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 (3 votes)

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!
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 06/11/2018 - 06:27

In reply to by learner2018

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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

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 02/11/2018 - 13:54

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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' ?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 03/11/2018 - 08:01

In reply to by SonuKumar

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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

Submitted by learner2018 on Wed, 31/10/2018 - 18:17

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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

Submitted by Cristina123 on Sun, 21/10/2018 - 11:54

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Apologies for any typo mistakes; haven't quite figured out how to edit my comments afer saving them.