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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

Thank you, Kirk.
All the best,
Nevena

Why in the following sentence we use “come” but not “coming”? I thought “coming” is to modify “them”?

“Wandering around Camden Town, or going through CDs I couldn’t afford in West End megastores, I’d already had too many of them come up to me, asking how I was getting on since leaving the course to “seek fame and fortune.”

Hello Fiona,

I think you can use either come or coming here.

If you use coming it is a present participle describing 'them', as you say. It functions in the same way as the second present participle ('asking').

If you use come then the construction is 'have somebody do something'. We can use this construction when we require or order someone to do something, but it can be also be used when we have reached a limit of what we can accept:

I had him deliver the documents to my office. > I arranged for this.

I had had too many people shout at me already that day, so I put the phone down. > It was too much for me to accept.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter! It’s clear and helpful!

Dear team, please help me explain the meaning of this sentence: Worn under normal clothes, a thermal layer keeps you warm in minus temperatures.
To which of the rules is the above sentence applicable. Is it adding information to the subject of the main clause or is it similar in meaning to an if condition?
Please, also notify and correct any sentence that is not written grammatically.
Thanks in advance

Hi Umoh Margaret,

It could be either of them! Both interpretations make sense, and mean pretty much the same thing in this context.

Sorry, we don't make general corrections to user comments, but if you have a specific question, feel free to ask us :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I appreciate your feedback.

Sitting for a long time in front of a PC, I realized that my legs are all stiff.

Dear team,
Which one is correct and why?

A)when his mother died of cancer, the young doctor decided to pledge his life to finding a cure for it.

B)when his mother died of cancer, the young doctor decided to pledge his life to find a cure for it.

Please expand your description.
Thanks in advance.

Hello mehransam05,

The dictionary entry for 'pledge' shows that it is followed by an infinitive, which would suggest that B is the best option here. This sentence, however, is a bit different because the verb is 'decided to pledge' and I think A could work.

If it were me writing this, though, I would probably use a different construction (e.g. 'decided to dedicate his life to finding').

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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