Participle Clauses

In English, participle clauses are mainly used in writing in order to put a lot of information into one sentence.

There are three kinds of participles in English: present participle, past participle and perfect participle.

The Present Participle is the ing-form. You surely know this form:

  • from progressive / continuous tenses – I am speaking.
  • as an adjective form – The film is interesting.
  • as a gerund – He is afraid of flying.

Furthermore, the present participle can be used to shorten or combine active clauses that have the same subject, e.g. She left the house and whistled. – She left the house whistling. Now, try to shorten these sentences.

The Past Participle is the participle that you find in the third column of lists with irregular verbs. You surely know this form:

  • from perfect tenses  – I have spoken.
  • from passive voice – The letter was written.
  • as an adjective form – I was bored to death.

The past participle can also be used to shorten or combine passive clauses that have the same subject, e.g. The boy was given an apple. He stopped crying. – Given an apple, the boy stopped crying. Now, try to shorten these sentences.

The Perfect Participle can be used to shorten or combine clauses that have the same subject if …

  • … one action (the one where the perfect participle is used) is completed before the next action starts, e.g. She bought a bike and cycled home. – Having bought a bike, she cycled home.
  • … one action has been going on for a period of time when another action starts, e.g. He had been living there for such a long time that he didn’t want to move to another town. – Having lived there for such a long time, he didn’t want to move to another town.

The perfect participle can be used for active and passive voice.

  • active voice: having + past participle (Having cooked, he set the table.)
  • passive voice: having been + past participle (Having been cooked, the food looked delicious.)

Now, try to use the perfect participle in these sentences.

So, in summary, in English, participle clauses are mainly used in writing in order to put a lot of information into one sentence.

When shortening or combining clauses with a participle construction, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Both clauses –  99% of the times – have the same subject.
  • The less important part becomes the participle clause. Important information should always be in the main clause.
  • Make sure, you use the correct participle form (see above).
  • The conjunctions as, because, since and relative pronouns who, which are left out.
  • The conjunctions before, when are used in the participle clause.
  • The conjunctions after, while can be used or left out.

It’s very important to remember that participle clause and main clause should have the same subject. Otherwise the sentences might sound rather strange.

Example: I was driving on the motorway, when the baby started to cry. → WRONG: Driving on the motorway, the baby started to cry*.

Finally, here you go some more exercises with answers:

- Combine Sentences using Participle Constructions

- Combine Sentences using Participle Constructions

- Combine Sentences using Participle Constructions (with Conjunctions)

- Replace Relative Clauses by Participle Constructions

- Rewrite Sentences without using the Participle Constructions

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