Participle clauses is a big topic, so for this lesson we will only look at a few examples of how these clauses can be used effectively in IELTS writing.
Participle clauses usually start with a participle, which can be either present (meaning, resulting, showing, proving), past (used, made, done, started) or past perfect (having tried, having failed, having moved, having read).
These names are confusing because participles are not verbs and so do not have their own tense. Instead, they use the same tense as the verb in the main clause. This concept is explained below.
PRESENT PARTICIPLE CLAUSES
Present participles are the same as a verb + ing. In the sentence below, the present participle is in bold, and the participle clause is underlined.
The study shows that women will have their first child later, resulting in an older average age for parents.
This same sentence can be written using a relative clause:
The study shows that women will have their first child later, which will result in an older average age for parents.
As this sentence shows, verbs in relative clauses need a tense (will result), but participles do not (resulting) as the tense is provided by the main clause:
The study shows that women now have their first child later, resulting in an older average age for parents.
The study shows that women had their first child later, resulting in an older average age for parents.
The study shows that women had had their first child later, resulting in an older average age for parents.
USE IN IELTS
Present participle clauses are a nice alternative to relative clauses that explain the main clause or show the result of a main clause. The two examples below are from the model essays on this site:
The result is a lack of motivation which often continues throughout their school life, suggesting that any advantage gained is often lost at secondary school.
Secondly, poorer nations can benefit from unrestricted information, especially when research is too advanced or expensive for their own universities and companies, leading to stronger economies and a decrease in the wealth gap.
PAST PARTICIPLE CLAUSES
Used carefully, past participle clauses can improve an IELTS essay.
The sentence above starts with a past participle (used). This sentence could be written in a different way:
When they are used carefully, past participle clauses can improve an IELTS essay.
Past participle clauses usually replace a passive clause. In the previous example and the one below, a passive voice if clause is replaced.
If they are given enough time, these policies will change the entire recycling industry.
Given enough time, these policies will change the entire recycling industry.
This is a formal style of writing that can be used in IELTS but test-takers must be careful. When using a participle clause, do not omit the noun that the participle clause refers to. This error is called a dangling modifier, and is a common with participle clauses. Read the sentence below:
Taken up by enough people, there will be a huge reduction in obesity-related healthcare costs.
This sentence does not make sense because the participle clause is not modifying a noun. The noun is missing. We do not know what is or was taken up by enough people. Now read the following sentence:
If these activities are taken up by enough by enough people, there will be a huge reduction in obesity-related healthcare costs.
In this conditional sentence, the activities are the reason for the reduction in healthcare costs. So to include these in a participle clause sentence we need to move the noun activities to the main clause.
Taken up by enough by enough people, these activities will lead to a huge reduction in obesity-related healthcare costs.
USE IN IELTS
Past participle clauses are an effective alternative to some conditional sentences, but they do increase the chances of a grammar mistake. For this reason it is often better to use a more simple construction.
Past participle clauses are useful when describing something in the past and the result of it. If the sentence is in the passive voice, it can often be changed into a past participle clause.
Original: The United Nations was created by 51 States that were determined to avoid another world war. Participle clause: Determined to avoid another world war, 51 states created the United Nations.