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



Please confirm

1. In sentence "what is the meaning", is meaning a Verbal noun, It doesn't seem a gerund or Is meaning a base word (noun) not derived from verb mean?

2. Are there any ing words which are noun in their base form.

Hello John Mccan

That is a question that a historical linguist or lexicographer might be able to help you with, but I'm afraid I'm not completely sure. My sense is that the noun 'meaning' is not a gerund because its meaning is far from a verbal noun.

There are many similar words or words that end in 'ing' which do not seem to be derived from verbs -- a few examples are 'acting', 'advertising', 'fundraising', 'evening', 'timing', 'gaming', 'handwriting', and many more.

That's not a very precise explanation, but I hope it helps you.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, thankyou for replying. It is helpful.

Please correct if I'm wrong

The difference between gerund and verbal noun is that we can use determiner or adjective with verbal noun but not with Gerund right?

So accordingly in above sentence meaning is either a verbal noun or a noun itself but not gerund?

Eg swimming is tough (gerund)

He managed to make a good living(verbal noun)

I have read it.

So similarly
What is the meaning (should be a verbal noun)

Now my concern is how to know if words like living, meaning are working as verbal noun or are these nouns itself in base form? Also Gerunds vs ing nouns(base word) as you have also mentioned above, how to spot difference?


Hello again John Mccan

Yes, a verbal noun can be modified with a determiner or adjective and gerunds can have a direct object and/or be modified by an adverbial. With this in mind, I'd say that 'meaning' in 'What is the meaning?' is a verbal noun because if we do a little variation on it -- for example, we could say 'What is the deeper meaning of this?' -- we can see that it is grammatical to use an adjective ('deeper') with 'meaning'. This is a good sign that it is a verbal noun.

Doing a little test on words by varying the sentence a little, like the one I've just done with 'meaning', is the best way I know of to figure out whether they are gerunds or verbal nouns.

I'm sorry I didn't understand your question the first time.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, could you help me...

In this sentence,
She told me that you sent her an email telling her that you would like to have more pen pals from the US.
what is the function of the -ing form of the word telling? I am confused...

Hello cindymaria

That is an '-ing' form used to create a reduced relative clause. It could also be written 'an email that told her that ...' -- 'telling' replaces 'that told'. This is an advanced use that is not explained on this page, but I'm sure you can find more information about it if you do an internet search.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! Can the sentence "She enjoys cooking." be transformed in the passive voice "Cooking is enjoyed by her."

Hello Micicia,

Grammatically, yes. However, it seems a very odd sentence and I cannot think of a context in which you would want or need to say this.



The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help me with my question? I would like to know if the following sentences are correct:
He analyzed it interesting. (to mean he analyzed something in an interesting way.)
He did/expressed/used it interesting. (to mean he did/expressed/used it in an interesting way.)
I know that I can use "interesting" after link verbs and also sentences like "I found it interesting" are correct. But do my examples make sense? And if they are wrong please tell me how I can express the same meaning correctly.
Thank you in advance.

Hello Sep80

Those sentences are not correct in standard British English. Some people might understand your meaning, but I think many might not. I think the simplest way to express your ideas is in the way you have explained them already: 'He analysed it in an interest way', or for the second one you could also say 'He did/said something interesting'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team