This is more advanced knowledge for your higher level students. Great for making writing more formal and easy to learn if they already have a good grip of relative clauses. Perhaps see my previous guide on these first here! How To Teach Relative Clauses
Why Use Them?
- They give more information about the noun.
- They eliminate the need for the relative pronoun, useful if students have trouble remembering which one to use.
- Avoid repetition of relative pronouns.
The present participle is the -ING form of the verb. The present participle differs in use from the gerund, in that the latter can be used to replace a noun. For example;
I really like swimming
In this example we can exchange the gerund for a noun, such as ‘Chocolate’ and it would still make sense. However, we cannot exchange a present participle for a noun.
Sitting on the stairs, he seemed lonely and forlorn
Does it make sense to replace the word ‘sitting’ with ‘chocolate’? Of course not! There is your difference.
Using a present participle to replace a relative pronoun requires that the sentence have an active meaning. Consider these examples;
The light which swings from the ceiling.
The chef who is cooking in the kitchen.
A castle which sits on the mountainside.
Using a present participle in these cases means deleting the relative pronoun and the verb from the original sentences and replacing it with the new form. Like so;
which swingsswinging from the ceiling.
who is cookingcooking in the kitchen
which sitssitting on the mountainside.
Using this emphasizes that the first action was completed before the second action started. It is a form of the present participle.
Having enumerated the problems, he started talking about solutions.
It is common for students, and even natives, to put a preposition before the participle, but this is incorrect. It is not necessary to put anything before the verb.
After having enumerated the problems, he started talking about solutions.
This is formed by the past participle (third form of the verb) and is used when the sentences has a passive meaning.
The note which was given to me by Sarah.
The book which was written by Charles Dickens.
The artwork which was done by my class.
To use a participle clause here, we need only remove the relative pronoun and the verb ‘to be’ from the sentences. Easy peasy!
which wasgiven to me by Sarah.
which waswritten by Charles Dickens.
which wasdone by my class.
- It’s generally better to use the regular relative clause instead of the participle if it’s one particular action that is not repeated.
The man putting the coffee on the table yesterday
The man who put the coffee on the table.
- If the subject and the object in a perfect participle clause are not the same, the sentence may be a little confusing, or even funny! So make sure to clarify!
Having run 10km, my shirt was wet and clinging to my back. (Who ran the 10km? Me or my shirt?!)
Having danced all day and all night, the dress was a little stained and creased. (Again, who was dancing all that time? Me or the dress?!)
- Students often get confused with the difference between a present and a past participle. Thinking that one has a past meaning, and the other a present one. As you can see above, it has nothing to do with past or present, the difference is whether the sentence is ACTIVE or PASSIVE, don’t forget to clear up any doubts!
Any more tips for correct participle clause usage? Let me know in the comment section!