Grammar – Participle Clauses

Grammar Point of the Month – Participle Clauses

Present participle clauses

A present participle clause can express:

  • an action that happens at the same time as the action in the main clause:

    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.)

    The participle clause can come first in literary styles:

    (While) walking through the park, Tom lost his keys.

  • an action that happens just before another action:

    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:

    Moments later a bomb exploded, leaving three people dead and twelve others injured.
    When I entered they all looked at me, making me feel uncomfortable.

  • a reason for the action in the main clause:

    Having nothing left to do, Paula went home. (Since Paula had nothing left to do, she went home.)
    Knowing a little Russian, I had no difficulty making myself understood. (As I knew a little Russian, I had no difficulty making myself understood.)
    Working as a sales rep, I get to travel a lot. (I travel a lot because I work as a sales rep.)

    Here the subjects of the two actions can be different:

    The weather being nice, we decided to go for a picnic. (As the weather was nice, we decided to go for a picnic.)

Perfect participle clauses

If we want to make it clear that an action happens before another one, we use a perfect participle for the earlier action:

Having washed the car, I noticed a small scratch on the front right fender. (After I washed the car, I noticed a small scratch on the front right fender.)

Here the present participle (washing the car) would mean “while I was washing the car”.

If the two actions do not follow each other immediately or if the first action happens over a period of time, we use a perfect participle instead of a present participle for the earlier action:

Having seen the film before, I didn’t want to go to the cinema.
Mark knew the town well, having lived there all his life.

Past participle clauses

Past participle clauses 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.)

If we want to emphasise that an action happens before another one, we use a passive perfect participle:

Having been nominated three times for an Oscar, he is one of today’s most acclaimed film directors.

Reduced Relative Clauses

A present participle clause 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 are possible even with verbs which are not normally used in the continuous form (state verbs):

If you think you haveĀ received an e-mail containing a virus, you should delete it immediately. (If you think you have received an e-mail which contains a virus, delete it immediately.)

A past participle clause 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.)

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