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 (3 votes)
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 06:44

In reply to by naghmehsa


Hi naghmehsa,

Thank you for the question. I can see what you mean here and I think we can phrase the explanation more clearly. I'll edit the page so that the example is a better one, and I think also the words 'in place of' are possibly confusing, so I'll rephrase those too.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 31/12/2018 - 04:57

Hi Sir Thank you for your prompt reply for my last question regarding the two sentences which were in complete and any inconvenience caused to you in this connection is regretted. Thank you. Regards Lal

Submitted by Lal on Sun, 30/12/2018 - 12:32

Hello Sir Please let me know whether these two sentences are correct and if so do they mean the same. I have been given to understand that there are vacancies for the post of computer operators and . . . Being given to understand that there are vacancies for the post of computers operators and . . . Thank you. Regards Lal
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 30/12/2018 - 16:16

In reply to by Lal


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,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by learner2018 on Thu, 27/12/2018 - 03:29

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mdanesh on Tue, 25/12/2018 - 17:38

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rox4090 on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 15:46

Please check! Participle clause- I went to the market, wanting to buy grocery.

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,
The LearnEnglish Team