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: 4.2 (81 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Submitted by Sep80 on Wed, 17/07/2024 - 15:24

Permalink

Dear LearnEnglish team,

When I write the sentence "The clay in the granite has been blown, leaving behind the quartz." without using a participle clause, it appears as: "The clay in the granite has been blown, and it has been left behind the quartz."

In the second clause of the second sentence, the verb is passive (has been left). Could you explain why the present participle isn't passive when we reduce the second sentence into the first? Why isn't it like "... has been blown, being left behind the quartz"?

Thank you.

Hi Sep80,

In the expanded sentence, "it has been left behind" is not grammatical. It should be one of these:

  1. The clay in the granite has been blown, and it has left behind the quartz.
  2. The clay in the granite has been blown, and the quartz has been left behind.

The present participle clause "leaving behind the quartz" is the result or effect of an action. We look to the previous clause for the cause of this action (the cause is the whole of the previous clause about blowing up the clay). 

Using the passive "being left behind" doesn't make sense here, because that would mean that the clause about blowing up clay was the receiver (rather than the doer) of the "leaving behind" action. In other words, the reader/listener would expect something like "being left behind by ..." and then the doer of the action to be mentioned, but it is not mentioned.

However, you could say this: 

  • The clay in the granite has been blown, the quartz being left behind.

Here, "the quartz" is the passive receiver of the action "left behind".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user Stor

Submitted by Stor on Mon, 15/07/2024 - 13:23

Permalink

Dear teachers, why is this sentence (Taking a shower, I heard someone's phone ring) using 'ring' in its present simple form when the sentence is in past tense ('heard' is in its past simple form)?

Hi Stor,

Thanks for your question. Actually, here "ring" is in the infinitive form, not the present simple (although they look the same). It is part of the grammatical structure that follows the verb "hear". Here is the structure, with some more examples.

  • subject + hear + someone/something + infinitive verb
  • I heard someone's phone ring.
  • We can hear the birds sing.
  • I didn't hear you come home.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by David.Z on Mon, 08/07/2024 - 07:22

Permalink

Hi there,

There's one sentence from my son's grammar exercise that's bothering me a bit. The sentence is, "Based on the quantity you order, we can offer you a big discount." I'm wondering if this is a dangling clause because I think the subject of the participle clause is 'a big discount', apparently not 'we'. Could you please help clarify this for me?

Thank you,

David

Hi David,

The sentence is fine and Based on here has the same meaning as On the basis of. Although the structure uses a past participle, I don't think it's useful to analyse it in this way but rather to treat based on as an expression which provides a comment on (explanation for) the whole of the main clause.

The use of based on is a question which provokes some discussion:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/231123/is-based-on-used-as-an-adverb-or-in-the-passive-voice 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Suiholic on Tue, 25/06/2024 - 02:45

Permalink

Hello, teachers.

I have a question about the participle phrase.

Here is the sentence: Potatoes are easy to grow, making them a perfect crop for farmers in the developing world.

I think the subject of the participle phrase is a relative pronoun referring to the previous sentence: Potatoes are easy to grow, which makes them a perfect crop for farmers in the developing world. ( Here, the relative pronoun 'which' indicates that "potatoes are easy to grow.")

However, if it is right, "making" in the original sentence becomes a dangling participle. - it is not true at all...

Could you explain? or Is there any reference that I can take a look at?

 

 

Hello Suiholic,

Not all relative clauses reference a single part of the main clause. Sometimes the relative pronoun references the whole of the main clause. For example:

The train left two minutes before it should have, which made me very angry.

The relative pronoun refers to the whole of the main clause, not just on word or phrase in it. If we use a participle (...making me...) then this is still true.

 

Your example works in the same way: '...making...' refers to the whole of the main clause, providing a comment upon it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amanda24680 on Wed, 05/06/2024 - 06:05

Permalink

Hello! 😀

Can the bracketed clause in the sentence below be considered a past participle (-ed) clause?  Or only the regular past participle is considered  for an -ed clause?

Such works-(often sold for vast sums of money)-have attracted many sceptics.

If it is not a past participle -ed clause, is it an irregular past participle -ed clause?

Thank you very much! 

Amanda

Hello Amanda24680,

Whether a verb is regular or not does not affect the grammatical structures it can be used in.

I think your clause here is a reduced relative clause (also called an adjective clause):

Such works, which are often sold for vast sums of money, have attracted many sceptics.

It is possible to omit the relative pronoun and verb (which are). The clause is a non-defining relative clause, meaning it contains non-essential, additional information.

 

Here are some helpful links on the topic:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/english-grammar-reference/relative-pronouns-relative-clauses

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/b1-b2-grammar/relative-clauses-defining-relative-clauses 

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/b1-b2-grammar/relative-clauses-non-defining-relative-clauses 

https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2015/10/10/grammar-beyond-7/ 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced_relative_clause

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/relative-clauses-defining-and-non-defining

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team