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 Jamil on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 11:42

In reply to by Peter M.

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Thank you Peter Do you mean in non-finite reduced relative clauses? Regards Jamil

Hello again Jamil,

Yes, that's correct. A finite relative clause may be reduced to produce a non-finite relative clause:

The woman who is riding the bike > The woman riding the bike

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ange Obscure on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 21:24

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Please, add some exams about Participle Clauses.

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Thu, 06/02/2020 - 15:21

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Dear Sirs, Can I use participle to describe a sequence of event? For example, I entered a room, and then in the room, I cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Can I rewrite as the following? 1) I entered a room, clearing all the rubbish, painting the wall, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the windows. 2) I entered a room, and cleared all the rubbish, painted the wall, swept the floor, and clean the windows. Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use a participle like to describe actions happening simultaneously rather than in sequence, so your first sentence suggests that you did all of those actions while you were entering the room. Obviously, this is not possible, so the sentence would be understood thanks to the context, but grammatically the meaning would be a little different from that which you intended.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. So the second sentence is correct, is it?

Hello Kaisoo93,

Yes, the second sentence is fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by crow on Fri, 31/01/2020 - 18:49

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I have some sentence need a solution can anyone help me? thank you

Hello crow,

This site is aimed at helping people improve their English by providing explanations and practice. We don't offer a correction or proofreading service, however.

If you have a questions about how English works or about something you don't understand then we'll be happy to try to help.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Mccan on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 22:09

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Hello Just to understand it better, can you verify if In the following sentences, past participles are working as adjectives or passive voice Get it resolved(adjective or passive) to earn from YouTube have your videos watched (adjective) Made it complicated(adjective or not) Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/01/2020 - 06:50

In reply to by John Mccan

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Hello John Mccan

As far as I know, when 'get' and 'have' are used in causative structures such as these, the verb forms (here 'resolved' and 'watched') are past participles, not adjectives. This is because they have a passive meaning, being another way of saying something like 'I want it to be resolved' (following your example).

In the structure with 'make', an adjective, noun or infinitive can come after the object. So in this case, 'complicated' is an adjective.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 14:39

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Dear Sirs, Can "Dressed in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy." be written as "Dressing in a suit and tie, Sam looks smart and tidy" also? where the participle replaces "Sam who is dressed" and "Sam who is dressing" respectively. Is it correct to conclude that for those verbs that are both transitive and intransitive, we can use both past and present participle as in the case above ? Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

We use 'dressed' with a passive meaning, so 'Sam who is dressing' or 'Dressing in a suit...' are not correct here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Thank you for your reply. I have further question. From the lesson above: "Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]" "Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]" Why can't we apply participle the same way as 2 sentences above? Sam is dressed in... (passive voice) and Sam dress in ... (active voice)

Hello Kaisoo93,

The reason is that the verbs 'shout' and 'dress' operate in different ways in English.

We do not use the verb 'dress' actively to talk about the subject in modern English. Thus, a sentence using 'dress' must have a different object to the subject, or be used in a passive form so the subject can be omitted:

The servants dressed the king in his finest gown.

The king was dressed in his finest gown.

 

Alternatively, you can use a reflexive pronoun to create an object for the verb, though this is rather unusual and can sound rather archaic:

The king dressed himself in his finest gown.

 

Since the participle in a participle phrase must relate to the same subject as the main clause, we cannot use it with an active meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MartaC on Fri, 17/01/2020 - 08:53

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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

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 08:21

In reply to by MartaC

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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

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 15:10

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"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

Submitted by John Mccan on Thu, 02/01/2020 - 21:52

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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

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 03/01/2020 - 08:16

In reply to by John Mccan

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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

Sure understood all your points. Thank you Actually i have read it in a book that using possessive with verbs of perception is not correct? That's why this question. Second query -- with progressive tense if we use if we use ing with bare gerund not ing (witnessed complete act) than what does it signify? I was watching him sing 3. To+ verb+ verbing (is this gerund as verbs object or as a participle of noun(to+ verb) working as modifier, this was my question? Because I think with verb ing always signifies an action/gerund and with noun it becomes modifier? Thankyou again
I one question I should get going here going is gerund Let's us get going here going is modifier/participle of Object complement phrase (get going) right?

Hello John Mccan,

In both sentences going is a present participle, in my view.

As I mentioned previously, most modern grammars of English use the term -ing form rather than trying to impose a participle/gerund distinction. I think getting distracted by such labelling is not going to help you to improve your English.

 

The pattern get + ing is an example of patter 5a on this page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund#cite_note-26

As you can see, the entry highlights the debateable nature of the form:

Some grammarians do not recognise all these patterns as gerund use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

One more thing we can use ing as noun ( with possessive) ''within a phrase" or as adjective ( without possessive) but infinitive can only be used as adjective modifier never as a noun within a phrase.

Hello again,

I don't know of any reason why using possessive forms after verbs of perception would be incorrect. It is certainly less common. The possessive changes the meaning, as I explained in my earlier comment:

I heard him singing - I heard him at a time when he was singing

I heard his singing - I heard the singing which he produces

 

The verb 'watch' is often followed by a bare infinitive:

I watched her paint.

I watched him cook.

It does not give us any information about whether the act (painting or cooking in these examples) is complete or not. If you use a continuous form ('was watching') then it implies that the act of watching was incomplete or interrupted in some way, not the act that was being watched - though that may be a logical conclusion, if the watching was cut short.

 

I'm afraid I'm not sure I follow your third question. Perhaps you can provide an example to clarify.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sunny0713 on Sat, 21/12/2019 - 00:55

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Hello 1. When we form a participle clause, we MUST delete a conjunction ? Ex) Two men seem similar if we compare them with a woman. If we write comparing in the sentence, is it completely wrong? Always thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 21/12/2019 - 09:06

In reply to by Sunny0713

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Hello Sunny0713,

Remember that the participle must refer to the subject of the sentence. Here, the subject is 'two men', so we need a passive meanings, which means we need a past participle:

Compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

You can include a conjunction:

If compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

When compared to a woman, two men seem similar.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tim O'Brien on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 11:36

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At the beginning of this article, you say that participle clauses are adverbial. Given that, what would you make of the participle clause in this sentence? Assured of a place on the team, Jack went out with his friends. Isn’t this just the reduced form of the following adjective clause? Jack, who was assured of a place on the team, went out with his friends. If so, it does seem that participle clauses can be either adjectival or adverbial depending on the construct from which they are reduced. Thanks in advance for your response.

Hello Tim

You're right -- participle clauses can also be used to modify noun phrases, which makes them adjectival rather than adverbial in such a case.

We are currently revising this whole grammar section and this is one of the pages that hasn't yet been finished. Within a month or two, this page will have a new and improved explanation, as well as a couple of new exercises.

Sorry for any confusion.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SUCHIT35 on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 18:32

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If I have such crucial info using which one can make lots of money; why he would share this info with others. In the above sentence, is the word "using" used as the preposition or gerund, please clarify. thanks.

Hello SUCHIT35,

'Using' here is a participle, not a preposition or a gerund. However, the sentence is not correctly constructed in several areas and would need to be rewritten:

If I have such crucial info, with which one can make lots of money, why would I share this info with others?

 

We try to answer questions posted as quickly as we are able, though we are a small team here at LearnEnglish. Please do not post the same question multiple times as it only slows down the process.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Mccan on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 19:05

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Hello please help 1. What is the difference between "Compound Noun(gerund+noun)" vs any expression that uses participle as adjective(present participle +noun), are these two different things? for example working professional, walking stick etc. what are these, Gerund or participle+noun? 2. Subject complement- Gerund vs Participle/Participle clause How to know difference btn the two. Eg. The book is boring to read is this an Example of subject compliment ie a type of gerund or is it a participle/Participle clause? what is the difference between the two? Thanks you

Submitted by John Mccan on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 11:46

In reply to by John Mccan

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hi, can someone please answer these.

Hello John Mccan

Re: 1, I'd say that 'walking' in 'a walking stick' is a gerund, i.e. 'walking stick' is a compound noun or noun + noun construction where the first noun has an adjectival function. I suppose you could also argue that 'walking' is an adjective, but 'walking stick' is such a common collocation that I see it more as a noun with an adjectival function.

Re: 2, 'boring' is an adjective. There are many adjectives that can be followed by infinitives -- please see the Adjectives with to-infinitives section on our Infinitives page.

Please note that we respond to user comments as we can and at our own discretion. If a comment of yours goes unanswered for more than a week, it could be that we've missed it and you are welcome to ask us about it. Otherwise, please just be patient.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sumanasc on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 08:27

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Sir, I am confused with this adverb clause. I saw this as an example of an adverb clause. But it does not start with a.conjuntion. Please confirm whether it is an adverb clause and the reason. Jeff stared at the animal with his widely opened eyes

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 06:32

In reply to by sumanasc

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Hello sumanasc

I'd suggest you have a look at the Adverbials section of our Grammar reference. As you can see there, a prepositional phrase (such as 'with his eyes wide open') is a kind of adverbial.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sumanasc on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 05:45

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Hi Sir Please tell whether the following sentence is correct as an adverb clause: The ships returned to the harbour which took a long time in sea.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 08:22

In reply to by sumanasc

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Hello sumanasc,

The sentence is not correct. I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to say, and there are several issues with word selection, but in terms of grammar you have a relative (adjective) clause beginning with 'which' and this clause describes the noun preceding it. In other words, in your sentence it is 'the harbour' which has taken a long time at sea.

Perhaps you mean this:

The ships returned to the harbour after a long time at sea.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kali12 on Tue, 12/11/2019 - 06:08

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Hello, In a book review, my student has written: "Carmen tries to persuade Jack to kill her husband, but strongly refusing, he decides to leave". I have corrected this to ..."but he strongly refuses and decides to leave". My student's sentence is wrong, but I am struggling to explain why. "Strongly refusing" I'd say is wrong because the -ing form is used for simultaneous actions, but even if I were to correct this to "...but having strongly refused, he decides to leave." still sounds strange. Any thoughts greatly appreciated!

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 12/11/2019 - 07:50

In reply to by Kali12

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Hello Kali12,

The actions here are simply a sequence. A participle clause would imply either that they happen simultaneously, as you say, which is not the case, or that there is some kind of link between them, such as one action causing the other or one action only being possible after another. In this case, your correction is the best option.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kali12 on Tue, 12/11/2019 - 05:52

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Hi...excellent answers participle clause questions. My student wrote the following...it was a book review: "He inevitably runs into danger, having to fight to stay alive". This doesn't sound good to me. I would say..."and has to fight to stay alive". But I can't for the life of me think why. The actions are closely related, causal, closely related, but it sounds strange. Any comments greatly appreciated!

Hi Kali12,

There is a problem with the sentence, but it is not grammatical. The participle clause here would explain the reason for an action. In other words, it would tell us why he runs into danger. Thus, the sentence can be expressed like this:

He runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive.

This seems to me to get the cause-effect relationship backwards. It is not, I imagine, that he runs into danger because he has to fight to stay alive, but rather than he has to fight to stay alive because he runs into danger.

The best way to express the idea would be with a simple conjunction, as you suggest:

He inevitably runs into danger, and has to fight to stay alive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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