You are here

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


Hi Team LearnEnglish,
1. "We watched the students jogging round the campus".
2. "We watched students jogging round the campus".

can we say first sentence to have got jogging as a participle?
And also that in second sentence jogging to be 'gerund' since determiner 'the' is not present?

If not,how can we distinguish jogging between these two sentences?.

Help please.

Nandish BC.


Hello Nandish BC,

As I said in a previous answer, a gerund functions as a noun. Here, in both sentences 'jogging' is an adjectival form which describes 'students'; the definite article tells us only whether or not we know which students we are talking about (as opposed to just general students).

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter
I would have thought that "jogging " in both sentences is indeed a participle form and structurally represents a reduced relative clause i.e "the students/students (who were) jogging round the campus.


Hi Team learnenglish,

Here is the sentene,"We rely on our neighbours watering the plants while we're away."

what is the verb form of watering here,is it a gerund or a particple?
the book i read says it is a gerund.Bit confused with these type of usage of gerund after subject.

Nandish BC.

Hello Nandish BC,

A gerund is a verbal noun; it can only act in the sentence in the way a noun can. Here, 'watering' is a participle. However, it is not a participle clause as the subject in the main clause ('I') is not the thing doing the watering. Here, we have an adjectival form, describing 'neighbours' - a kind of simplified relative clause.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr.peter,

you would say that "our neighbors watering" can stand for "our neighbors who waters".
That make sense!

Thanks,and regards,

Hello Nandishchandra,

Yes, that is correct.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team Learnenglish,

Somewhere i read that, in the sentence below participle qualifies the noun 'BOY',as adjective Does.

1.Hearing the noise,the boy woke up.

Please help me what is that meant by word 'qualifying'.

Thanks and regards,
Nandish BC.

Hello Nandish,

The meaning of 'qualify' used here is the last one (i.e. the second one under 'LIMIT') in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online entry for 'qualify' - see the searchbox on the lower right.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team