What are participle clauses?
Participle clauses are not very common in spoken English; however, you can find lots of examples in written English, maybe because participle clauses can be very useful. They allow us to express condition, reason, cause, result or time in a similar way to full adverbial clauses, only with less words. Look at a couple of examples:
- After she had finished the exam, she felt very happy. (time)
- Having finished the exam, she felt very happy.
- As she didn’t know where the theatre was, she asked for directions at the reception. (reason)
- Not knowing where the theatre was, she asked for directions at the reception.
-ing participle clauses
This is one of the most common participle clauses. We can use –ing participle clauses to refer to the present or the past.
- As she was such a great singer, she didn’t have problems to find a job.
- Being such a great singer, she didn’t have problems to find a job.
- When I talk to you I always feel better.
- Talking to you I always feel better.
- Because I was walking quickly, I soon caught up with him.
- Walking quickly I soon caught up with him.
having + past participle clauses
By using the perfect –ing participle clause you can emphasise that an action was previous to another. These clauses are commonly used to express the cause of a second action.
- Having lost all the games, he felt depressed.
- Not having eaten for hours, I was desperate to find a restaurant.
It’s common to have the passive structure having been + past participle as an alternative to a since-clause (reason):
- Having been unemployed for a so long, he felt he would never find a job. (=Since he had been…)
- Having been offered a promotion, she decided to stay in the company. (=Since she had been…)
Participle clauses can also follow prepositions or conjunctions: after, before, instead of, without, when, while, etc. This use of prepositions or conjunctions before participle clauses (mainly –ing participle clauses) is quite common:
- Remember to take your bags when leaving the bus.
- Instead of listening to me, Tom left the room.
- After having lost many games, he felt depressed.
- I visited her after talking with her mother.
- People often use their phones while driving.
Past participle clauses (-ed/third column)
Past participle clauses usually replace a sentence with a verb in the passive voice.
- Found in a litter bin, the briefcase contained classified information. (=The briefcase was found.)
- Impressed by the painting, John praised the artist. (=He was impressed by the painting.)
- Founded 20 years ago, the company has received many awards. (=The company was founded 20 years ago.)
- Located in the city centre, the bar is very popular among tourists. (=The bar is located in the city centre)
Note that these participle clauses can often be replaced by a relative clause:
- The briefcase, which was found in a litter bin, contained classified information.
- John, who was impressed by the painting, praised the artist.
- The company, which was founded 20 years ago, has received many awards.
- The bar, which is located in the city centre, is very popular among tourists
Be careful with this common mistake!
You must always make sure that the subject of the verb in the participle clause and the subject of the verb in the main clause are the same. Using two different subjects is the most common mistake students make when they try to use participle clauses.
- If you mix it with soda, the cocktail tastes even better. (The subject of mix is you, and the subject of tastes is the cocktail.)
Mixing it with soda, the cocktail tastes even better. (The subjects are different.)
CORRECT: Mixed with soda, the cocktail tastes even better. (Same subject)
- If you water them at night, the plants live longer.
Watering them at night, the plants live longer.
CORRECT: Watered at night, the plants live longer.