importance of security

Someone having a car knows how expensive it is.

Rather, we would use 'who has' or 'owning' in each example.

 

However, the example you give is correct. I would suggest that the reason is that having here means not possessing but rather something like bringing or showing

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ifencing on Thu, 24/01/2019 - 10:15

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Participles clauses is the same as (Nominative) Absolute Participle Constructions?