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

Comments

Thank you Jonathan R for the answer, I understand it now :)

Hi!
How do I decide when to use the past participle or present participle in these two situations:
To give the reason for an action;
To add information about the subject of the main clause?
Thanks.

Hi elsa78,

It's a good question :) Past participles are used if the verb has a passive meaning, in relation to the grammatical subject. For example:

  • Worried by the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worried (passive) by the news. This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baked for too long, the cake was inedible. --> The cake was baked (passive) for too long. This is additional information about 'the cake'.

If the verb has an active meaning, present participles are used.

  • Worrying about the news, she called the hospital. --> She was worrying (active). This is the reason for calling the hospital.
  • Baking the cake for too long, we made it inedible. --> We baked it (active) for too long. This is additional information about 'we'.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Jonathan R for the answer, I understand it now :)

Hi Sir/Madam,
I saw a sentence in the Oxford Dictionary:
"She finds herself increasingly attracted to them and their lifestyle."

The word "attracted" here, is it a 'participle clause' here? If not, is it 'adjective'? Don't understand why there's participle used here.

Thanks,
Nicoletta

Hi Nicoletta,

Yes, attracted is an adjective here. It's connected to She finds herself earlier in the sentence. She finds herself means 'She realises that she's somewhere or doing something, without having intended to'. The structure needs a complement to complete it, to show the unintended thing, e.g.:

  • After a long walk, she found herself in a strange part of the city.
  • When everyone cheered, she found herself cheering too.
  • When everyone left, she found herself alone.

The third example is similar to your example, with an adjective as the complement.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Is this sentence correct? - "Water, turning to ice at 0 C, is the most crucial thing for life to exist.

Hello irismatov,

I'm not sure I'd say that it's incorrect, but I'd recommend you change the sentence a little. My first recommendation would be to use a relative clause ('Water, which turns to ice at 0ºC, is the crucial for life'). Another way would be: 'Turning to ice at 0ºC, water is crucial for life'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Oh... participle clauses! ;)
It slipped my mind!

Hello. Is the following sentence correct using present participle? If not, why.
- The camera costing 10000 pounds is over there.
Thank you.

Pages