We can use the -ing form of the verb:

• as a noun:

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

-ing nouns are nearly always uncount nouns

  • as an adjective:

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

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

  • ... an object:

I like playing tennis.
Can you imagine living on the moon?

  • ... or an adverbial:

You can earn a lot of money by working hard.
There were several people waiting for the bus.

  • ... or a clause:

I heard someone saying that.

The -ing noun 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.

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.

 The commonest –ing adjectives used in front of the noun are


amusing interesting worrying shocking disappointing
boring surprising  exciting terrifying frightening
tiring annoying      


  • after a noun:

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

  • and especially after verbs like see, watch, hear, smell etc.

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





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 Kirk:

How do I know when 'to' is used as an infinitive and as preposition? Could you please clarify by giving examples? Thanks -

Hello zahid51,

I'm afraid the only way to know this is to look at the sentence in which it is used. If 'to' is part of an infinitive then it is followed by a verb (base form). If it is used as a preposition then it is followed by an object (typically a noun or gerund).

I provided some links to helpful pages in my earlier answer, which you can see on this page just below this answer.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Krik,

Have a great day!
Thanks for your explanation. Can I ask how should we judge 'to' is a preposition? Becasue 'forward' is adv.?

Kind regards!

Hello John,

The preposition is not related to the fact that there is an adverb. I'm afraid there are only really two ways to know when to is a preposition. The first is to memorise which prepositions follow certain words. We have some pages on these topics:

verbs & prepositions

adjectives & prepositions


The other way to identify when to is a preposition is to use the structure of the sentence to help you. Prepositions require objects so they are followed by a form which can act as an object - typically a noun or noun phrase, an -ing form or a clause - rather than a base verb as in the to-infinitive.


Best wishes,


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