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)
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Hello Kaisoo93

It's not correct to begin the participle clause with 'they'. The sentence is difficult to understand as it is; I'm not sure where you found it, but I wouldn't take it as a model. 

Your version of the sentence about the bomb is not correct. You could write 'The building being destroyed, the bomb exploded' but the meaning would be different -- it would mean that since the building was destroyed, the bomb exploded. That doesn't make much sense to me, but the grammar is not incorrect.

I'm sorry, but we can't provide explanations of sentences that don't come from our website. They are not always correct and we can't explain why other people write the way they do, especially when the grammar is non-standard.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jasmina on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 11:00

Hi Peter, thank you very much for your excellent and understandable explanation. Best regards Jasmina

Submitted by Jasmina on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 16:50

Hi English Team! I have a problem. We have to link folllowing sentences by using a participle construction: Donald Duck was "born" in 1934. He became the world´s most famous duck. I have three soultions: Born in 1934, Donald Duck became the world´s most famous duck. Being born in 1934, ... Having been born in 1934, ... Which one is the correct one and why? The second example is: The original Disneyland was designed by Disney himself. It opened in California in1955. My solutions: The original Disneyland, designed by Disney himself, opened in California in 1955. The original Disneyland, being designed by DIsney himself, ... The original Disneyland having been designed by Disney himself... When do I use past participle alone and when with have or have being? Thanks

Hi Jasmina,

The correct option for your first example is the first one (Born in, ...). This is because it is neutral in the sense that it simply provides information. The other two options suggest a causal link - that Donald Duck became the world's most famous because he was born in 1934.


The second example is similar. The second and third options suggest a causal link of some kind, while the first is simply a factual statement. The difference between the second and third options is that the second describes the situation at the moment (a fact about Disneyland now) whereas the third focuses on how that situation came to pass. It's a difference in emphasis and depends really on the speaker's intention and the context.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Is the second sentence "The original Disneyland, designed by Disney himself, opened in California in 1955." considered as non-defining relative clause where "which is designed by" is reduced to "designed by"? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

The naming here is complex and there are different views. Some hold that non-defining relative clauses cannot be reduced, and so an example like this is a post-modifying adjectival construction which is not a relative clause. Others would say that it is a non-defining relative clause and so they can be reduced.


Personally, I don't consider the labelling of structures and the formulation of strict rules to be the most important thing. A descriptive approach which identifies the structure and its use is preferable in my opinion. Here, we have a past participal post-modifying the subject of the sentence and providing additional, non-essential, information. Whether or not you see it as a reduced relative clause or as an alternative to a relative clause is really not important.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hainguyen123 on Sun, 15/03/2020 - 15:00

In this sentence, " You can make a lot of money selling old cars." Why "selling" is placed with "by selling"? Because I think "selling" imlies the way to make money.

Hello Hainguyen123

'selling' and 'by selling' mean the same thing here. 'by' is often used before a present participle to speak about how to do something.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 09/03/2020 - 04:52

Hello Sir, Can we say that the word 'interesting' as in 'I have an interesting story' is participle or adjective? Because the -ing form of 'interest' is interesting and there is 'interesting' as an adjective. Thank you, Sir
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 09/03/2020 - 06:10

In reply to by Risa warysha


Hello Risa warysha

'interesting' functions as an adjective here. The adjective is derived from the present participle, just as the adjective 'interested' is derived from the past participle of the verb.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team