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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



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

Hi peter
Thanks for your answer to my previous question,although I did not understand your answer to my first example.
To clear it,I have another question.I know the difference between adjectives ending in ed and question is:
Where do we use pure noun before a noun and where do we use gerund or adjective ending in ing before a noun?and what is the difference in meaning(or means(I do not know which one is correct?))
Let me give u an example:
I don't know the differences between these :
A:water flooding and water flood(if it is correct)
B:the learn English team(in your page)
(Why not>the learning English team or the English learning or English learn team)
Please specify the structure of these phrases.
Kind regards.

Hi mehransam05,

Your question really is about the use of present and past participles as adjectives, whether by themselves or as part of larger phrases or clauses. We actually have a page on this with a lot of examples - you can find it here.

The phrase 'water flooding' is likely to mean 'water which is flooding' - in other words, it describes water which is in the process of flooding. The phrase 'water flood' is not one we use. You could say 'water flooded' in certain contexts with a meaning of 'water which has flooded', however. The context is important here.

'LearnEnglish' is a name and not a normal grammatical construction - the fact it is written as one word shows this. We would not use in a sentence other than as a name, and we would not use 'learning' as an adjective before 'English' in any case as English can be learned but cannot learn anything itself!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have a big problem with words ending in ing.
For example: what is the difference between link and linking in these two phrases:
A:linking words
B:link words
Why do not we use link instead of linking in two sentences above.
Or for example "infected areas" and "infecting areas" or "infectious areas"?please help me.I am very confused.
Thanks in advance.

Hello mehransam05,

English often uses different forms for the same purpose. Both 'link verbs' and 'linking verbs' are names for the same thing.

There is a difference between adjectives ending in -ed and -ing and we have a page devoted to this which you can find here. In general, we use -ing to describe something which causes an effect and -ed to describe something which the effect happens to. For example:

The man is boring! [other people are not interested in him]

The man is bored! [he is not having fun]


In your examples 'an infected area' is one where the infection has taken hold. The area has been affected by the infection - it is, if you like, a victim. By contrast, 'infecting areas' are areas which can make other places (or people etc) catch the disease.

'Infectious' has a similar meaning to 'infecting' but it refers to the characteristic rather than the action. In other words, an infectious area is one which can infect but may at the moment be safe (because of quarantine, for example). An infecting area is one which is actively infecting others.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team