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

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Submitted by tai nguyen on Thu, 03/09/2015 - 03:52

I would be grateful if anyone would explain to me this question. I'm so confused with the following sentences, particularly verb-ing or participle clauses in English ?. So sometimes I can't understand the meaning of the author in correct way ?. Among the following sentences which one is correct, could you tell me in detail the meaning of the sentence or why to use Verb-ing ? I often find V-ing in many sentences. thanks a million.. a milliard ! 1. course books ( whether conventional or digital ) have been developed by pedagogical experts and designed to be incorporated into a syllabus, LEADING to testing procedures such as formal examinations. 2.I'd rather make a thousand mistakes TRYING for a better life,than to die not MAKING any mistakes at all. 3.the state has no right telling the people what they can and can't do with their body. 4.the receptionist is busy FILLING a fifth box. 5. I'm tired HEARING of the Duchess of Chiselhurst's ball. 6.Mr Jones said because he was not being properly paid he had trouble GETTING a housing loan and feared he might lose his new home. 7. Fishermen in Scotland have taken a tenis club to court, CLAIMING that its floodlights are driving away the fish in an angling river. 8. Stella Adler was one of the most influential artists of the American theater, TRAINING several generations of actors whose ranks included Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro. 9. See how many words of four or more lettres you can find USING the letters above. 10. yesterday the group issued its strongest warning yet, telling foreigners to leave the country. 11. Thousands like us need help FINDING someone special. 12. The day I say I'm tired PLAYING for my country is the day I hang up my boots. I have read a Hendrik De Smet's documentation about integrated participle clauses (IPCs), adverbial participle clauses, adjuncts and disjuncts in which there are so many sentences like this.

Hello tai nguyen,

I'm afraid it's not possible for us to answer such a long question - for this, you need to ask your teacher. Our role here is to help learners with our materials, and then to provide some other help when time allows, but we do not have the time available to provide what would effectively be personal language lessons.

Your sentences contain a wide range of different structures: adjective + -ing, verb + -ing, -ing as part of participle clause, -ing as a gerund and more. There is no one rule for these as they are entirely different grammatical categories, even though they all have the -ing form. You can find pages on these topics in our grammar sections but remember that the rules are not 'how to use -ing' but, for example, 'verbs which are followed by -ing'. In other words, -ing here is part of a different system, not the key element in that system.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xmen on Tue, 01/09/2015 - 15:04

I want to now if these abbrevations are correct in future tense? For example: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book lying on my stomach The full sentence: Tomorrow, I will be reading this book while I will be lying on my stomach Thanks for your help!

Hi xmen,

Your first sentence is grammatically correct. The second is except for the second verb form – instead of 'while I will be lying' you should say 'while I am lying'. For an explanation of this, please see the first section of our verbs in time clauses and if clauses page.

By the way, your first sentence is not an abbreviation, but rather a shorter form of the second sentence. You can see examples of what an abbreviation is by looking up the word in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online – see the handy search box on the lower right side of this page.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team