Participle clauses

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

Average: 4.4 (59 votes)
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Submitted by le thu huong on Sat, 23/03/2024 - 09:43


Hello teachers,

I have a question about using present participle clause. As I know, the subject in two clause should be the same, but I often come across some sentences like the below. As I see, the subject is not the same. So could you help explain this point for me? 

"when developing a mobile marketing strategy, the most important things to consider is your content."

Based on what I learned, I would write the above as below

" When developing a mobile marketing strategy, you should consider your content as the most important thing" 

I know It sounds unnatural, but I was stuck there. Please help to clear things out for me.

Thank you so much!!

Hello le thu huong,

Sometimes a sentence looks like a participle clause because certain words are omitted. Here, you actually have a reduced relative clause rather than a participle clause, The 'full' sentence is as follows:

When you are developing a mobile marketing strategy, the most important things to consider is your content.

You can read more about reduced relative clauses here:



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter,

I did check about reduced relative clauses. However, I still cannot figure out the answer for the initial question. As my knowledge, the relative clause can be reduced when there is one part in common ( the subject or the object), but as the sentence in question, I cannot see anything like that. Could you help to explain one more time cause I really feel stuck at this grammar point. 

Thank you so much for your patience and help.

Hello again le thu huong,

My apologies for my earlier answer in which I addressed the first part of the sentence but did not include the part referencing the relative clause in the second part. The first part uses ellipsis, not a reduced relative clause: When you are developing...


The second part does connect to this subject ('you') but it is hidden by ellipsis or by a reduced relative clause plus ellipsis. For example:

When you are developing a mobile marketing strategy, the most important things which you need to consider is your content.

When you are developing a mobile marketing strategy, the most important things for you to consider is your content.

Incidentally, I think 'thing' is needed here rather than 'things' as 'content' is singular.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bryan______ on Fri, 08/03/2024 - 10:20


Hello teachers.

Q1: Which of these sentences are correct?

a. "Interested in the book, he borrowed it from the library."
b. "Being interested in the book, he borrowed it from the library."


Q2: In a sentence with a participle, is the participle a verb or an adjective?

e.g. "I was interested"

I argued that "interested" is an adjective here, while my colleagues said "was interested" (both words) is the verb here.

Their counter example: "I was caught", where "caught" is a verb.

Does that mean in all passive voices, the past participle is actually an adjective? e.g. even in "I was killed", "killed" is an adjective?

Appreciate all the assistance!

Hello Bryan,

Re: question 1, both a. and b. are correct. As is mentioned above, these forms are fairly rare in speaking, and even in writing I'd choose b. over a., which sounds even more formal/antiquated than b. 

Re: question 2, 'I was interested' can be either 'be' + adjective (e.g. I went to Barcelona because I was interested in modernist architecture) or a passive verb form (e.g. On my visit to Barcelona I saw human towers, which I'd never heard of, and they piqued my interest). It's difficult to say which one it is without some knowledge of the speaker's perspective or the situation. 

The same is true of 'I was caught': it can be 'be' + adjective (e.g. I was stuck or immobilized) or a passive verb form (e.g. the teacher caught me cheating).

I'd say that 'I was interested' is more commonly 'be' + adjective and 'I was caught' is more commonly a passive verb, but as I've mentioned, both are possible.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Thank you Kirk. Just a couple follow-up question, if you don't mind.


i. Does the answer for Question 1 change depending on whether the word "interested" is a passive verb or an adjective? Or are sentences a and b both correct regardless?


ii. You mentioned that "caught" can be an adjective or a passive verb form. In the sentence "I was caught by my teacher", what word class is it?

ii. Is a passive verb a kind of word class? I was under the impression that in the sentence "I was caught", "was" is the verb while "caught" is the adjective, or subject complement. Which one is it?

Hello again Bryan,

Re: i., 'interested' is a past participle in both cases. 'Being interested' is a passive form with the two typical parts of a passive verb: 1) some form of the verb 'be' + 2) a past participle.

ii. In 'I was caught by my teacher', the phrase 'by my teacher' is a reliable indication that 'caught' is the past participle of a passive verb form.

iii. In the passive verb form 'I was caught', 'caught' is not an adjective. At least in all the grammars I've ever studied, it's a past participle. For this same reason, it's not a subject complement either. 

There are a number of adjectives that have the same form (i.e. spelling) as past participles, but they are not the same part of speech. 

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by J.A.R.V.I.S on Thu, 29/02/2024 - 12:48


I’m really confused the usuage of Participle clause. I have 2 simple questions Sir.

  How can be possible to use present participle by following the past tense in the main clause. Why it couldn’t followed by past participle or perfect participle?

  1. For example, ‘Waiting for Ellie,I made some tea.’ In this sentence “waiting” is the present participle and “made” is the past tense. The question is why it can’t be Waited for Ellie, I made some tea or Having waited for Ellie,I made some tea.

    2. Which clause comes first ‘Waiting for Ellie or I made some tea’

Hi J.A.R.V.I.S,

In 1, Waited for Ellie ... is incorrect because past participles normally have a passive meaning. For example: Filled with pride, he walked towards the stage (meaning: "He was filled with pride" = passive). "He was waited for Ellie" doesn't make sense, so "Waited for Ellie" is not possible.

Having waited for Ellie ... is grammatically possible, but the meaning is different. "Having waited" (perfect) shows a completed action, i.e. I had already finished waiting for Ellie, and then I made some tea. Although this is grammatically fine, the situation seems unlikely (why would I make tea after finishing waiting for Ellie? There is no obvious reason). 

In comparison, in the original sentence Waiting for Ellie, I made some tea, the person made tea while waiting. We infer that this person made tea in order to pass the time while waiting.

About question 2, you can put either clause first. 

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team