For years I’ve been telling people: Don’t fear the word “participle.”
Today I’d like to change camps. My new motto is: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
My bleak new outlook on participles began recently when I stumbled across the term “participle clause.” It wasn’t the “participle” part that scared me. It was the “clause” part. You see, I’d always heard that units like “eating peaches” in “I saw a man eating peaches” were called participle phrases or participial phrases. Not clauses. But an Internet search revealed that lots of people — including university professors and those smart-sounding types who write Wikipedia entries — don’t agree on whether to call these phrases or clauses.
A clause is defined as a unit that contains both a subject and verb — except when it doesn’t. In “Tracy wanted to ride her bike,” “Tracy wanted” is a clause. Subject and verb. Badda bing, badda boom.