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'-ing' forms

Level: beginner

We can use the -ing form of a verb:

I love swimming.
Swimming is very good for your health.
You can get fit by swimming regularly.

The main problem today is rising prices.
That programme was really boring.
He saw a woman lying on the floor.

-ing forms as nouns

-ing nouns are nearly always uncount nouns. They can be used:

  • as the subject of a verb:

Learning English is not easy.

  • as the object of a verb:

We enjoy learning English.

Common verbs followed by an -ing object are:

admit like hate start avoid
suggest enjoy dislike begin finish
  • as the object of a preposition :

Some people are not interested in learning English.

-ing form as a noun


-ing forms as adjectives

The -ing adjective can come:

  • in front of a noun:

I read an interesting article in the newspaper today.
We saw a really exciting match on Sunday.

Your new book sounds very interesting.
The children can be really annoying.

  • after a noun:

Who is that man standing over there?
The boy talking to Angela is her younger brother

  • especially after verbs of the senses like see, watch, hear, smell, etc.:

I heard someone playing the piano.
I can smell something burning.

The commonest -ing adjectives are:

-ing form as an adjective


Patterns with -ing forms

Because an -ing noun or adjective is formed from a verb, it can have any of the patterns which follow a verb. For example:

  • it can have an object:

I like playing tennis.
I saw a dog chasing a cat.

  • it can be followed by a clause:

I heard someone saying that he saw you.

-ing form as a noun or adjective 1


-ing form as a noun or adjective 2



Can you help me admin please !
He can't be having lunch .Is this sentence correct if not what is wrong here?

Thanks in advance.

Hello BillerrrThome,

The sentence is grammatically correct but I can't say whether it is used correctly without knowing the context. We would say 'He can't be having lunch' when we cannot believe that he is (in the middle of) eating lunch as we speak. For example, we might say this when the person should be doing something else and we are surprise that he has chosen to have lunch instead, or when something makes lunch very unlikely such as it being too early in the day.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there: I want to know whether the following sentence is correct: The simultaneous practice of two languages helps them to nurture their talents making them competent and confident personally.

My one more question is: what is/are the rules of using verb-ing (i.e. here 'making') in English?

Hello zahid51,

Yes, it is correct, but I'm afraid -ing forms are used in so many different ways I cannot explain them all. In this case, the clause beginning with 'making' is an adverbial participle clause. You can read more about them on the page I linked to as well as this BBC page. If you have a more specific question about them, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir
We lernt that the verb after (to) must be in base form, but in the following sentence, the verb after (to) is in -ing form:
"We look forward to meeting him tomorrow."

Could you help me sir!
Thank you in advance

Hello Yasser Azizi,

In the phrase 'look forward to', 'to' is a preposition, not part of an infinitive. Verbs after prepositions always go in the -ing form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs,

Thank you very much for your response to my yesterday's comment. I would like to ask you about noun modifiers. My question is about expressions such as "patent department", in which the noun is modifyiing another noun and I suppose the "s" indicating plural falls before the noun, is that correct? or should we write patents department?

Thank you

Hello again Sonial03,

If you're talking about multiple patents, then yes, the first noun can be made plural ('patents department'), though actually often it remains singular in English -- for example, even though there are many cars in one, we don't say 'cars park' in English, but rather 'car park'. Making the second noun plural ('car parks' or 'patent(s) departments') would of course mean you're referring to more than one place.

I've done a quick web search and have found examples of both 'patent department' (or 'patent office') and 'patents department'. As far as I can tell, they refer to the same kind of department, but please be aware that I'm not knowledgeable enough about this area to be able to say that for sure.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


I have two questions about the "-ing form" of the verb.

Which option do you consider more correct?

1) a rotary shaft about its first axis
2) a shaft rotating about its first axis.

The sentence means that the shaft rotates about its first axis.

And the other question is, which is the most correct expression?

1) driving means
2) drive means
To indicate a means for activating a mechanism

Thank you

Hello Sonial03,

Of the first two, 1 doesn't seem correct to me, since there is no verbal form in it. Perhaps 1 could work in a certain context, but I can't imagine one off the top of my head.

For the second two sentences, I'd really need to see the more complete context -- and perhaps know more about mechanical engineering -- to say for sure, but I suppose 1 as the -ing form makes a verb into a noun.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team