When I was studying participle phrases, I came across a sentence on a grammar teaching website, which I trust.The sentence is:

Opening the envelope, I found two concert tickets.

And the writer says in the explanation of this sentence that "A present participle clause can express an action that happens just before another action" and rewrites it as "I opened the envelope and I found two concert tickets."

But again on the same page, the writer says "If we want to make it clear that an action happens before another one, we use a perfect participle for the earlier action"

So why did the writer prefer to use a present participle clause instead of a perfect participle.In this example, is it obvious that we already assume that we cannot see what there is in the envelope before we opened it?Is it about context? or is it about the word just here?

If I say:

Having opened the envelope, I found two concert tickets.

Does the second sentence much more time passed between the opening and finding processes than the first sentence.

What is the difference between them in terms of meaning?

  • 1
    Generally this is short for ((up)on (my)) opening the envelope, where the parenthesized elements are optional. What it means is when I opened the envelope,... Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 2:34
  • @JohnLawler .What I got here that these two things almost are happening at the same time.Another example came to mind that " Coming into the house, I smelled the gas leak"..I think I should use here a present participle because they happens almost at the same time..If I say " Having come into the house, I smelled the gas leak" , it suggests it passed at least a few minutes before I noticed the gas leak?
    – Mrt
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 2:45
  • Are you speaking or writing, and in what context? "Having opened the envelope" to me is quite formal/high register, moreso than "opening the envelope". Though in speech I'd probably say "I opened the envelope and..."
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


When you use the present participle, the implication is that the two actions took place at approximately the same time, or there's some overlap. Your first example is approximately equivalent to saying

While opening the envelope, I found two concert tickets.

The perfect participle implies that the first action took place entirely before the second.

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