Grammar Lesson 5

Participle Clauses 

We can give information about someone or something using an -ing, past participle (-ed) or being + past participle (-ed) clause after a noun. These clauses are often similar to defining relative clauses beginning with which, who, or that:

• We stood on the bridge connecting the two halves of the building, (or ...which connects/connected the two halves...)

• The weapon used in the murder has now been found, (or The weapon that was used...)

• The prisoners being released are all women, (or ...who are being released...) 

We often use an -ing clause instead of a defining relative clause with an active verb:

• The man driving the bus is my brother, (or The man who is driving the bus...)

• The land stretching away to the left all belongs to Mrs Thompson, (or The land which stretches away to the left...)

• Police took away Dr Li and items belonging to him. (or ...items which belong/belonged to him.)

Sometimes, however, we can't use an -ing clause. For example: • when there is a noun between the relative pronoun and the verb in the defining relative clause:

• The man who Tim is meeting for lunch is from Taiwan, (not ...the man Tim meeting...)

• when the event or action talked about in the defining relative clause comes before the event or action talked about in the rest of the sentence, except when the second event or action is the result of the first.

Compare: • The snow which fell overnight has turned to ice. (not The snow falling overnight...)

and • The snow which fell overnight has caused traffic chaos, (or The snow falling overnight has caused traffic chaos.)

• when we talk about a single, completed action in the defining relative clause, rather than a continuous action. Compare: • The girl who fell over on the ice broke her arm. (not The girl falling over...)

and • I pulled off the sheets which covered the furniture, (or ...sheets covering the furniture.)

We often use a past participle or being + past participle clause instead of a defining relative clause with a passive verb:

• The book published last week is his first written for children, (or The book that was published last week...) 

• The boys being chosen for the team are under 9. (or The boys who are being chosen...)

Sometimes, however, we can't use a past participle or being + past participle clause. For example: • when there is a noun between the relative pronoun and the verb in the defining relative clause:

• The speed at which decisions are made in the company is worrying, (not The speed at which decisions made...)

• The issue that club members are being asked to vote on at tonight's meeting is that of a fee increase... (not The issue being asked to vote on...)

• when the defining relative clause includes a modal verb other than will:

• There are a number of people who should be asked, (not ...people should be asked.)

Some present participles (-ing forms) and past participles (-ed forms) of verbs can be used as adjectives. Most of these participle adjectives can be used before the noun they describe or following linking verbs

• She gave me a welcoming cup of tea.

• I found this broken plate in the kitchen cupboard.

• The students' tests results were pleasing.

• My mother appeared delighted with the present.

We can use some participles immediately after nouns in order to identify or define the noun. This use is similar to defining relative clauses:

• A cheer went up from the crowds watching, {or ...the crowds that were watching.)

• We had to pay for the rooms used, {or ...the rooms that were used.)

A few participles are used immediately after nouns, but rarely before them:  • None of the candidates applying was accepted, (but not ...the applying candidates...)

• My watch was among the things taken, {but not ...the taken things. ) 

• Other participles like this include caused, found, provided, used. Some participles can be used before or immediately after nouns. For example, we can say:

• Rub the area infected with this antiseptic cream, or • Rub the infected area with this antiseptic cream. 
Other participles like this include affected, broken, chosen, identified, interested, remaining, resulting, stolen. Remember the differences between the following pairs of adjectives: alarmed - alarming, amazed - amazing, bored - boring, excited - exciting, frightened - frightening, pleased pleasing, surprised - surprising, tired - tiring, worried - worrying. When we use these adjectives to describe how someone feels about something, the -ing adjectives describe the 'something' (e.g. a surprising decision) and the -ed adjectives describe the 'someone' (e.g. I was surprised).

Compare: • I'm pleased with the result. and • The bored children started to get restless.

• It's a pleasing result. and adjective, and connected by a hyphen: • I hope it will be a money-making enterprise.

• They are well-behaved children.

• The newly-built ship is on its maiden voyage.

• The play was really boring.

We often form compound adjectives with a participle following a noun, adverb, or another

• A worried-looking lawyer left the court.

• We walked past an evil-smelling pond.

• A slow-moving lorry was causing the delays.

Notice that we can use some participle adjectives only when they are used in this pattern. For example, we can't say '...a making enterprise', '...behaved children', or '...a built ship' as the sense is incomplete without the adverb or noun. In formal English, that and those can be used before a participle adjective:

• The office temperature is lower than that (= the temperature) required by law.

• Here is some advice for those (= people) preparing to go on holiday. In examples like this, those normally means 'people'

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