Participle clauses

Do you know how to use participle clauses to say information in a more economical way?

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

Upper intermediate: B2

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Thu, 27/07/2017 - 10:00

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Hi teacher, 'I was happy seeing him smile.' In this sentence, 'seeing' is considered gerund or participle? If it is the latter, what should the original sentence be? (before it is reduced to participle) Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

This sentence is not completely unnatural, but the correct form in standard British English would be 'I was happy to see him smile'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aminsoltani45 on Sat, 22/07/2017 - 21:23

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Arvo there, I've just got a question on grammar part which I cannot find it either via the Internet or in grammar books. we all know about participle phrases (or clause);" playing football, John broke his leg! " but there is other sentences that I cannot comprehend how they are formed: " speaking, I would say a vast majority of individuals all around the world have serious problems and they are just struggling to find a certain way", it means: "talking about 'speaking' (a skill in a certain language), I would say....". And maybe the original sentence was : if (or when) we are talking about speaking ( or if you ask me about speaking). Nevertheless, no matter which one the original sentence is, i'd like to know what's the rule behind that? ! How and when could I make sentences like this ?!

Hello Aminsoltani45,

To be perfectly honest, that looks like a very awkward construction to me - more like a person trying to replicate in English a structure that is used in another language. You could make a case for it being a form of ellipsis where the full sentence would be something like 'If I were speaking (on this topic)...' but guessing such things without knowing the context of the utterance makes little sense.

If I had to guess, I would say that this is not a standard construction and is either an attempt to recreate in English a form from another language, or else it is a particular rhetorical device using context-dependent ellipsis.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 14/07/2017 - 07:21

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Sir, Are these two sentences right ? "There are microphones fitted in this room" "This room has microphones fitted in it" Could I also use the verb 'set or fix' rather than fit in these sentences ?

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 12/07/2017 - 14:01

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Sir, In the sentence given above by Kasturi Das, He left home, denying and rejecting his own family. Now Because of a comma in this sentence we come to know easily that participles refer to the subject 'He' in this sentence but while listening this sentence or sentences like it How to Know what it refers to ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Participle clauses aren't used much in ordinary speaking, so it's not often that you'd hear a sentence like this. But if you did, there is no other sensible subject that the words could refer to, so that's how one can know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 12/07/2017 - 13:46

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Sir, Are these sentences right ? "There are microphones fitted in this room" "This room has microphones fitted in this" and could I also use the verb "set or fix" rather than fit in this same sentence ?

Submitted by aunicorn on Wed, 12/07/2017 - 12:24

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Hello, my IELTS teacher taught me a structure which is some how similar to this present participial phrase, but I'm not sure, could you please help me? all the examples above, have the present tense in the first part and the past tense in the second part: Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. but my teacher asked me to write sentences both in present, here is what she said: Working for 30 years with my father, I should think about my business. Thank you very much.

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 23/07/2017 - 02:17

In reply to by aunicorn

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Hello aunicorn,

It's probably more common to use a present participle to speak about the past, but you can also use it to speak about the present. You can see a few examples on this BBC page. This other BBC page might also be useful.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kasturi Das on Mon, 10/07/2017 - 18:58

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Hello! I'm a bit confused about the sentence below. He left home, denying and rejecting his own family. Is it correct?

Hello Kastyri Das,

Yes, that sentence is fine and means that the act of leaving home was a denial and rejection of his own family.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Teachers, 1) The participle used in this sentence is related to reason, result, simultaneousness or subject of main clause? 2) Would it have the same meaning if rewritten to: "Denying and rejecting his own family, he left home"? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I'm guessing that the original sentence is

He left home, denying and rejecting his own family.

 

The meaning is ambiguous without knowing the context, and is likely to be a question of interpretation in any case. It could simply be actions occurring simultaneously, or there could be a more causal relationship. The structure itself does not make this explicit.

The second version is also possible and it does not change the meaning - it is still ambiguous.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sagir Mondal on Mon, 10/07/2017 - 16:24

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What is Dazzling participle ? Sir, I request you to give two or three example and usage of dazzling participle . When I shall use dazzling participle ? Thanks .

Hello Sagir Mondal,

I'm afraid I've never heard of such a thing. Are you sure you heard the term correctly?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hallow sir, How are you ? May be fine with the mercy and blessing of God . Well, Sir , By mistake , Dazzling Participle that was mistyped , The correct term is "Dangling participle " . I heard the term from Oxford Advanced learner's dictionary . As far as I know , Dangling participle that relates to a noun that is not mentioned . Dangling participles aren't considered correct . In the sentence " While walking home , my phone rang" , "Walking" is dangling Participle . A correct form of the sentence would be " While i was walking home , my phone rang . Sir , I request you that i did not totally make out about the dangling participle , so give simple example so that i make out . Sir , tell me in details about that term and usage . Thanks sir .

Hello Sagir Mondal,

The problem with the example sentence you ask about is that the subject of the subordinate clause ('While walking home' -- it's not completely clear, but I suppose the subject is 'I') is not the same as the subject of the second clause ('my phone rang', subject = 'my phone'). The subjects must be the same in this kind of construction; if they are not, they are referred to as 'dangling participles'.

I'd suggest you take a look at a different Oxford Dictionary page that explains this in much more detail.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aleya on Mon, 10/07/2017 - 05:26

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Hello Sir Can we use participle clauses in future sentences? Regards Aleya

Hello Aleya,

The time reference for participle clauses is always the same as the verb in the main clause and they can be used for any time reference, including future time. For example:

I will wait for you at the corner, wearing a red shirt and a black hat.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 04/07/2017 - 11:08

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Sir, She is going to bus stand with a purse held in her hand. Is this a right sentence using past participle 'Held' in it and Using past partciple with the preposition 'With' like in this sentense,what is this rule called ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Your sentence is not incorrect, though normally people would probably just say 'with a purse in her hand'. In your version of the sentence, 'held' is adjectival.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hugoecc on Mon, 03/07/2017 - 21:03

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Good evening, how can I know when to use present participle, past participle ir the perfect participle? Are there any rules?

Hello Hugoecc,

The differences between present and past participles in participle clauses are explained on this page. It is primarily a question of whether the meaning needed is active (present participle) or passive (past participle).

If you have a particular example in mind then please post it and we will try to help you with it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 02/07/2017 - 03:14

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Sir, There's a sentence. "She passes by me wearing a beautiful dress" Now in this sentence why do we not use the past participle worn instead of present one, whereas The girl I'm talking about already has worn her dress completely the work is done even then why present participle and is there a way to make the same sentence using past participle ?

Hello SonuKumar,

As the information on the page says, present participles have an active meaning and past participles have a passive meaning. The girl is wearing the dress and so an active meaning is needed and a past participle would not be appropriate.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pedram on Mon, 26/06/2017 - 10:03

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Hello, I'm a bit confused about using verb-ing after comma in a sentence. Basically, I'm not sure what kind of grammar it is and where I should use such structure. Below are two examples for your reference: 1) The engineer identified the problem, using the latest technology. 2) Teachers serve as inspiring role models for the students, living and embodying values they teach. As can be seen in the examples above, -ing form of verb is used after comma. Could you please give me some advice about this structure and let me know when I can have this in my writing. Best Regards, Pedram

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 27/06/2017 - 07:35

In reply to by Pedram

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Hello Pedram,

These are participle clauses. The first sentence, for example, is a version of something like 'The engineer identified the problem while using the latest technology'.

It'd be best to consult a resource specialising in punctuation (such as a style guide or writing reference, e.g. the OWL), but in general participle phrases end in a comma when they come first in a sentence, begin and end with a comma if they come in the middle of a sentence, and, when they are at the end of a sentence, come after a comma if they are separated from the word they modify -- see the page I linked to for some good examples.

Finally I just wanted to point out that participle clauses are much more common in formal writing. I suppose you know this already, but I thought I'd mention it just in case.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 24/06/2017 - 09:00

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Sir, which sentences of these are right ? "For the first time I have seen her with a holymark applying on her forehead" "For the first time I have seen her with a holymark applied on her forehead" "For the first-time I have seen her with a holymark on her forehead" According to with, with applying, with applied or with and with applied both right ?

Submitted by dlis on Wed, 21/06/2017 - 13:31

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Hi Mr.Kirk, I'm confused with participle phrases and gerund phrases. Eating too much fat,causes your arteries clog up. in here,how does first phrase work? I feel it as a subject.

Hello dlis,

That's correct -- the noun phrase 'eating too much fat' is the subject of the verb 'causes'. In general, we call an -ing form a gerund when it acts as a noun (though note that gerunds have can objects -- in your example, 'too much fat' is an object) and a participle when it acts as an adjective, a part of a verb or as part of a participle clause.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 20:15

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Sir, Which is the rule by which you are able to tell if "Challenging" refers to subject or object as in this case it refers to object plea, in my sentence above In the previous comment and generally How to know if a present participle refers to a subject or a object ?

Hello SonuKumar,

The participle follows the noun which it modifies. For example:

 

The lady waiting at the bus stop saw me. [the lady was waiting]

The lady saw me waiting at the bus stop. [I was waiting]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 05:30

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Sir, Is there any difference in using the conjunction 'While' or not in both sentences below ? "An aeroplane crashed while taking off" And "An aeroplane crashed taking off" ? And In this sentence below what form is participle "Challenging" in, in adjective form or is it just referring to the subject "Supreme court", that how it works ? "Supreme court will hear a plea today challenging centre's notification banning cattle trade for slaughter" What does Challenging refer to Subject 'Supreme court' or object a plea and How to Know simply what a present participle like that refers to subject or object in the sentence like this ?

Hello SonuKumar,

There is no difference between the examples with and without 'while'.

'Challenging...' describes 'plea' and has an adjectival function.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Azim on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 07:40

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Hi When we reduce adverb clause to reduced form,which cojunction should be omitted and which of them are better to keep? Thankyou

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 08:29

In reply to by Azim

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Hello Azim,

There are many different possibilities. If you'd like to tell us how you think it should be with an example sentence, we'll be happy to help you with it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 12/06/2017 - 05:27

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Sir, There some sentense "Are you the one who will come at my home tomorrow ?" Could I change it like- "Are you the one coming at home tomorrow ?" And also I think I should use "Coming rather than Come" in this reduced clause sentence Should I not ? apart from it please take a look at sentences below. "I have seen all the episodes of a serial coming yet" I think coming yet rather than Come yet right ? and "He is the boy best known ever for his work" is a right sentence changed from this one-He is the boy who is best known ever for his work. "He is the one ever coming at my home" Sir could use "Yet" rather than "ever" and are these interchangeable in some conditions like "Coming yet and coming ever" please help understand ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Those are a lot of questions! Answering all of them would take a long time, as I'm afraid most of them are not grammatically correct. So I will answer the first one.

Yes, the reduced relative clause here should have an -ing form, not a baseform. So 'Are you the one who will come to my home tomorrow?' and 'Are you the one coming to my home tomorrow?' are both correct. Though note that we say 'go home', but 'come to my home'.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 12/06/2017 - 05:02

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Sir, There is sentence "Are you the person like that who needs to be reminded something again and again ?" and I think Its clause can't be reduced I don't know why but I feel little strange in making it like this- "Are you the person like that needing to be reminded something again and again ?" Could we make it like this or not and also where should we not reduce clause ? Please help understand...

Hello SonuKumar,

I'm afraid I'm not completely sure what your sentence is supposed to mean. Perhaps 'Are you the kind of person who needs to be ...'? If so, you're right, a reduced relative clause cannot be used in it because reduced relative clauses are used to modify the subject of a sentence.

In any case, reduced relative clauses are fairly rare, used mostly in quite formal writing or speaking. It would sound quite odd for you to actually use this in a conversation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khuder on Sat, 10/06/2017 - 01:19

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Hello Sir, Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I am waiting here. Wanted to speak to him about the contract, I am waiting here. Do these tow sentences have the same meaning, in case not what are the differences? Best Wishes,

Hello khuder,

The first sentence is correct; the second is incorrect.

The reason is that particile clauses with present participles (-ing) have an active meaning while those with past participles (-ed) have a passive meaning. Here, it is the speaker ('I') who is waiting and so a present participle is required. The past participle would have a meaning of *I was waited* here, which does not make sense. Indeed, 'wait' is an intransitive verb so it does not have a passive form in any case.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zynah on Mon, 05/06/2017 - 01:25

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Hello Kirk I mean to say that in case of first conditional sentences, "if clause" is replaced by a past participle if we want to shorten it. For example, Came on time, I will teach you the whole chapter about Conditionals. (If you come on time, I will teach you the whole chapter about condtionals) Does it sound correct that I have started my first sentence with "came"?

Hello Zynah,

No, I'm afraid we can't replace the if-clause in that way. It is possible to use a present participle but the meaning then is not conditional:

Coming on time, he taught the whole chapter.

This would mean 'He came on time and so taught...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 03/06/2017 - 06:17

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Sir, Could I use the structure 'Having done' With future tense like- having had my lunch at 1:00 'O' clock at the afternoon I will catch my train at 2:00 p.m, or Should I Only use 'after doing' with future tense ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Yes, you can use a participle clause like that -- your sentence is correct. Participle clauses are a bit rare in ordinary speaking and writing, however. You're much more likely to hear or see 'after having' instead of 'having had'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zynah on Sat, 03/06/2017 - 05:28

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Hello Sir I am a bit confused here. If we want to shorten a long sentence starting with an if clause then we will use a past participle in the beginning. But for all the sentences with a past participle in it , we are using a present participle in the beginning. Am I correct? This is what i have understood.

Hello Zynah,

Could you please give an example of what you mean? Participle clauses cannot replace all kinds of conditional sentences and are not regularly used to do so.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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