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: 4.3 (75 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.
But I found this following reduction with "have" with the meaning of possession in the grammar book named " Communicate what you mean" by "Carroll Washington pollock" page 150 Reduction of Adjective Clauses. anyone who has a library card may check out books. anyone having a library card may check out books. how do you explain this reduction based on this above reference?

Hello monarchy110,

'Have' is used in many ways, often as a replacement for another verb (have a shower, have dinner etc).

We do not use 'have' for possession in participle clauses. Thus we would not say:

Anyone having a dog knows they are wonderful creatures.

Anyone having a house understands the importance of security

Someone having a car knows how expensive it is.

Rather, we would use 'who has' or 'owning' in each example.


However, the example you give is correct. I would suggest that the reason is that having here means not possessing but rather something like bringing or showing



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ifencing on Thu, 24/01/2019 - 10:15

Participles clauses is the same as (Nominative) Absolute Participle Constructions?

Hello ifencing,

This is not a term I use, but I believe the name refers to a particular kind of participle clause. You can read a discussion of the topic here:



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momonoki on Fri, 18/01/2019 - 20:50

Dear Sir, I confused about this sentence -' The bomb exploded, destroying the building.' (The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed.) If the building was destroyed as a result of the explosion, should it be 'destroyed the building' not 'destroying'? I would be grateful if you could explain the sentence. (Sorry, I am not good at English, I hope you can understand what I try to say!)
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 19/01/2019 - 08:47

In reply to by Momonoki


Hello Momonoki,

In participle clauses, present participles have active meaning and past participles have passive meaning.

For example:

I walked down the street, watching the man. [I watch the man]

I walked down the street, watched by the man. [the man watches me]


The present participle (destroying) is correct here because an active meaning is needed.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by naghmehsa on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 05:11

hi I have a problem with explanation of "reasons" in explanation is said "in place of so..." but the example is against. "so" is used in second clause but "ing-form" is used in first clause and isn't used in place of "so" thanks
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