Participle Clauses in English

Participle clauses are an advanced grammatical point, especially useful for C1 and C2 students. Here’s a clear explanation.
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English, at lower and intermediate levels, has a relatively simple grammar. However, today’s grammatical point is not one of them. If you think reporting verbs were tough, don’t get your hopes up with participle clauses, coz they ain’t easier, I’m telling ya! So pay attention, because this post is going to be a little complicated, but really, really useful for those of you seeking grammar at C1 or C2 levels. Here’s participle clauses explained to you. 🙂

What is a participle clause?

A participle clause is a dependent clause which uses a participle form of a verb. These clauses are used to avoid making sentences overly complicated. They are used mainly in written English and they allow us to convey a great deal of information in a shorter form.

Types of participle clauses

A participle clause is a dependent clause which uses a participle form of a verb. These clauses are used to avoid making sentences overly complicated. They are used mainly in written English and they allow us to convey a great deal of information in a shorter form.

Present Participle Clauses: gerund (-ing)

Example: Getting into the lift, I realised I had forgotten my keys. 

Present participle clauses are used to talk about:

  • Actions happening at the same time

Tom lost his keys (while) walking through the park.
(Tom lost his keys while he was walking through the park.)

She left the room singing happily.
(She left the room as she was singing happily.)

Note: In literary styles, the participle clause can come first.

Whistling cheerfully, she left the compartment.

  • Actions happening consecutively

Opening the envelope, I found two concert tickets.
(I opened the envelope and I found two concert tickets.)

  • An action that is the result of another action

A bomb exploded, killing three people.
(A bomb exploded and it killed three people.)

When I entered the room, they all looked at me,
making me uncomfortable.
(When I entered the room, they all looked at me and made me uncomfortable.)

  • A reason for the action in the main clause

Having nothing left to do, Julie went home. 
(Since Julie had nothing left to do, she went home.)

Knowing a little French, I had no difficulty making myself understood.
(As I knew a little French, I had no difficulty making myself understood.)

Working as salesman, I get to meet a lot of businessmen.
(I get to meet a lot of businessmen because I work as a salesman.)

Perfect Participle Clauses: having + past participle

Example: Having reached the ground floor, I went up the stairs to get my keys. 

Perfect participle clauses are used:

  • To make it clear that an action happens before another one

Having brushed my teeth, I realised I hadn’t used my toothbrush.
(After I had finished brushing my teeth, I realised I hadn’t used my toothbrush.)

Having been nominated many times, Leo DiCaprio is her all-time favourite actor.
(In this case, we are using a passive perfect participle – having been + past part.)

  • To talk about two actions which are not consecutive, or when the first action happens over a period of time

Having read the book before, he knew how the film would end.

I knew how to move around the city, having lived there all my life. 

Past Participle Clauses: past participle form (-ed or irregular)

Example: Surprised by my return, my wife asked me what I was doing back already. 

Past participle clauses are used:

  • To replace passive voice finite clauses

Shocked by the explosion, the people ran for shelter.
(The people were shocked by the explosion and ran for shelter)

The musicians stood up, surrounded by thunderous applause.
(The musicians stood up while they were surrounded by thunderous applause.)

Past Participle Clauses replacing Relative Clauses

  • Present participle clauses can replace an active voice finite relative clause. The noun before the participle is the doer of the action

The man driving the car was not injured.
(The man who was driving the car was not injured.)

  • Present participle clauses can also replace state verbs in relative clauses

If you receive an e-mail containing a virus, delete it immediately.
(If you receive an e-mail which contains a virus, delete it immediately.)

  • Past participle clauses can replace a passive voice finite relative clause. The noun before the participle is its object

This is the last photograph taken of my grandmother.
(This is the last photograph that was taken of my grandmother.)

Participle clauses in PDF

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2 comentarios en “Participle Clauses in English”

  1. I was looking at participle clauses and found it to be a nice lengthy explanation which can be applied in class and also as notes for the teacher

    1. Luis @ KSE Academy

      Hi Melanie! Thanks for your comment. I actually made this explanation a while ago for me and my students, and they find it useful as well. Thanks again!

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