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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



Thanks a lot for your answer. It is more clear to me now!


Hello LearnEnglish Team,

Could you please tell me when exactly is the right time to use GERUNDS ?

Is it true that GERUNDS are used when we want to talk about an action in an abstract way?

If so, could you please tell me what they mean by "an abstract way" and give me some sentences as examples ?

Thank you.

Hello Parikenan,

There are many situations in which we use gerunds, but essentially they are nominalised verbs -- in other words, they are formed from a verb, but act as a noun in a sentence.

I'm afraid what exactly 'talking about an action in an abstract way' means. If you have any more details about that, or an example, we can try to help you more.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team


Hello again Kirk,

You are right, Kirk. "There are many situations in which we use gerunds, but essentially they are nominalised verbs -- in other words, they are formed from a verb, but act as a noun in a sentence."

But before I got the answer from you about GERUNDS, I had been struggling with my own assumptions about the gerunds.

I found "talking about an action in an abstract way" when I was reading an article about gerunds on the internet. Unfortunately there were no details explanation about it, but I got some examples related to it.

1. Gordon loves dancing.
2. Dancing makes Gordon.
3. Gordon's main interest in
life is dancing.

And I have another example from the other source,

Someone said, "I enjoy doing A Level."
( She said that while talking with someone else on the telephone from her home, She was not at her school doing the A Level at that moment ).

So, from those examples above, I assumed that using gerunds is just like "giving comments" ( I assumed it from the verb that are followed by the gerunds, such as ENJOY, LOVE, IMAGINE, SUGGEST, etc. That are different from the verbs like NEED, WANT, AGREE, DECIDE, etc, which are usually followed by the infinitive ).

But then I am confused with this sentence,

Let's go shopping.
(I assumed, it is not just a comment, but it is almost ready to do the action 'to go' at least with gestures )

Why don't we just say,

Let's go to some shops ?

That was my wrong assumption about gerunds before I finally got the answer from you, Kirk.

I understand that we can use GERUNDS in many situations.

Thank you very much, Kirk.

Hi Parikenan,

I'm glad that you feel my comment helped you, though really I don't think I can take any credit!

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

That is right. Before I got the answer about gerunds from you, I was confused about this sentence,

Let's go shopping.

Can "Let's" be followed by the gerund "shopping" ?

But, after reading your answer, where you mentioned that "There are many situations in which we use gerunds, but essentially GERUNDS ARE NOMINALISED VERBS", then I realized that we use the gerund "shopping" because of the verb "go", it has nothing to do with "Let's" that comes first before "go" in this sentence.

Thank you very much.

Hello LearnEnglish Team,

I am struggling with two sentences below.
Which one is grammatically correct ?

‘What would happen if you call your teachers “mom” ?’


‘What would happen if you called your teachers “mom” ?’

Thank you very much.

Hello Parikenan,

Even though what most English textbooks teach is the second one, which is often called a second conditional form, both of them are correct.

The difference is that in the first sentence, the speaker considers the action of calling the teacher 'mom' more realistic in some way. Perhaps the people he or she is speaking with have already said they plan to call their teachers 'mom' and he or she is asking what they think would happen if they really did this.

In the second one, this same action is much more hypothetical. Perhaps it's the first time they've even considered this idea. This is the meaning that the past subjunctive form lends in this and many other situations.

Does that make sense?

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Kirk. It is very clear now.

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

I am having struggle with the phrase "to mean" in the sentence below,

If a policeman says to someone, “Stop!” the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand that the policeman to mean “You stop!”

Is "to mean" in the sentence above the same as "means" ? If so, can we replace "to mean" with "means" ?

And can we use the form to create sentences like,

Mr. John to need my help.
Bill to go swimming.
My teacher to tell me to do my homework.