I came across a website that says past participle can also be used to replace conditional clause. For example:

  1. Given the choice, most people would want to choose good health over good fortune. ( If they are given the chance....)

  2. Looked after carefully, this coat will keep you warm through winter. ( If you look after....)

  3. Washed at wrong temperature, clothes can shrink. ( If clothes is washed....)

In what conditions can we use Participles in this way to shorten the sentences to make them more formal and standard in academic writing ?

Another question, In an example sentence from an article I can see past participle 'Born' used in the sentence. Such as: Born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865, William butler was the son of well known Irish painter, John butler Yeats.

How it's used here 'born' to replace the sentence passive voice 'was born'?

  • 1
    They answer your question: the past participle can be used to replace conditional clauses. So, I do not understand your question. The site even gives you the conditional clauses. For your information, the British Council is not just some website. There are BCs all over the world busily teaching English to people. You can follow their examples. I really do not know what more one might ask for. Their explanation is very clear. Your "born" example is not the same pattern.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 15:47
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the post contains the answer from a very prestigious institution.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:12

1 Answer 1


These are absolute constructions, which give some contextual background to the main clause of the sentence; but the precise meaning of the relationship of the absolute clause to the main clause is variable, and can sometimes even be ambiguous.

To some degree, the meaning is determined by the tense of the main clause. So in your example washed at the wrong temperature, clothes can shrink it is conditional, as you say, but in washed at the wrong temperature, her dress shrank, it is not. (The latter is even less likely in speech than the former, but both could occur in writing).

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