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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



Could you please explain how can we use "meant to or meant to be " ? i am perplexed .

Hello sejal thakur

This means 'to be intended to'. If you look at the third entry (INTEND) for 'mean' in the Cambridge Dictionary (follow the link), you'll see a light blue box with this definition and some example sentences. There's also another explanation on this grammar page.

Best wishes


The LearnEnglish Team

When do we use "of"? what is the rule of using "of" with "-ing" words?
For example: "visiting of parents is allowed in the afternoon"
"visiting parents is allowed in the afternoon".
Thank you.

Hello ryuo,

In your examples, there is a big difference in meaning:

visiting parents means people are coming in order to visit their parents. You might say this if the parents are in hospital, for example.

visiting of parents suggests that it is the parents who are doing the visiting. You might say this if the parents have a child in hospital, for example.


More generally, the phrase with of shows a possessive relationship, while in the phrase without of we have a direct object. Which is the better option really depends upon the particular example, the context and the speaker's intention.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, please help me. I don't understand why in the next sentence "I love watching my son play football" the verb play is without s.

Hello Tossa,

The verb watch is an example of a verb of perception. These verbs describe something we see, hear, feel etc. They have three common constructions:


verb of perception + object + bare infinitive

I heard her sing a song.

This means that the speaker heard the whole song from start to finish.


verb of perception + object + -ing form

I heard her singing a song.

This means that the speaker heard part of the song; she was in the middle of singing it.



verb of perception + object + past participle

I saw her arrested by the police.

This has a passive meaning: she was arrested by the police.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, it is helpful to me.

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

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