BBC English Masterclass: Participle Clauses

Beware the participle claws! Get it? Claws…like
the nails of an animal. Clause…like the part of a sentence… no? Alright, look it
doesn’t matter. This is everything you need to know about participle clauses. Stay tuned. A participle is a form of a verb. A participle clause is a subordinate clause which begins with a participle. They act like adverbs and are linked to the main clause of a sentence. They usually show things like event order, time, cause and effect. Stepping on camera, I relaxed completely.
or Filmed inside, the footage was too dark to
use. There are present participles, ING, and there
are past participles which are basically the third form of the verb. Stepping on camera…stepping
is an example of a present participle. It basically means ‘When I stepped on camera’.
Filmed inside…filmed is an example of a past participle. It basically means ‘Because
it was filmed inside’. It is very important to remember that participle verbs do not change
their form to show tense. This actually happens in the main clause, and participle clauses
usually mimic the same tense as the main clause. However, it is possible to put a tense in
a participle clause by itself. For example: Knowing I was filming today, I wore a shirt. Participle clauses often have implied subjects.
This means that the subject of the participle clause is the same as the subject of the main
clause and so it is omitted in the participle clause. For example:
Seeing the mistake, she corrected it immediately. However, it is possible for a participle clause
to have its own subject – and this is a little bit more formal. So, for example:
Seeing she had made the mistake, she corrected it immediately. To make a participle clause negative, we use
‘not’, and this comes before the participle verb. So, for example:
Not knowing the baby slept, she phoned. However, the ‘not’ can come after the
participle verb depending on your meaning. So, for example:
Not knowing the baby slept, she phoned. versus
Knowing not to call because the baby slept, she waited until the next day. Got it? To make clear that one action is finished before the action in the main clause is begun,
we use Having + the past participle. And this basically works the same way as ‘because’
or ‘after’. So, compare: Putting away the equipment, they talked about
going home. – that means ‘while’ but
Having put away the equipment, they went home. – that means ‘after’ Finally, all sorts of prepositions can sit
before the participle verb to further emphasise or clarify events’ order, time, cause and
effect. Words like after, before, since, while and with. So for example: By practising every day, she passed her driving test. or Without knowing it, I had ruined everything. For more information, please go to our website
at for further examples and practice exercises. I’ve been Dan, you’ve
been fantastic. Practise your participle clauses guys – keep them sharp!

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