I am studying in Korean.

In my grammar book, below sentences are called 'participle phrase'

1) Seeing police officer, he ran away.

2) Buying it online, you have to use a paypal.

3) Realizing his mistake, he apologized immediately.

But when I type 'Participle clause', I really surprised.

Because I totally don't know the detail meaning among 'Participle phrase', 'Participle clause', 'Participle construction'.

What are differences among 'Participle phrase', 'Participle clause', 'Participle construction'?

  • These are not standard phrases, so every grammar book which uses one of them may use it slightly differently.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:14

3 Answers 3


Clauses contain nouns and verbs; phrases are missing one or the other; constructions describe any word group, independent or subordinate. There are participle uses for clauses and phrases, but I think the term "participle construction" describes both types of word groups.

Participle clauses contain nouns and verbs, but they're not independent: they never function as the major idea in a construction. Instead, Seonaid Beckwith tells us that participle clauses are subordinate, augmenting the meaning of an element of a construction -- usually a noun as in, "It's totally gross, but it's usually the wet cat food that is devoured first in our house."

Phrases are missing a noun or a verb: they can never be independent, but they can be participle, modifying nouns just like a participle clause. A participial phrase uses a verbal, "a verb form that does not function as the verb of a clause" (Hacker and Sommers 501). Here's an example: "Emitting a noxious odor, the canned wet food was nevertheless devoured within minutes by the salivating cats."

I hope this helps!


Though some would like to claim that only one terminology is correct (and they would usually claim nowadays that a participle clause is the correct term here, dropping the requirement for an overt subject and finite verb-form that used to be standard in the definition of 'clause'), the fact is that different people use different terms.

Nordquist's article, at GrammarAbout.com, is titled participial phrase and includes 'Also Known As: participle clause, participial clause

  • Perhaps the person disagreeing could specify the point of disagreement? Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 11:23

Your grammar book is ungrammatical! (1) is invalid; there must always be a determiner for any singular count noun, which may be an article. Use "Seeing a/the police officer, ...". The plural doesn't need a determiner, such as "Seeing police officers, ...". Also, (2) is invalid; you cannot use the present participle for a goal. Use "To buy it online, ..." instead. (3) is correct, and conveys "At the point when he realized his mistake, he apologized immediately."

As for your question, some people use the phrase "participle phrase" or "participial phrase" for the kind of phrase you have here, and use "clause" only for complete propositions, as this Wikipedia article does. However, others may use "clause" for everything, perhaps so that there is no conflict with the meaning of "dependent clause".

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