Participle Clauses

To get to know participle clauses, first of all, you have to be familiar with the concept of participles and clauses separately.

"Participle Clauses" in the English Grammar

What Is a Participle Clause?

Participle clauses are subordinate, non-finite clauses that begin with a participle. They take a long sentence or structure and make it shorter.


Participle clauses are common in written English, especially literary, academic or journalistic style, because they allow us to include information without making long or complicated sentences.

Participle Clauses: Functions

A participle clause can function as:

  • an adjective
  • an adverb
  • a noun

Participle Clauses Functioning as Adjectives

A participle clause can often functions as an adjective modifying a noun or a pronoun. When it functions as an adjective, the participle clause usually directly follows the noun. For example:

Marcus, excited by the news, rushed out of the room.

Three old men sitting on a bench in the park discussed the current situation.

Participle Clauses Functioning as Adverbs

Participle clauses can also function as adverbs giving information about the time, reasons, results, conditions, etc. of the events in the sentence.

Seeing me in that state, he got so sad.

Participle Clauses Functioning as Nouns

Only present participle clauses can function as a noun, for example, as the subject of a sentence:

Eating in this restaurant is very expensive.

Participle Clauses: Types

There are different types of participles, therefore, different types of participle clauses. We have:

Present Participle Clauses

We use the present participle:

  • to show that two actions are taking place simultaneously

Holding the cookbook in her left hand, she stirred the soup in the pot with her right hand.

Shaking angrily she left the room.

  • to show that an action is the result of the other action

The volcano erupted, destroying the village.

  • to show that an action is the reason of the other action

Knowing what she needed the most at that time, he bought her a cellphone.

  • to show extra information about the subject of the main clause

Coming soon in all theaters nationwide, the new Tom Hanks movie is the new box office hit.

using a participle clause in a sentence

Past Participle Clauses

We use the past participle:

  1. To shorten a passive clause

Alan, driven by madness, started spying on his wife.

  • To show condition similar to an if condition

Looked after it carefully, it would still be alive.

  • To give the reason for an action

Devastated by the news, she called the hospital.

  • To add extra information about the subject of the main clause

Filled with jealousy, she broke off their engagement.

Perfect Participle Clauses

'Perfect participle' clauses are used to indicate a finished action that was finished before the action in the main clause. 'Perfect participles' are used to make either active or passive sentences.

Having got arrested, he shouted he was innocent.

Having finished their homework, they walked downstairs to go to the restaurant.

Having been made by chocolate, the cake made me sick.

Participle Clauses: Form

A 'participle clause' is used when the participle and the verb in the main clause have the same subject. Here's an example:

Talking about the issues, I dropped the glass.

Having warned her, she knew Hanna would get in trouble.

The Tense in Participle Clauses

These types of clauses do not have a specific tense. The tense in the main clause would decide the tense of the participle clause.
It is very important to remember that participle verbs do not change their form to show tense and they just mimic the tense of the main clause.

Talking to my therapist, I relaxed completely.

Talking to my therapist, I relax completely.

Talking to my therapist, I will relax completely. (When I talk - future time clause)

Participle Clauses: Negation

To make any kind of participles negative, all we have to do is to add the word 'not' before the participles. check out the examples:

Not having slept for eighteen hours, he felt sick.

Not ordering anything, she left the table.

Not feeling well, I entered the party.

Participle Clauses with Prepositions and Conjunctions

Prepositions such as 'before, after, instead of, on, since, when, while, and in spite of are common to be used after participles (especially present participles).

Finally, all sorts of prepositions can be followed by a participle to further emphasize or clarify events' order, time, cause, and effect.

Before giving the speech, she reviewed the text.

Since coming to China, I haven't seen my family.

Without knowing it, I hurt his feelings.


Participle clauses begin with a participle. They are used to shorten a long structure or sentence. Remember participle clauses are non-finite. Participle clauses are used to express:

  • results
  • reasons
  • same ideas
  • conditional


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