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 SonuKumar on Thu, 01/06/2017 - 00:01

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Sir, "She is standing in front of me with a ruler taking in her hands" "She is standing in front of me 'with' taking a ruler in her hands" Can omit word with in second sentence and is first sentence right with participle taking after word ruler or can it come only before with as in second sentence?

Hello SonuKumar,

I'm afraid neither sentence is correct. We don't use the word 'taking' in this way. You could use the word 'holding' (without 'with') or use just the preposition 'with' (without any participle after it). In other words:

  1. She is standing in front of me holding a ruler in her hands.
  2. She is standing in front of me with a ruler in her hands.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 30/05/2017 - 15:51

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Sir, Is there any difference between these two sentences or are both correct ? "She is standing in front of me with taking a ruler in her hands" "She is standing in front of me with a ruler taken in her hands" And yes one last question, Is in first sentence word with interchangeable with the word By and can with or by both be omitted in first sentence?

Hello SonuKumar,

Both sentences are incorrect. The second sentence would be correct without the word 'taken'.

You cannot use 'by' instead of 'with' here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Tea

Submitted by alvin_ryan on Sun, 28/05/2017 - 09:54

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Hello! what is the difference between participles simple form and perfect form? Thank you very much!!!

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 29/05/2017 - 06:45

In reply to by alvin_ryan

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Hello alvin_ryan,

English has two kinds of participles: present and past. Participles are non-finite verb forms, which means that they are not marked for time, in spite of their names. In other words, we can use present and past participles to refer to any time - past, present or future.

Participles have many uses and I can't list them all in a comment such as this. Perhaps you have a particular example in mind which we can comment on. If so, please post the sentence and we'll be happy to comment.

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Fri, 26/05/2017 - 12:32

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Hi, You described participle clause as a form of adverbial clause. By adverbial clause, do you mean to say that the participle clause act as an adverb? And since an adverb modifies a verb, adjective or adverb, quoting your example above "Waiting for John, I made some tea", does the "waiting for john" modifies the verb "made"? But it seems to me that "waiting for john" is modifying the noun "john", in this case, Wouldn't this mean that "waiting for john" is functioning as an adjective since it modifies the noun "John"? Appreciate your advice on this, thanks! Regards, Tim

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 26/05/2017 - 13:32

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's right -- that means that the participle clause acts like an adverb. 'Waiting for John, I made some tea' could be rephrased as 'While I was waiting for John, I made some tea'. As you can see, the clause 'while I was waiting for John' doesn't describe John, but rather explains the situation in which 'I' was making some tea.

Since it describes the situation, which, due to the structure of such sentences, will also include some kind of action, we call it adverbial. This is perhaps a bit arbitrary, i.e. one could argue that it's adjectival (since it describes 'I'), but I think calling it adverbial makes more sense and that is how I've always seen it in grammar references.

By the way, there's a page similar to ours at the BBC -- perhaps you'll find it useful as you seem to be interested in this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 21:37

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Hello, ''There's no sound when answering calls'' According to above the subjects of both clauses have to be the same, but here we have a dummy subject. The context is that I was reading on a web page why people are bringing one kind of phone and encountered this. It was the reason why. Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/05/2017 - 07:09

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

This could be an example of non-standard usage, or you could see the 'when' clause as having omitted words, i.e. the full form could be 'There's no sound when [you're] answering calls'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali-k on Mon, 22/05/2017 - 08:41

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Hi, Thank you for your nice website. I read and learned this grammar part and I should say it is very nice since it has helped me a lot to understand complex english structure. however, i got a problem with participle clause in this sentence"Attached to each arm is a clip-like device." I know its meaning but I am unfamiliar with the structure. I think i should become A clip-like device is attached to each arm. And it does not follow participle clause rules i read from this website. please tell me what is its grammar point . thanks in advance.

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/05/2017 - 12:10

In reply to by Ali-k

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Hello Ali-k,

Your analysis is good! In other words, the phrase is as you suggest ('A clip-like device is attached to each arm'). The order of this basic sentence has been inverted, probably for emphasis -- I can't really say for sure without the context.

This is fairly uncommon and is quite an advanced point that it will be difficult to find explanations of. This Cambridge Dictionary page mentions other times when inversion is typically used, but those are different than what's in your example. Yours sounds to me as if this phrase comes inside a text that sequentially describes an object, though other uses are also possible.

I'd say the best thing to do would be to make a note of this somewhere so that you can refer to it again in the future. As you read and listen to English, if you find another similar example, add it to the same place you note down this example. Compare the two and notice how they are used. This should help give you a sense for when this sort of structure is used.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 16:59

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Hi, May I know if its true that only past participle forms of transitive verbs can be turned into past participle phrases, and that past participle forms of intransitive verbs cannot be used in/as a past participle phrase? Regards, Tim

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 06:49

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Please provide a concrete example of what you mean. I think it's much clearer that way and there is less chance of misunderstanding.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 17:56

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Hello, ''There's no sound when answering calls'' Does this sentence correct? According to above the subjects of both clauses have to be the same, but here we have a dummy subject. Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 14:36

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

I expect you could find examples when people have used a similar structure, but, as you point out, it's a bit incomplete. Do you have a specific context in mind?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Tue, 16/05/2017 - 17:03

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Hello Teachers, 1) The information above says that participle clauses give information about: time, reason, result and conditional. However, I cannot match the usage of participle clauses with these in the sentence below: "Connecting" In the sentence: "We stood on the bridge connecting the two halves of the building, .." 2) Can we convert ALL "relative pronoun + verb" to present participle? For example: which connect=>connecting, people who are paid only for the hours=>being paid only for hours 3) This sentence I copy from the previous comment: "We were soaked to the skin . We eventually reached the station". My question is: why can't we rewrite this to "Having soaked to the skin, we.." or "Being soaked to the skin, we..."? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I'm going to answer your questions in reverse order. In 'we were soaked to the skin', 'soaked' is an adjective. It could possibly be part of a passive verb, but in most cases it would be an adjective. You could write 'Having been soaked ...' or 'Being soaked ...' and both forms would be correct. Participle clauses are not so common in informal speaking, so they'd sound strange in that context, but they are grammatically correct.

I'm afraid I can't confirm that there are no exceptions to this, but I can say that in general, yes, many relative clauses can be reduced in this way. There are also cases, e.g. very formal contexts, when such reductions are possible, but probably not advisable. This structure is called a reduced relative clause.

A full grammar reference of English would require many hundreds, if not thousands, of pages, so it's not difficult to find grammatical points that are not described in our pages. But in this case, 'connecting' is a reduced relative clause (originally 'which connects'), so you shouldn't think of it as a participle clause.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:14

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Sir, Could you please tell me What does the participle Eating refer to I or Boy In This Sentence? 'I beat a boy eating pizza in the street' Now If Eating refers to boy, so Should I write it like this, 'I beat a boy, When I was eating pizza in the street' If I want the participle Eating refer to I ? Please help

Hello SonuKumar,

Grammatically speaking, the sentence is ambiguous and could refer to either 'I' or 'the boy':

I beat a boy (who was) eating pizza in the street.

I beat a boy (while I was) eating pizza in the street.

However, the second seems to be a highly unlikely scenario so most people would assume the first option. Hopefully, of course, no beating of children happens in any case!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 07/05/2017 - 12:44

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Sir, He was made to sleep in this sentence Could we change the verb made into got, had, caused, helped, brought and then to sleep. like He was got or 'other verb as above' to sleep is it possible?

Hello SonuKumar,

I think only 'helped' would really fit in that sentence. However, it has a completely different meaning. You could say 'was forced to' but all changes carry different connotations and emphases, and context is also important in determining whether a given alternative sounds acceptable or not.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Thu, 04/05/2017 - 10:55

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Hi there, 'I'll have him meet me' and 'You can watch them dream' Are these structures describing objects after the verbs infinitives? Why don't they have 'to' in the front? In my opinion, the meaning is similar to present participle (meeting, dreaming) Many thanks

Hello JakiGeh,

'have' + object + infinitive (without 'to') is commonly used to talk about instructing someone to do something. You can see more examples on this Cambridge Dictionary page under the heading Asking or instructing.

'watch' and other verbs of perception ('see', 'hear', etc.) are often followed by an object + infinitive (without 'to'), though, as you say, an -ing form is also possible. If an infinitive is used, it has a general meaning or suggests that you watch the action from beginning to end, whereas the -ing form emphasises that you watch the action in progress. For example, 'I watched my children play football' and 'I watched my children playing football' are both correct. The second one puts more emphasis on seeing the action, whereas the first has a more general meaning.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JakiGeh on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 21:32

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Hello, ''A gift was cracked while being delivered'' This sentence is correct, but conjunctions ''when, while, once, until, and till'' can take a noun phrase as well. If ''delivering'' was a noun, would it be possible to use it instead of ''being delivered'' which is correct choice according to information on this page(I'm giving the sentence as an example of a similar situation) Thank you in advance

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 02/05/2017 - 07:20

In reply to by JakiGeh

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Hello JakiGeh,

'While' is a conjunction here and is followed by a clause, not by a noun. The phrase 'while being delivered' is a reduction of 'while it was being delivered'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cb25288 on Sun, 09/04/2017 - 23:03

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Hello, I came across this sentence in a page: 1. "The Maoists just went 50metres, before making Anturam kneel down, his hands tied behind his back." 2. His hands tied by the police, his face went pale with fear 3. The supermarket having closed early, we couldn't buy anything Sentence 2 and 3 is the key of two questions in a book for gift students. I haven't heard about participle phrase with different subjects, but I don't know what grammatical points there are in the sentences above. ( tied: passive meaning; having closed: meaning of time )

Hello cb25288,

This kind of construction is possible. It's often seen with the preposition 'with':

With the shop closed, we decided to go to the restaurant.

The meaning and use of your examples are the same as those on the page, as is the passive/active distinction between past and present participles.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 08/04/2017 - 13:33

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Sir, In these sentences I beat a boy eating breads. who dose eating refer to 'I or boy' ? And if it refers to Boy. so can I write like this if I want the participle Eating show to 'I', I beat a boy, when I was eating bread or while eating bread ?

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 05/04/2017 - 12:50

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And if we want to use the word showing as a adjective of report or website in this very sentence what should we do ?

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 05/04/2017 - 12:47

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Hello Sir, They have published a report showing fake accounts on a website. in this sentence participle 'Showing' tells us How they did it means their work. Now in second sentence, They have published the report showing fake accounts on a website in this sentence dose Showing become an adjective of the word report by applying the before it ? And third and last question They have published a report on the website showing fake accounts. In this sentence is Showing adjective of website ?

Hello SonuKumar,

In all of these sentences, 'showing fake accounts on a website' is a reduced relative clause. The full (non-reduced) form is something like 'They have a published report that shows fake accounts on a website'. This structure is explained on our Relative clauses – defining relative clauses page, in part (d) of the Simplifying defining relative clauses section.

This kind of reduced relative clause does have a kind of adjectival function, but as far as I know is classified as a kind of verb phrase. You might be interested in using a sentence parser to learn more about the syntax of such sentences -- I'm afraid this kind of syntactic analysis is not the kind of thing we provide. In any case, changing determiners from 'a' to 'the' has no effect on what part of speech it is.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali-k on Fri, 31/03/2017 - 15:13

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Hi, I have a question about participle clauses. I came across a confusing sentence which I don't know if it has participle clause structure or not. Here is the sentence (driven form GRE Essay topic pool) Given WCQP's( just a name) recent success with call-in advice programming, and citing a nationwide survey indicating that many radio listeners are quite interested in such programs, the station manager of KICK(just a radio station name) in Medway recommends that KICK include more call-in advice programs in an attempt to gain a larger audience share in its listening area. Here we have two sentences that are puzzling to me. First one begins with GIVEN, past participle of the verb give, which does not make sense to me because if it was used in participle clause structure then, the following tenses would have to have same subject, here is the manager of KICK. But, the problem is I can't rewrite this sentence using normal tense. (The manager is given WCQP's radio station recent success and then he decides to ....?) (please clarify this to me) second more confusing structure is : "and citing a nationwide survey indicating that many radio listeners are quite interested in such programs, the station manager of KICK(just a radio station name) in Medway recommends that KICK includes ...." here we have another sentences begins with "citing". MY question is first: is this sentence a participle clause. If yes please explain how the subject of this two sentences could be the same by rewriting this structure without using this clauses. And second, what is the timeline for this sentence? result clause ( the manager recommend.......) is simple present tenses therefore, the time of participle clause should follow this sentence time. But, again it does not make sense to me because the researches should have been done before the time that manager makes his decision. Thank you very very much

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 01/04/2017 - 17:04

In reply to by Ali-k

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Hello ali-k,

As for your first question, 'given' is used as a preposition in this sentence. You can see a definition and example in the Cambridge Dictionary entry for 'given'.

Yes, the clause beginning with 'citing' is a participle clause, and the subject of the verb 'cite' is the station manager of KICK. Perhaps that will make more sense once the meaning of 'given' is clearer for you. If not, please let me know.

As for the timeline, I don't see any problem with the time of the verb forms in this paragraph. The time referred to in participle clauses is somewhat ambiguous and much of the time we must rely on logic and the rest of the context to understand exact sequences. I'm afraid I don't see what is confusing you there -- which is not to say that you aren't confused! I just don't see it myself. If you can explain more specifically what is confusing you in this regard, I'll do my best to help you, though please remember that we're not able to provide extensive explanations of texts that don't come from our site.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JamlMakav on Sat, 25/03/2017 - 16:14

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Hello, In your example: ''Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home'' or ''Having been told the bad news, Susan sat down and cried,'' the subjects of participle clauses aren't the same as the main clauses, but you state that subjects have to be the same. Could you explain this to me please? Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 25/03/2017 - 18:59

In reply to by JamlMakav

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Hello JamlMakav,

The subjects are the same. Peter is the one who is shouted at and Susan is the one who has been told the bad news. Both people are the subjects of a passive verb in the participle clause.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello mohamedfathy,

In the first sentence, both forms are possible, unless the bridge no longer exists in the present (in which case, the present tense form would not make sense). This is because the bridge was there in the past and is presumably still there in the present. The writer would choose one or the other depending on how they saw the situation.

In the second sentence, in most contexts, the past form would be more likely, since it's talking about a specific past incident. The present form could be used, for example, in a context in which the belongings are being talked about now in the present.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 09/03/2017 - 11:44

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Sir, Could you please tell if these sentences are right? There's written something on the wall or There's something written on the wall. which sentence is right And There has been given some information on the school board and some information has been given on the school board which is right one of those ? All I wanna know is that is there or it used with past participles or not ? Please help me.

Hello SonuKumar,

This is a question of word order. The correct word order in these sentences is as follows:

There's something written on the wall.

Some information has been given on the school board.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 04/03/2017 - 11:52

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Good Evening Sir, I and my brother went to the Market, Where I liked a neck Locket and I told to my brother " I like that neck locket" then He asked me " Which Locket" ? At that time I could answer as it follows. On which there or it is written a price worth of 80 rupees. or On which there or it is a price worth of 80 rupees what should I say one of those both ? And One evening I and my friend went to an old cave, where there has been written something on the wall then I wanted to tell it to my friend. what should say that there or it is written something on the wall or there or it is something written on the wall ? There's a passive voice sentence " Information has been given on the school board " Could also say it like this, there or it has been given a information on the school board ? Sir please pls. explain.

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sat, 04/03/2017 - 11:28

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Sir, I think in this sentence also I should use holding rather then held. correct me If I'm wrong. the sentence is I made him stand there holding a 100 rupees note in his hand.

Submitted by Major tom on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 03:20

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How do I know if a clause is reduced relative clause or present participle clause? I know that some reduced relative clause may be moved away from the noun it is describing, which make it even more difficult to distinguish the two clauses. For example, in the following excerpt from the guardian, "The vote was one of the first confrontations at the UN between Russia and the US since Donald Trump took control of the White House in January, pledging to build closer ties with Moscow.", is the last clause " pledging to build closer ties with Moscow" a reduced relative clause to describe donald trump?

Hello Major tom,

It can be hard to tell the difference. A reduced relative clause has an adverbial function: it describes a noun in the sentence. A participle clause (as the page states) has an adverbial function: it gives information about condition, reason, result or time.

Sentences are often ambiguous, but in the case of your example the clause is a participle clause describing how (in what manner) Trump took control of the White House. If it was a reduced relative clause it would immediately follow the noun which it describes.

You can read more about relative clauses and how they are reduced here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 01/03/2017 - 16:18

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But sir why holding and why not held ? I'm asking because the sentence was in past so why present participle instead of past participle

Hello Sonu Kumar,

In participle clauses, a present participle can refer to many different times, not just the present. I can understand that this is confusing, but 'present' in the name 'present participle' doesn't indicate the time that the participle refers to, it just distinguishes it from a past participle (which has an -ed ending instead of -ing).

In this case, since 'holding the same pipe which I had held' is a participle clause, it has to start with a present or past participle. A past participle would indicate an action with a passive meaning, which is not the meaning here, so a present participle is the correct choice.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 28/02/2017 - 11:21

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Sir could you tell me please that which sentence is right, There was standing my brother beside me held the same pipe which I had held or There was standing my brother beside me holding the same pipe which I had hold ? Sir as you can see that I have used " held " In the first question and "holding" in the second what m I supposed to do here ?

Hello SonuKumar,

If I understand what you mean, the sentence should be 'There, standing beside me, was my brother, holding the same pipe which I had held'. Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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