I have never heard a native speaker use sentence with participle clause such as ‘Thinking about her past, she cried bitterly.’; ‘Bitten by a snake, she died.’ in their day-to-day conversation although I see in writing.

  • 2
    It would not be common in spoken English. Fairly common written, though.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:03
  • 6
    There's no reason to do it in speech; it complicates fast parsing. But in writing it's just one more trick to control the reader's attention and attitudes. Dec 16, 2020 at 23:05
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    These - Thinking about her past..., Bitten by a snake... - are participle phrases, and not clauses. These are usually used to change a complex sentence to a simple sentence while learning grammar.
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:33
  • 1
    @Ram Pillai— There has been a paradigm shift in grammar and it makes more sense to club together gerunds and participles. Thus you would often read about such entities like Thinking about her past, being labelled as clauses and not phrases.
    – user405662
    Dec 17, 2020 at 6:05
  • @user405662; May be, but I shall appreciate if you could refer to me such shifts accepted by the linguistics globally. By the way, I didn't talk about gerunds, but only participial phrases.
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 17, 2020 at 7:46

2 Answers 2


It is slightly more common in the second half of a sentence.

"I think I saw Banksy. I looked out of my window that night and saw someone painting that mural of the woman sneezing."

I've just heard on the news, " A Chinese space capsule carrying samples of moon dust has landed in ...Mongolia, ..."

There is a cliché often used by salesmen/ piece workers angling for a job. "Seeing as it's you, I'll do it for £50."


Yes. Learning to speak English natively, I frequently use participle clauses in conversation.

One famous example is the third paragraph of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech (it has been noted that "But one hundred years later" is a complete phrase, so I have added a better example below).

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Generally it is used, as in the speech above, to place the emphasis on a different part of the sentence than it would be otherwise.

Being a single lady, no, I won't be going.

as opposed to

No, I won't be going, being I am a single lady.

Edit to address comment: Thanks for the clarification @Geoffrey, a more precise example of a leading participle clause from the same speech above would be

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.

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    I would categorize "One hundred years later" as an absolute phrase since it contains a noun and modifies the entire sentence. Notably, it contains no participle and therefore cannot be a participial phrase.
    – Geoffrey
    Dec 17, 2020 at 1:07
  • @Geoffrey, I have updated to include a more correct example, still from the same speech.
    – App-Devon
    Dec 17, 2020 at 6:00
  • 1. There are errors in your answer. 2. We must distinguish between ordinary speech and the rhetoric of Mr King.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 13, 2021 at 10:35
  • The question asks about spoken English without giving a more precise definition, so a Martin Luther King speech might fit. There is a lot of difference between what you would say in a formal speech, to your boss, in court, as a TV newscaster or in a PhD viva, compared to what you say to your friends or a small child, and it would be useful if the question had narrowed it down.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 13, 2021 at 15:56

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