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Participle clauses

Do you know how to start a clause with a present participle (e.g. seeing) or past participle (e.g. seen)?

Participle clauses

Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause which enables us to say information in a more economical way. We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

Waiting for John, the kettle boiled. [This would suggest that the kettle was waiting for John!]

 

Forming participle clauses

Participle clauses can be formed with the present participle (-ing form of the verb) or past participle (third form of the verb). Participle clauses with past participles have a passive meaning:

Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]

Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]

If we wish to emphasise that one action was before another then we can use a perfect participle (having + past participle):

Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.

Having been told the bad news, Susan sat down and cried.

 

 

The meaning and use of participle clauses

Participle clauses give information about condition, result, reason or time. For example:

 

CONDITION (with a similar meaning to an if-condition):

Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

Compare: If you look after it carefully, this coat will keep you warm through many winters.

 

RESULT (with a similar meaning to so or therefore):

The bomb exploded, destroying the building.

Compare: The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed.

 

REASON (with a similar meaning to because or since):

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.

 

TIME (with a similar meaning to words like when, while or as soon as):

Sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Compare: While I was sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Hello,

Is the participle phrase/modifier too far away from the noun 'paintings' in the following sentence:

Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, the paintings are a unique feature of our church.

The sentence seems grammatically correct to me but I am not sure.

Does this make more sense: Hanging at roof level all around the walls, with eight around the tower arch, are the paintings, a unique feature of our church.

Maybe neither are correct?

Thanks

Hello MartaC,

The danger with having the participle too far from its referent is that the sentence may be ambiguous or confusing for the reader. I don't see any problem with your sentence. In fact, bring the participle phrase to the beginning like this is quite a common literary device to highlight certain details in the sentence.

Your second version is also correct, though it seems a less elegant structure to me. It's really a question of personal style and taste, though.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind causing blazes to spread to new areas."
The word "causing" is a adjectival (reduced form of which causes) or adverbial? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I would say that the participle causing has an adjectival function here. It's hard to reformulate the sentence to create an adverbial clause (see here for a list of adverbial clause types).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Thank you for your reply.
If I don't use participle, are both sentences below correct?
1) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind and cause blazes to spread to new areas.
2) Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown by the wind which cause blazes to spread to new areas.

Hello Kaisoo93,

The first sentence is not correct as the verb 'cause' lacks an appropriate subject.

The second sentence is fine. The verb (cause) is plural, so it is clear that the relative pronoun refers back to embers rather than to wind.

 

The original sentence (with causing) is by far the best choice in terms of style, clarity and elegance.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Why can't we consider 'embers' as the subject for 'cause' for the first sentence?
Thank you.

Hello Kaisoo93,

The sentence structure does not hold together in that way. The sentence 'with', everything describes the object (of the preposition) 'embers'; you cannot change that object into a subject for a new verb without starting a new sentence:

Once fires have started, other areas are at risk. Embers blown by the wind cause blazes to spread to new areas.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

Two questions

1. We don't use Possessives with such verbs to show its a gerund, so when ing word follows does it represent gerund or present participle as adjective.

I saw him singing (participle as adjective defining him who is singing or as gerund defining the process of singing)
Or both, just the way we look at it

2. Ing word following verbs generally act as gerund ( verbs object)
But if it follows an infinitive would.it be a participle or gerund.
Let's get (infinitive) moving(gerund or participle)
Also can participle-ing(adjective) follow a verb?
Like --Complete working (this is gerund)

right?

Thanks

Hello John Mccan,

In both examples, I would say that the -ing form is a participle.

 

In the first example, 'singing' is a participle with an adjectival function. It describes the pronoun 'him'. The way the sentence is constructed tells us this, as the object is the pronoun. In other words, you hear the person who is singing, not the singing which belongs to the person. In the latter case, you would say 'I heard his singing'.

 

In the second example, the construction is get + participle. You can use present and past participles in this construction, where present participles have an active meaning and past participles have a passive meaning. The verb 'get' here has a meaning between 'start' and 'become', depending on the context:

Let's get going. [active meaning, get going = start moving]

Let's get cooking. [active meaning, get cooking = start cooking]

Let's get dressed. [passive meaning, get dressed = become dressed]

 

As an aside, the participle/gerund distinction is really a false one in English, and is a relict of a neo-classical view of English which imposed Latin forms and terms on it in an inappropriate way. Modern English views of grammar prefer the term -ing form, which avoids trying to create two items from one. Instead, we treat the -ing form as a single item with a range of uses.

You can find a nice summary of this on this page:

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/participles-and-gerunds

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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