Participle Clauses

Reduced Relative Clauses

(Download this page in PDF here.)
(Click here for information about participle adjectives.)

We can use participle clauses after a noun in the same way as relative clauses. This gives more information about the noun. We sometimes call this a 'reduced relative clause'.

1: A present participle (verb + ing) can be used in the same way as an active relative clause:

  • The man driving the car is a friend of mine.
  • (= The man who is driving the car is a friend of mine).

The present participle can replace any active tense, not just the present continuous tense:

  • Lorries coming over the bridge have to be careful of the wind.
  • (= Lorries that come over the bridge have to be careful of the wind).
  • Who was the girl wearing the red dress?
  • (= Who was the girl who was wearing the red dress?).
  • Students handing in their essays late will lose ten marks.
  • (= Students who hand in their essays late will lose ten marks).

2: A past participle can be used in the same way as a simple passive relative clause:

  • We read the email sent by the manager.
  • (= We read the email that had been sent by the manager).
  • This vase, made in China in the 14th century, is very valuable.
  • (= This vase, which was made in China in the 14th century, is very valuable).
  • She only eats cakes made by her mother.
  • (= She only eats cakes that are made by her mother).

3: 'Being + past participle' can be used in the same way as a continuous passive relative clause:

  • The poem being read by the actor was written by my brother.
  • (= The poem that is being read by the actor was written by my brother).
  • The strawberries being eaten at the wedding were grown in Scotland.
  • (= The strawberries that are being eaten at the weddingÂ…).

Things to notice:

1: We generally don't use perfect participles ('having + past participle') in this case.

2: We can't use this kind of participle clause if we're talking about one finished action which is not repeated:

  • Not: Who was the girl dropping the coffee?
Instead, we use a normal relative clause:
  • Who was the girl who dropped the coffee?

Try an exercise!

Participle Clauses Exercise 1
Participle Clauses Exercise 2