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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

Comments

Hello Nevi.

To be precise, the participle here refers to the action performed by the man: being late for class caused him to be suspended.

In participle clauses, the participle does not introduce a new actor. Whatever it describes refers to the same actor as that in the main clause.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Got that teacher.
Is the sentence like "He was late to class for the third time this week, which causes him to be suspended. "?

Here which refers to whole first clause 'He was late to class for the third time this week.
Am I right teacher?

Hello Nevi,

Yes, in this example, 'which' refers to the whole first clause.

Please note that the wording of the relative clause is a little awkward. I'd recommend 'which is the reason he's been suspended' or something like that.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there. I'll truly be thankful to clear my doubts.

1. The bomb exploded, killed two people.
2. The bomb exploded, killing two people.

1. The participants breaking the rules will be removed from the competition.
2. The participants broken the rules will be removed from the competition.

Are all these sentences grammatically correct? If yes, what is the difference between 1 and 2 in each pair of the sentences?

Hello Arafat,

In each pair, the correct form is with -ing (present participle).

The present participle has an active meaning, while the past participle (-ed) has a passive meaning. In your examples an active meaning is required: it is the bomb which explodes and the participants who break the rules.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi outstanding team!

I am trying to learn participle clauses's function like time relationships, reason results, condition.

I was confused about one thing.
I saw following sentence

'She left the room singing happily.'
I don't know if I can also say

'Singing happily, she left the room. '

I saw some participle clauses for actions happening at the same time at the beginning of a sentence and also at the end of the sentence.

Is there a rule like if clause at the beginning, put comma after clause and if clause an the end, don't put comma.

I'd really appreciate it.

Hi Nevi,

That sentence is fine.

When the participle clause comes at the start we separate it with a comma, as you say. When the participle clause comes after the main clause the comma is optional and is generally a stylistic choice. Using a comma suggests a spoken pause, which can add emphasis to the action in the participle clause.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi excellent team,
I want to know something.
I saw that grammatical explanation while working reduced adjective clauses.
'This morning I saw a man who walked along the river.'='This morning I saw a man walking along the river.'

I am confused, because I thought we can just use it for defining relative clauses.

I mean can we say for example
'I saw Harry Kane playing football.'

Is it like' I saw Harry Kane who is playing football.'? But we don't need to define him.

I don't know whether I could explain my confusion.

I would be grateful if you could answer me.

Best wishes!

Hello Nevi,

These are examples of participle clauses, which are not the same as relative/adjective clauses. Compare:

1. I saw Harry Kane, who was playing football. 

2. I saw Harry Kane playing football.

The first sentence is a non-defining relative clause. As you say, it cannot be reduced. The relative clause provides additional information about the noun.

The second sentence is a participle clause. It does not provide additional information about Harry Kane but rather describes an action in progress at the time of the first action.

 

I think you'll see the difference if you look at this example, where only one form is possible:

While I was in London I saw Harry Kane, who was living in Italy at the time.

You cannot use a participle clause here because the actions are not simultaneous: living in Italy is a general state, not an action at the same as time as my seeing him.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher,
Plus, that sentence
'Lawyers showed the video of former officer pressing his knee on black man. '
I think the part 'officer pressing his knee on black man. ' is not reduced relative clause.
Is it also participle clause?
I would be grateful if you could explain the rule to me.

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