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 mjwood on Wed, 05/10/2016 - 05:35

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'Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.' is correct. 'Won the match, Susan jumped for joy' is incorrect. However: 'The match won, Susan jumped for joy' is correct. Can anyone explain why this is the case?

Hello mjwood,

 

The first example is a perfect participle, showing the situation (a completed action with a present result) at the time of jumping.

 

We can use past participles after nouns to describe them, functioning as an adjective. The structure is:

(with) something done... + main clause

This is the structure used in the final example ('The match won...').

 

We cannot, however, use past participles on their own as a main verb, which is what is being attempted in the second (incorrect) example. You need to include a subject and finite verb form here to make it grammatical:

Susan had won the match and jumped for joy.

Effectively, what you have tried to do in the second example is to take a subject and full finite verb form ('she had won') and reduce it to just a participle. Participles cannot fulfil this role in the sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dlis on Thu, 29/09/2016 - 05:25

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Hi, I'm confusing with present participle and perfect participle, for this, My father has just retired.He was a teacher. Being a teacher,my father has just retired. or Having been a teacher,my father has just retired.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 29/09/2016 - 06:15

In reply to by dlis

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Hello dlis,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct but neither makes sense as an example of the use of participle clauses. The reason is that, as the information on the page says, participle clauses give information about condition, reason, result or time. 

In your sentences there is no connection between the information. Your father did not retire because he was a teacher, or at the time he was a teacher, so there is no reason to link the information in this way.

You could use this construction if there were a link. For example, if you provide the reason for your father's retirement:

Being now 65 years old, my father has just retired.

Having turned 65, my father has just retired.

Here, the reason for the retirement is his age, so there is a connection. The difference between the two is that in the first sentence your father is still 65 at the time of speaking, whereas in the second we are talking about the moment when he became 65, which was in the past.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dlis on Thu, 08/09/2016 - 05:34

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Peter M, can we use past participle clauses for conditinal 1,2 both? if I practice more I will win. Practiced more I will win. Is this same?...............wrong.

Hello dlis,

In these constructions the past participle has a passive meaning while the present participle has an active meaning. Both can be used to refer to any time - the time reference is set by the main verb. For example:

Practising more, I will have a better chance to win.

= If I practise more, I will have a better chance to win.

 

Practised more, the game becomes easy.

= If the game is practised more, it becomes easy.

 

Note that the subject is always the same in both clauses.

You can read more about this on our page about participle clauses, which you can find here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sipun0044 on Mon, 29/08/2016 - 19:39

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If you miss the 6 o'clock train, you won't get here before 7. If you missed the 6 o'clock train, you wouldn't get here before 7. what do these sentences really mean?

Hello sipun0044,

These are examples of different conditional forms and the difference is how likely the speaker considers the situation - likely/possible in the first example, and unlikely/impossible in the second.

You can read more about conditional forms on this page, this page and this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

sorry sir, i didn't get the second one will you please elaborate I've already read all the conditionals. only confused with 1st & 2nd. look like they are same in meaning but they aren't which makes me confused.

Hello sipun0044,

The difference between the sentences is as follows:

If you miss the 6 o'clock train, you won't get here before 7.

The speaker thinks there is a good chance that you will miss the train - it describes a real possibility.

If you missed the 6 o'clock train, you wouldn't get here before 7.

The speaker does not expect you to miss the train - it is a hypothetical statement.

The difference here is in the speaker's perspective and how they see the event.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bretfrag on Tue, 23/08/2016 - 10:16

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Hi, I'm a bit confused as to why participle clauses following conjunctions like 'because' are called 'result' clauses, while those that follow conjunctions like 'so' are called 'reason' clauses. In the two examples above, both clauses are reasons for the actions in the main clauses. I would therefore refer to both as 'reason' clauses. Have I missed something?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/08/2016 - 13:23

In reply to by bretfrag

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Hello bretfrag,

You're right that there's a bit of overlap in terms of 'reason' and 'result' in the example sentence above, and I'm sure in many other sentences. I usually think of 'reason' clauses as looking more to the future, i.e. they kind of carry the past or present condition into the future to explain the future action, whereas 'result' looks more to the past. But to be honest I'm not completely sure that thinking works in all cases.

In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about what the clauses are called - in most cases, of course, understanding what they mean is far more important, and, as I've mentioned, the names for these kinds of clauses aren't always very precise, so don't take them too seriously.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by mark roi on Wed, 17/08/2016 - 13:48

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Hello, I still didn't understand the participle clause (while). E.g. while raining, I was walking (wrong) Should I say it was raining, while I was walking? Or ho w? Thanks in andvance

Hello mark roi,

On this page it says:

We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject.

Your example does not make sense as the subject would have to be the same. In other words your sentence means 'I was raining and I was walking'. You cannot use a participle clause if there are two different subjects, therefore you need to say, as you suggest, 'It was raining while I was walking'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mark roi on Mon, 01/08/2016 - 08:36

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Hello, I still didn't understand the participle clause (while). E.g. while raining, I was walking (wrong) Should I say it was raining, while I was walking? Or how? Thanks in andvance

Submitted by Tim-Xiong on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 08:53

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Sorry, the rewritten version should be "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and then directed 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers."

Submitted by Tim-Xiong on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 08:50

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Hi Learning English team, Reading the sentence "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", I am not sure which of the rules mentioned above apply to this participle clause. To me, it looks like the action in the participle clause happened later than the action in the independent clause. If I rewrite the sentence as "The government imposed sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, directing 85% of the revenue to health care and 15 % to help tobacco workers.", does it have the same meaning as the original sentence?

Hello Tim-Xiong,

The time the taxes were imposed and the time that the revenue from those taxes was directed to health care, etc., seems to be considered more or less concurrent here. If we were to measure that time with a watch, surely you would be correct – they are not concurrent actions. But this sentence probably comes from a context when this objective difference in time is not considered relevant, for example an article reviewing the history of sin taxes, which is decades or even centuries long. Within that perspective, they are concurrent.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dany on Sun, 12/06/2016 - 11:41

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I feel very confused with this clause We were soaked to the skin . We eventually reached the station. how can I turn it into participle clause? Thanks in advance

Hello dany,

You can place the participal phrase in a number of positions:

Soaked to the skin, we eventually reached the station.

We eventually reached the station, soaked to the skin.

We, soaked to the skin, eventually reached the station.

The last of these would be the least common, and has a rather literary feel.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You can even say "we, having been soaked, eventually reached the station" Or, "Having been soaked, we eventually reached the station". This is "perfect participle in passive form.

Submitted by bretfrag on Sun, 12/06/2016 - 03:11

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Hi, What is the difference between reduced relative clauses and participle clauses? This sentence, for example: 'Located in the Colorado mountains, the Overlook hotel closes every winter'. sounds strange, while 'The Overlook hotel, located in the Colorado mountains, closes every winter', with punctuation matching the structure of a reduced relative clause, doesn't. But I don't understand why!

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 13/06/2016 - 07:02

In reply to by bretfrag

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Hello bretfrag,

I'm not sure why you think the first sentence sounds strange, to be honest. It seems perfectly fine to me. Although the term 'participle clause' is often used (and is used on this page, and on this page), the correct name is 'participle phrase' as there is no finite verb present. Participle phrases generally have an adjectival function, providing more information about the subject of the main verb in the sentence. Other than the position of the participle phrase being more flexible, there is no difference in meaning between it and the reduced relative clause in your example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sharshar on Wed, 01/06/2016 - 16:13

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We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. Shouted at loudly, Peter walked to home.(someone shouted at Peter) In the second sentence there two different subjects. Can someone explain it to me plz. Thanks.

Hello Sharshar,

In your example the subject of both clauses is 'Peter'. The confusion arises from the fact that the first clause has a passive verb form ('Peter was shouted at loudly'). In passive constructions the grammatical subject is the recipient of the action. What you wrote inside the brackets is actually a transformed version of the first clause, in which you have changed passive to active and found a different subject, and this is misleading.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Tue, 31/05/2016 - 10:30

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Thank you Kirik for your kind response ,, I have another question and I would appreciate if you respond to it as well, can I rewrite this following sentence like this???? two of the terrorists who shot the president have been caught. two of the terrorists shooting the president have been caught. and also this one: the man who invented the digital camera has won the award. The man inventing the digital camera has won an award. is it possible and correct to rewrite the above sentences like that? I await your reply. Regards.

Hello monarcy110,

I'm afraid those sentences don't work, as the actions referred to with the participles occurred in the past. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

No we can't rewrite these sentences the way you have written . we can not use ( verb+ing ) if the action is already taken place . (verb+ing) form is used for action that is not yet finished . If you rewrite these sentences the way you wrote sense will be changed after rewriting . Like Two of the terrorists who shot the president have been arrested. (This sentence refers to the incident that had happened before the police arrested them , i mean they had already shot the president) But on rewriting , the sentence refers to the situation when they had been arrested while trying to shoot the president , it means they had not shot the president .

Submitted by monarchy110 on Mon, 30/05/2016 - 21:05

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Hi there, can I rewrite the following sentence like this? the man who stole the car was a professional thief. the man stealing the car was a professional thief. I look forward to your reply.

Hello monarchy110,

The second one is indeed a correct participle clause that expresses the same idea as the first one. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by masoud mahmoody on Sat, 21/05/2016 - 08:55

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dear Sir, i am a sales manager in Iran. i wanted my customer giving his information and i said : Sent your Contact information, i will let you know the prices for Products. i was wondering if you could let me know whether this sentence is correct or not.

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 21/05/2016 - 16:49

In reply to by masoud mahmoody

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Hello masoud mahmoody,

We don't generally offer the service of correcting users' texts, but since this is so short, I can give you some feedback. The command form of 'send' is 'send' (not 'sent') and some kind of conjunction, such as 'and', should go between the two phrases: 'Send me your contact information and I will let you know the prices of the products' is what I'd recommend. Still, what you said is perfectly understandable! Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neha_sri on Sat, 14/05/2016 - 12:35

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Hi! I have met a girl who have scored well in the exams. Can I transform this sentence using participle into it: I have met a girl having scored well in the exams. Thanks!

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 15/05/2016 - 10:27

In reply to by neha_sri

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Hello neha_sri,

When we use a participle like this it always refers to the subject of the first clause. In other words, in your sentnece the person who scored well in the exams is the speaker ('I'), and so the meaning is different.

Note that there are errors in the first sentence too: the verb 'scored' should be in the past simple rather than the present perfect as the action is a completed past action.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neha_sri on Thu, 12/05/2016 - 07:38

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Hi! >I can't work under pressure. I can't meet deadlines in time. Can I merge this sentence using participle like this? >I can't work under pressure, not meeting deadlines in time. Thanks!

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 13/05/2016 - 05:22

In reply to by neha_sri

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Hello neha_sri,

That doesn't really work. We use an -ing participle clause like this when one even occurs during another event, so your sentence would mean:

I can't work under pressure when I am not meeting deadlines.

In the original sentence the meaning is different: there are two verbs which are equal in value. To join the sentence and keep the same meaning you could say:

I can't work under pressure or meet deadlines in time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neha_sri on Wed, 11/05/2016 - 20:13

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Hi! >There are two boys working with top mnc,who have married under this system. Can I write the above mentioned sentence like this? >there are two boys working with top mnc,having married under this system. Thanks!

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 12/05/2016 - 07:23

In reply to by neha_sri

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Hello neha_sri,

I'm afraid I'm not sure what this sentence is supposed to mean, so it's difficult to say for sure. I expect that 'mnc' means 'multinational companies', but who married? The boys? Companies don't 'marry', they 'merge'. If it's the boys who married, the relative clause might be clearer closer to its antecedent, e.g. 'There are two boys, who married under this system, that are working with top MNC', though your version is also possible. Using 'having married ...' would be unusual and could cause confusion.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plamen_1964 on Mon, 25/04/2016 - 13:24

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Hi there, I'm wandering if it is correct for us to use negative present or past participle clauses. I feel worried not receiving message from her. I received the message not written by her. Many thanks, Plamen

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 26/04/2016 - 06:41

In reply to by Plamen_1964

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Hi Plamen,

Yes, you can use those structures. The second sentence would require a rather particular context to make sense (you would need several messages, of which one was not written by her, and this would be the only message you received), but is grammatically fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Weyedide on Sat, 16/04/2016 - 21:08

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Hello, Would you please help me understand the difference between the participle clauses that give information about reason and those that give information about result. Looking at the two examples given above, "Wanting to speak to him about the contract, I decided to arrange a meeting. Compare: I wanted to speak to him about the contract so I decided to arrange a meeting." and "I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework. Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework.", I can't help thinking that we could also restate each of the sentences with participle clauses to read: "I decided to arrange a meeting because I wanted to speak to him about the contract." and "I had spent so long doing my homework, so I had no time to read my book." In both cases the participle clause seems to give information about reason, and the main clause - about the result... What am I missing? Thank you for the great grammar reference!

Submitted by 07achogg on Tue, 29/03/2016 - 13:52

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Hi there, 'after getting’, ‘without checking’, ‘for destroying’ are all apparently part of the same grammatical structure, but what exactly is that form called?

Hello 07achogg,

Those are all prepositions + the -ing form of a verb. Prepositions are followed by nouns and/or -ing forms of verbs.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lexeus on Thu, 24/03/2016 - 14:19

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Hi Team Could you tell me whether 'die trying' is verb + verb, or something else? I thought 'die trying' was verb + adverb, but it doesn't look like it is. According to the dictionary 'trying' is not an adverb. Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 25/03/2016 - 08:03

In reply to by lexeus

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Hi lexeus,

Can you provide a full sentence. It is probably a participle with an adverbial function, but I wouldn't like to say for sure without seeing the full context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter I don't have an actual sentence, but I suppose it would be something like "You have to accomplish the mission, or die trying" or "I will either pass the selection course or die trying".

Submitted by lexeus on Sat, 26/03/2016 - 06:27

In reply to by lexeus

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Actually, a better example would be "I will climb Mount Everest one day, or die trying".

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 26/03/2016 - 07:08

In reply to by lexeus

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Hi lexeus,

Thank you. 'Trying' here is a participle and has an adverbial function. It gives us more information about the verb 'die':

... or die (while) trying (to do it)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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