Do you know how to start a clause with a present participle (e.g. seeing) or past participle (e.g. seen)?

Participle clauses

Participle clauses are a form of adverbial clause which enables us to say information in a more economical way. We can use participle clauses when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. For example:

Waiting for John, I made some tea.

Waiting for John, the kettle boiled. [This would suggest that the kettle was waiting for John!]


Forming participle clauses

Participle clauses can be formed with the present participle (-ing form of the verb) or past participle (third form of the verb). Participle clauses with past participles have a passive meaning:

Shouting loudly, Peter walked home. [Peter was shouting]

Shouted at loudly, Peter walked home. [Someone was shouting at Peter]

If we wish to emphasise that one action was before another then we can use a perfect participle (having + past participle):

Having won the match, Susan jumped for joy.

Having been told the bad news, Susan sat down and cried.



The meaning and use of participle clauses

Participle clauses give information about condition, result, reason or time. For example:


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.


RESULT (with a similar meaning to so or therefore):

The bomb exploded, destroying the building.

Compare: The bomb exploded so the building was destroyed.


REASON (with a similar meaning to because or since):

I had no time to read my book, having spent so long doing my homework.

Compare: I had no time to read my book because I had spent so long doing my homework.


TIME (with a similar meaning to words like when, while or as soon as):

Sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Compare: While I was sitting at the cafe with my friends, I suddenly realised that I had left the oven on at home.

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


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,


Hi lexeus,

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



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your help, Peter.

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?

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'.



The LearnEnglish Team



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.


I would appreciate it if someone could help.

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


The LearnEnglish Team

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"?

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.



The LearnEnglish Team