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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



Hello Sai_Krishna1011,

It's important to distinguish between form and function. The form of all of these words is the same, but the function in the sentence is different.

In traditional grammars a distinction is drawn between the present participle (which can function as a verb or as an adjective) and the gerund (which functions as a noun). However, in most modern grammars this distinction is not seen as particularly useful and the term 'ing form' is preferred to describe the form, with the function is described according to each example.


In your first example, I think it's better to see 'lying' as a verb, heading a participle phrase with an adjectival function in the sentence. You can see the sentence as being a reduced relative clause: '...a woman who was lying...'


In your second sentence, 'learning' functions as a noun and is the object of 'enjoy'.


In your third sentence, 'learning' functions as a noun, and is the object of the preposition 'in'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team,
I am trying to find the lessons about participles as nouns, adjectives, adverbs. Could you help me in finding that lesson?

Thank you

Hi team,
I am confused about one topic.
How can I be sure the using of "to" in any sentence?
I mean for example the verb
one of the patterns is
encourage somebody to do something the -to infinitive - must be in this pattern.
On the other hand, sometimes
-to infinitive- is used for expressing purpose.
And I always mixed that -to-is the part of the pattern of verb or using of expressing purpose.
Could you tell me how can't I mix both of them ? Could you tell me diffrences?

Hi Nuro,

The main way is to look at the words and try to work out (1) if it's part of a verb pattern (e.g. learn to swim, prefer to arrive early, want to go home), where the meaning comes from the combination of the two verbs together, or (2) it answers the question 'Why?' or 'For what purpose?' In that case, it's the infinitive of purpose. For example:

  • I went to the shop to buy bread. (Contains the answer to 'why did you go to the shop?')

You can find more explanation and examples on this page about 'to' infinitives. I hope it helps :)

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish team,
I would be greatful if you could help me!
In a book named Mygrammarlab, it is said that "-ing" form a verb can has its own object, so "Meeting new people" is right, but they say "The giving presents" is incorrect, according to them " The giving of presents" should be instead of it. I cannot understand that "Meeting new people" and "The giving presents" are almost the same thing but "The giving presents" is in correct..

Hi BobMux,

Yes, they look similar, but there is a structural difference. If you say (for example): 

  • Giving presents is a tradition.

'Giving' is the -ing form of a verb, with the direct object 'presents'. It functions as a noun: 'Giving presents' is the subject of the sentence. But, it also keeps some characteristics of a verb. For example, it has the direct object, 'presents' (a noun, however, cannot take a direct object, unless there is a preposition). It can also take an adverb (e.g. Giving presents generously is a tradition). So, 'Giving' is noun-like and verb-like at the same time.


If you say:

  • The giving of presents is a tradition.

'Giving' is more noun-like and less verb-like, compared to the previous example. It has an article, which only nouns (not verbs) can have. It's more likely to take an adjective than an adverb (e.g. The generous giving of presents is a tradition). And, a noun needs to have a preposition before an object. That's why 'of' is added.

It's complicated :) But I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

I would really like to thank you Jonathan!

Hello LearnEnglish Team,
I want to know the difference between these two sentences below,

1. They know exactly how
much to pay without a
word being spoken.

2. They know exactly how
much to pay without a
word is spoken.

Do they both have the same meaning ?

And are they both grammatically correct ?

Thank you very much,


Hello Parikenan,

The second sentence is not grammatical. 'Without' is a preposition and requires an object; 'is spoken' cannot be an object here, so the gerund 'being spoken' is required.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the explanation, Peter.

If I try to rewrite sentence no. 1 like this,

They know exactly how much to pay without a word spoken.

Is it still grammatically correct ?

And, do they both still have the same meaning ( without a word being spoken and without a word spoken ) ?

Thank you very much.