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 lexeus on Thu, 12/09/2019 - 05:36

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Hi Team Could you tell me if the following sentence is correct? He spotted Karen sitting with a middle-aged western guy who didn't appear to be showing any interest in her. Given that the sentence starts in past tense 'He spotted...' I'm not sure whether the part that reads '... appear to be showing any interest in her' should be past tense, as the verb 'appear' in this sentence is present tense. Thanks for your help, lexeus

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 12/09/2019 - 07:35

In reply to by lexeus

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Hi lexeus,

The sentence is fine. The verb 'appear' is part of a negative past tense form: 'didn't appear'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by giangphan on Tue, 20/08/2019 - 18:31

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Hi, There was a downward fluctuation in the amount of acid rain, followed by a steady decline. Is "followed by a steady decline" a past participle clause? If yes, what is the common subject of main clause and the past participle clause? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 27/08/2019 - 07:12

In reply to by giangphan

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Hi giangphan,

The clause here is a reduced relative clause:

...of acid rain, (which was) followed by...

The clause does not reference the noun 'acid rain', but rather the whole phrase 'a downward fluctuation in the amoun of acid rain'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Leen on Fri, 16/08/2019 - 10:28

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Hi, Is present participle used when both actions are happening at the same time? Does the the above e.g., 'Shouting loudly, Peter walked home.' mean 'While Peter was walking home, he was shouting loudly.'? For the following, do 2. and 3. have the same meaning as 1.? 1. Although I worked hard, I failed my test. 2. Despite working hard, I failed my test. 3. Despite having worked hard, I failed my test. Since 'working hard' is the first past action, am I right to say that using 'having' is thus optional/redundant in a sentence that has 'despite' in it? Thank you.

Submitted by Leen on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 02:43

In reply to by Leen

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Hi, I would appreciate it if someone could help.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 07:22

In reply to by Leen

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Hello Leen

Often the two actions do occur simultaneously, and in general this is probably the first assumption to make, but that is not always necessarily the case. The participle form in itself doesn't specify the timing -- it's the context that makes the timing clear (or in some cases ambiguous). In the example you cite from this page, it makes sense that the walking and the shouting occurred simultaneously and that's how I and I'm sure most people would understand the sentence.

Yes, 2 and 3 mean the same as 1, and yes, 'having' is optional in 3 because the context already makes it clear that the working occurred before the test. But there is nothing wrong with using 'having' here; if you wanted to be very precise, for example, in formal writing, that would be a better option. In informal speaking, however, it would sound more natural to say 2 instead of 3.

Sorry that we missed responding when you posted your first comment!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sam61 on Mon, 17/06/2019 - 17:58

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Hi, Having seen it all his life, he knows every aspect of it. Having lived there all his life, he knows everything about the place. Does the participle clauses mean that he still sees it and lives there? should I use "knew" instead than "knows"?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 18/06/2019 - 06:49

In reply to by sam61

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Hi sam61,

The action described in the participle clause does not have to be ongoing. It simply has to have a present effect.

For example:

Having been married most of his life, he can give some good advice.

In this sentence the person may be still married now, but may equally be divorced or widowed. What is important is that he has the experience and knowledge which allows him to give good advice.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Goktug123 on Thu, 13/06/2019 - 18:49

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Hello team! I have a question. What is the grammar rule of this sentence, "Trust having served you herewith"? It was at the end of one of e-mail.Is it kind of phrase? Thank you for your help!

Submitted by hamid2231 on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 06:47

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Hi I have a problem with two sentences that have been written above. 1- 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. Why in this sentence you used "looked". I think according to explanation in this case we should use "looking", instead in this sentence: RESULT (with a similar meaning to so or therefore): The bomb exploded, destroying the building. Compare: The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed. we should use "destroyed" instead of "destroying". Please let me know what's my problem. Thanks.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 24/05/2019 - 06:36

In reply to by hamid2231

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Hello hamid2231 'Looked' is the correct form in the first sentence because in relation to the subject of the main clause ('this coat'), it has a passive meaning, i.e. 'if this coat is looked after carefully'. You could use gerunds here ('Looking after the coat carefully will result in it keeping you warm through many winters'), but it would no longer be a participle clause since the two '-ing' forms acting as nouns. 'destroying' is correct in the second example because in relation to the subject of the main clause ('The bomb'), it has an active meaning. 'The bomb exploded and destroyed the building' might be a more helpful way of thinking about it. Does that make sense? All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sam61 on Mon, 13/05/2019 - 15:11

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Hi, Do the participle clauses for result and reason need a comma to introduce them every time like the ones shown in the examples.

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 14/05/2019 - 09:27

In reply to by sam61

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Hello sam61 Yes, they normally need a comma. Clauses that explain reasons are also commonly written with the reason clause first, and in this case they also have a comma. For example in 'Having spent so long doing my homework, I had no time to read my book', the comma is also used. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hudi on Tue, 07/05/2019 - 00:48

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Hello Britishcouncil English team. I have three sentences, 1. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book lying on my stomach. 2. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book and I will be lying on my stomach. 3. Tomorrow, I will be reading this book while lying on my stomach. Do they all have the same meaning ? And what subject should I read related to the form of the first sentence ? Because I want to be able to write sentences like the form of the first sentence.
Hello Hudi, The first and third sentences have similar meanings, showing actions happening simultaneously. The second sentence could have this meaning but it could also show sequential actions (first... second...) ~ The first sentence is an example of a participle clause, so you are on the right page already. You might also find these pages helpful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv305.shtml ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team
Thank you very much Peter, it is very clear now. And also thank you for these sources you gave me.

Submitted by AminulIslam. on Fri, 26/04/2019 - 06:45

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Dear sir, I have learned that a present participle is follwed by a be verb. but a action verb also follows be verb to form continuous. Two examples... 1.I am sitting in front of the building. 2.I am eating rice. In the first sentence, does sitting act as an adjective or verb? how can I differentiate?
Hello AminulIslam. Both of your examples describe activities taking place at the time of speaking rather than characteristics of the person ('I'), so the forms are present continuous. ~ Present participles have a variety of functions. They can function as nouns (gerunds), as part of progressive verb forms and as adjectives. The form itself does not change, so only by analysing the use in the sentence can we identify the particular function in a given example. For example: > I am sitting in front of the building - an activity in progress, so a progressive verb form > I walked up to the sitting man - a characteristic of the noun, so an adjective > Sitting for a long time can cause back problems - the subject of the sentence, so a gerund ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team
Thanks sir... sir I want to mention another sentence... 1.Education is enlightening. Here 'enlightening' is participle as adjective?
Hello AminulIslam. I would say that in this sentence 'enlightening' is an adjective. The verb 'enlighten' is usually a transitive verb so I would expect it to have an object. ~ I would not worry too much about identifying whether a particular present participle is functioning as an adjective or a verb, to be honest. It is often unclear (both are possibilities) and it does not seem to me that the knowledge will help you to use English better in any case. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by generalenglish on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 14:33

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Could you help me? I have a question. a. Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. b. Peter, shouting loudly, walked home. c. Peter walked home, shouting loudly. d. Peter walked home shouting loudly. a = b = c = d Is this right?
Hello generalenglish I'd say d is the most natural, and then a. It would be a little unusual to write b or c. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Sat, 09/03/2019 - 19:09

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Hi dear teachers, I have a question about 'present participle' and 'perfect participle'. "when I was younger I made a lot of money, and now I don't have any money problems." can change this with perfect participle,although in 'when clause' I have used simple past,'made money' as following? #having made money, I don't have any money problems. because as I know,if correctly!, it is not the matter of time used in the first example(simple past) ,the process of 'making money' finished before the second action ' no problem with money' matters. Best regards mohsen

Hi Mohsen,

We would probably keep the context in the sentence: Having made money when I was younger, I don't have...

 

Otherwise, you are correct. Well done!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 16:03

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Dear sir, I'd like to know what kind of adjective this word English-speaking as in "an English-speaking country" is. Can I say this is noun modifier or participle? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 06:46

In reply to by Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha,

English-speaking is a compound adjective. In your example it modifies the noun country.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mitzi on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 22:41

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I would like to know whether this sentence i bumped into is correva. " The middle class started to occupy spaces that once had been of the monarchy's". It is the of + genitive that makes me wonder. Thanks

Hello Mitzi,

That does not look correct to me, though the sentence is not in context. You could use either 's or of, and I think 's is the most natural here:

The middle class started to occupy spaces that once had been the monarchy's.

 

Alternatively, you could use a phrase like ...once belonged to the monarchy.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 18:43

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I correct my question,, how many tenses are there in English? 12, 14, 16 tenses?

Hi again monarchy10,

As I said in my earlier answer, there are two tense in English.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 18:42

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Hi there As for tenses in English, I found the following list of 12 tenses. My question is why "Future in past" and "Future in past continuous" are NOT included? totally how many questions are there in English? 12 , 14 or 16? Here are the twelve English tenses as conventionally taught: Simple Present: He sings. Present Perfect: He has sung. Present Continuous: He is singing. Present Perfect Continuous: He has been singing. Simple Past: He sang. Past Perfect: He had sung. Past Continuous: He was singing. Past Perfect Continuous: He had been singing. Simple Future: He will sing. Future Continuous: He will be singing. Future Perfect: He will have sung. Future Perfect Continuous: He will have been singing.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 08:15

In reply to by monarchy110

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Hi monarchy110,

Modern English grammar recognises two tenses in English: past and present. Other verb forms involve aspect (perfect and continuous), mood (modal verbs) and voice (active and passive).

As to your question, we can't explain to you why someone (who we don't know) has chosen to include or not include certain things on a list they made. You need to ask the author of the list.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by egorkazakov12345 on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 20:02

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Dear Sir, I have a question regarding the usage of participle clause. I have come across the following sentence: 'Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme has reaching crisis point over the last few weeks'. I do not really get why participle clause is used here. I would say: 'Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme has reached crisis point over the last few weeks' instead. In my opinion, the participle in the first sentence acts like a main clause, but I can not find similar examples in any of grammar books. Does the first sentence make sense to you? If yes, could you make some other examples with similar structure, please? Thank you for your help!

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 08:43

In reply to by egorkazakov12345

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Hello egorkazakov12345,

I'm afraid the sentence is not grammatically correct. To make it correct, you need to remove 'for' and use a present perfect form, or else remove 'has' and use a participle:

Underfunding is the reason the youth employment scheme has reached crisis point over the last few weeks.

 

Underfunding is the reason for the youth employment scheme reaching crisis point over the last few weeks.

 

The first version has no participle clause.

 

In the second version for is a preposition with the object 'the youth unemployment scheme reaching crisis point over the last few weeks'. The participle phrase 'reaching...' describes the noun 'the youth unemployment'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by learner2018 on Sun, 27/01/2019 - 16:00

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Hello, Peter M & Kirk! Good day! Hope everything is going great at your end! Can you please illuminate me with your suggestions on the usage of the participle phrase 'selling the bond when...' in the following sentence: the investor may have difficulty selling the bond when other bond offerings enter the market, with more attractive rates. My first question: Does the participle phrase 'selling the bond when other bond offering...' act as a complement of the adjective 'difficulty'? My second question: Would it be possible to rewrite the sentence in following way: the investor may have difficulty in selling the bond when other bond offerings enter the market, with more attractive rates. What is the different between in+selling and selling in the above examples? Thanks in advance!

Hi learner2018

In response to your first question, the phrase is actually 'have difficulty selling the bond', i.e. 'have difficulty' + verb-ing and yes, 'selling the bond' is the complement of the word 'difficulty' (though note that it's a noun instead of an adjective).

As for your second question, yes, it's possible to use 'in' in this and similar cases; it is a generally accepted usage and means the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monarchy110 on Sat, 26/01/2019 - 18:46

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Hi , is this reduction right ? Is there anyone who has access to paypal? Is there anyone having access to pal??

Hello monarchy110,

No, that is not correct. We do not use 'have' with the meaning of possession in participle clauses. You could simply use 'with', however: Is there anyone here with access to...?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But I found this following reduction with "have" with the meaning of possession in the grammar book named " Communicate what you mean" by "Carroll Washington pollock" page 150 Reduction of Adjective Clauses. anyone who has a library card may check out books. anyone having a library card may check out books. how do you explain this reduction based on this above reference?

Hello monarchy110,

'Have' is used in many ways, often as a replacement for another verb (have a shower, have dinner etc).

We do not use 'have' for possession in participle clauses. Thus we would not say:

Anyone having a dog knows they are wonderful creatures.

Anyone having a house understands the importance of security

Someone having a car knows how expensive it is.

Rather, we would use 'who has' or 'owning' in each example.

 

However, the example you give is correct. I would suggest that the reason is that having here means not possessing but rather something like bringing or showing

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ifencing on Thu, 24/01/2019 - 10:15

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Participles clauses is the same as (Nominative) Absolute Participle Constructions?

Hello ifencing,

This is not a term I use, but I believe the name refers to a particular kind of participle clause. You can read a discussion of the topic here:

https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/105900/understanding-absolute-construction

https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/152987/noun-being-adj-grammar-rule/152995#152995

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momonoki on Fri, 18/01/2019 - 20:50

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Dear Sir, I confused about this sentence -' The bomb exploded, destroying the building.' (The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed.) If the building was destroyed as a result of the explosion, should it be 'destroyed the building' not 'destroying'? I would be grateful if you could explain the sentence. (Sorry, I am not good at English, I hope you can understand what I try to say!)

Hello Momonoki,

In participle clauses, present participles have active meaning and past participles have passive meaning.

For example:

I walked down the street, watching the man. [I watch the man]

I walked down the street, watched by the man. [the man watches me]

 

The present participle (destroying) is correct here because an active meaning is needed.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by naghmehsa on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 05:11

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hi I have a problem with explanation of "reasons" in explanation is said "in place of so..." but the example is against. "so" is used in second clause but "ing-form" is used in first clause and isn't used in place of "so" thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 06:44

In reply to by naghmehsa

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Hi naghmehsa,

Thank you for the question. I can see what you mean here and I think we can phrase the explanation more clearly. I'll edit the page so that the example is a better one, and I think also the words 'in place of' are possibly confusing, so I'll rephrase those too.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 31/12/2018 - 04:57

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Hi Sir Thank you for your prompt reply for my last question regarding the two sentences which were in complete and any inconvenience caused to you in this connection is regretted. Thank you. Regards Lal

Submitted by Lal on Sun, 30/12/2018 - 12:32

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Hello Sir Please let me know whether these two sentences are correct and if so do they mean the same. I have been given to understand that there are vacancies for the post of computer operators and . . . Being given to understand that there are vacancies for the post of computers operators and . . . Thank you. Regards Lal
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