'-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

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-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:

amusing
boring
disappointing
interesting
surprising
tiring
worrying
exciting
frightening
shocking
terrifying
annoying
-ing form as an adjective

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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

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-ing form as a noun or adjective 2

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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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by BobMux on Fri, 29/01/2021 - 15:27

In reply to by Jonathan R

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I would really like to thank you Jonathan!

Submitted by Parikenan on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 02:08

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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, Parikenan.

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.

 

Peter

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.

Submitted by Parikenan on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 08:30

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I want to know the function of the word "using" in these three sentences below, 1. Language is the ability to communicate using words. 2. Those transactions must add up to a lot of money spent using credit cards. 3. People can shop now using gadgets like smartphones and tablet devices. Do they ( the word "using" in those three sentences above ) work as a participle ? If so, can I write a sentence with the same meaning for each of them above like this ? 1. Using words, people are able to communicate. 2. Using credit cards, people spent a lot of their money. 3. Using gadgets like smartphones and tablet devices, people can shop now. Could you please elaborate it for me ? Thank you very much.

Hello Parikenan,

Yes, using is a (present) participle in all of those examples.

Your rewritten sentences are all grammatically correct, though they do not mean exactly the same as the original sentences. For example, the first sentence tells us what language is; the rewritten version tells us what people (are able to) do.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You are right, Peter. Thank you very much for correcting my sentences. I wasn't rigorous enough when I tried to rewrite those sentences. It is clear now that "using" works as a (present) participle in all my example sentences. Thank you very much. Parikenan.

Submitted by Ykilic34 on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 22:56

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Hello LearnEnglish team Could you help me these sentences 1)He denied having stolen the money 2)He denied that he stole money 3)Do you mind my using your laptop to check my emails 4)Do you mind if I use your laptop to check my emails Are 1-2 and 3-4 same meaning or not I am confused about these gerunds Thank you

Hello Ykilic34,

First, a comment on sentence 1: I think you can say both deny doing and deny having done without any difference in meaning, but I think deny doing is much more common. After all, the use of deny (or denied) already establishes the fact that the action is in the past, so the perfect form is superfluous.

Sentence 2, as it stands, has a more general meaning. It tells us about the person's normal behaviour. If you put the definite article in, then it becomes specific:

He denied that he stole the money.

Now, the meaning is the same as the first sentence. Like the first sentence, you could use a perfect form (...had stolen...) without changing the meaning.

 

Sentences 3 and 4 differ only in style, with sentence 3 being much more formal.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shoaib50 on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 15:19

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Hi , Please check below statements: 1. He is studying for being a doctor. 2. He is studying to be a doctor. Which one is correct and why please ?
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Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 16:55

In reply to by Shoaib50

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Hello Shoaib50,

2 is correct -- it's an infinitive of purpose. We don't use 'for' + '-ing' forms to talk about the purpose of an action (in this case, 'is studying').

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 03:32

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I am struggling with the use of a modal verb "would" in these sentences below. It is said by people who are leaving in Britain, but unfortunately I can't contact the website to ask about the function of "would" that they use. This is the sentences, Delegating is one of the most important aspects of any manager’s job. Very simply, delegating is when a senior person gives a task or a part of a task to a junior person to do. So one would normally find that a manager would take responsibility for a large job which he or she would then break down into a number of smaller tasks, each of which would be given to a more junior person in the company to complete. That really is what we mean by delegating. Do they use "would" ( ....a manager would take responsibility...., ....which he or she would then break down into....., ......each of which would be given to a more junior person..... ) as a way to express an opinion in a polite way ?

Hello Parikenan,

I'm afraid we can't answer questions about texts from other websites, but at a glance, it looks to me as if they are using 'would' to speak about a hypothetical situation here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Kirk. Your answer (that it is about a hypothetical situation ) is more than enough to make my curiosity about the subject clear because it triggers me to read more about " hypothetical situation " and how to implement it. I was really looking forward to your answer about this, I wanted to know this very much after failing to get the answer from many other sources. I understand that you can't answer questions about texts from other websites, but I just don't know how to make my question work without writing all the details. I am very sorry for the way I wrote my question, and the next time I will try to create my own sentences whenever I am asking questions. Thank you very much, Kirk.

Submitted by Parikenan on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 21:17

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I am confused about the order of events that is used in this story related to the use of The Present Simple and The Past Simple. Amy Finds a New Job Amy works at a restaurant called “La Notte”. Amy likes working at the restaurant. She enjoys meeting new people and talking to the customers. The only problem is that the restaurant is open very late and Amy hates staying up late. She dislikes feeling tired in the morning. Amy really wanted to find a new job, but she was scared to try something completely different. She considered working in a clothing store, but she hates folding clothes. She tried to find a good job in the classified ads, but she wasn’t qualified enough for most of them. Finally she decided to work in a breakfast restaurant. Now she is able to do what she loves but without the late nights! When did Amy finally decide to work in a breakfast restaurant ? (After working at La Notte restaurant or before) If deciding to work in a breakfast restaurant happens after or while working at La Notte restaurant, why do they use "decided" ? Could you please explain this ?

Hello Parikenan,

The text appears to shift from present to past tense in a rather illogical manner and I would not say that it is a good model.

Generally, we avoid commenting on texts from other sources, or providing answers to tasks from other sites. It's not our role to assess them in this way, particularly as some of them may simply not be well written. If you have a question about a text like this from another site then I would suggest you ask that site and see what they have to say.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for this concise explanation, and I comprehend it. I completely understand why The LearnEnglish Team avoid commenting on the text. At least my curiosity related to the text has been answered.

Submitted by Emmanuel Canto… on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 21:30

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Hi I'm in a doubt due to the right usage of both these phrases below: "Do not allow him to work wearing sunglasses" "Do not allow him working wearing sunglasses" Which one of those is correct? Or both are incorrect? an' why? Thank you. Greetings.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 12/12/2020 - 02:40

In reply to by Emmanuel Canto…

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Hi Emmanuel,

The first one is correct! After allow with an object (e.g. him), it needs to + infinitive verb (e.g. to work).

You can use the -ing form after allow, but without an object. For example:

  • We don't allow smoking anywhere in the building.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Emmanuel Canto… on Sat, 12/12/2020 - 03:57

In reply to by Jonathan R

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

Submitted by Parikenan on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 09:38

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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,

Kirk

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. happy. 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,

Kirk

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.

Submitted by Parikenan on Sat, 05/12/2020 - 11:10

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I am struggling with two sentences below. Which one is grammatically correct ? ‘What would happen if you call your teachers “mom” ?’ or ‘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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 12:04

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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.

Hello Parikenan,

Your sentence is not quite right. The phrase is 'understand something to mean' (without 'that'). The phrase is just another way to say 'means'. For example:

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand him to mean “You must stop!”

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop' to mean “You must stop!”

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You are right, Peter. I had added the word "that", because of my ignorance, that makes the sentence wrong. Thank you very much for the correction and the explanation. If I am not mistaken with your explanation, I assumed your answer works like this below, The first sentence : ...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand him, who said 'Stop' (that means "you must stop!”). Or in my short sentence, ...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand him. The second sentence : ...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop', which was said by the policeman (that means “You must stop!”). Or in my short sentence, ...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop'. How about my opinion, Peter?

Hello again Parikenan,

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand him, who said 'Stop' (that means "you must stop!”).

This sentence is not correct. It's not clear who the relative pronoun refers to and the structure is not clear and is not natural English. 

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand him.

This sentence is correct grammatically, but it no longer includes any reference to the particular sentence the policeman is saying, so it's more general now.

 

The second sentence :

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop', which was said by the policeman (that means “You must stop!”).

Here, you need to change the sentence as follows:

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop', which was said by the policeman to mean “You must stop!”.

Or in my short sentence,

...the person the policeman is talking to will probably understand 'Stop'.

This is grammatical, but it is more general as it does not tell us how the person understands this, only that they do understand it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

OK, Peter. It is clear now. I completely understand what you mean. Thank you very much for you explanation.

Submitted by Parikenan on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 14:43

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Hi LearnEnglish Team, Could you help me with this sentence, please ? 1. Write all the sentences below with adverbs of frequency, telling how often each person works. 2. Write all the sentences below with adverbs of frequency, which is telling how often each person works. Do they both sentences have the same meaning ? If they don't have the same meaning, how can the phrase "telling how often each person works." after the comma as in the sentence number 1 be created ?

Hello Parikenan,

Sentence 1 is correct and 2 is not. In 1, 'telling how ...' is a participle phrase acting as a reduced relative clause -- it means the same as 'which tell how often ...'. Although our participle clauses page doesn't discuss reduced relative clauses much, it's a similar idea that I think you might find useful.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 13:06

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, Could you please help me with my two sentences below, 1. "To write a report of something that happened in the past, you need to add a subject to every clause and use past tense verbs." 2. "To write a report of something happening in the past, you need to add a subject to every clause and use past tense verbs." Do they both sentences have the same meaning?

Hello Parikenan,

They do have the same meaning, but I'd recommend you use the first one because it sounds more natural. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Kirk, what if I omit the word "that" from the sentence to reduce or to make the sentence sorter ? "To write a report of something that happened in the past, you need to add a subject to every clause and use past tense verbs." so that the sentence becomes like this, "To write a report of something happened in the past, you need to add a subject to every clause and use past tense verbs." Does it work, Kirk ?

Hello Parikenan,

I'm afraid you can't omit 'that' in this case. This is because the antecedent of 'that' is the subject of the verb 'happened' in the relative clause. In a case like this, the relative pronoun cannot be omitted.

When 'that' is the object of the verb (rather than the subject), then it can usually be omitted. For example: 'Laura likes the book that I got for her' can also be said or written as 'Laura likes the book I got for her' because 'that' is the object of the verb phrase 'I got'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Parikenan on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 04:35

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I am copying Sakura30's question. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Gibson: You didn’t happen to find anything in this brush, did you? Bob: Nothing much. Gibson: Yeah but enough to justify somebody kidnapping your child to keep your mouth shut. Can I replace "somebody kidnapping your child ...." in the narration above with "somebody's kidnapping your child ...." ?

Hello Parikenan,

It is certainly grammatically possible to use the possessive here, but it is a form which is slowly disappearing from modern English and I think in this context it is quite unlikely to be used.

I don't have any frequency analyis to support this, but my sense is that the possessive form in such constructions is very rare with indefinite pronouns (somebody, anybody etc).

 

I noted that you reposted your question. Please post questions once only. It may take us a few days to answer as we are a small team here but please be patient. Posting the same question more than once only delays the process as we have to check and delete the repeat post.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for this very clear explanation, Peter. And I am very sorry for my not being patient. I have reposted my question because I thought my first question was lost in the wrong place, so The LearnEnglish Team can't see my question. I, on the other hand, really wait for the answer. So Thank you very much again, Peter.

Submitted by Alexandre Duma… on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 20:41

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Hi LearnEnglish team, I'm having trouble understanding the difference between Begin to do and Begin doing. They begin talking to each other They begin to talk to each other Is there any difference? Thank you so much

Hi Alexandre,

Traditionally, begin to do is used when describing a particular action:

I jumped over the side of the boat and began to swim to shore.

 

Begin doing is tradionally used with a more general meaning:

I began swimming when I was five years old.

 

However, this distinction is disappearing in modern English. I think most people today use the two forms interchangeably. In your example I don't think there is any difference between them.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sakura30 on Mon, 03/08/2020 - 04:59

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Hello, I’m having trouble figuring out who was justified of what in the following sentence. This is a scene from the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Gibson: You didn’t happen to find anything in this brush, did you? Bob: Nothing much. Gibson: Yeah but enough to justify somebody kidnapping your child to keep your mouth shut. Thank you so much in advance for your kind support!
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 03/08/2020 - 13:15

In reply to by Sakura30

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Hello Sakura30,

Here the idea is that since Bob's child has been kidnapped, he must have found something significant in the brush. In other words, the kidnapping doesn't make sense if Bob really found nothing in the brush.

So here 'justify somebody kidnapping your child' means something like 'explain why somebody would kidnap your child'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk Thank you so much for your reply. Please excuse me to ask a little further. If I were to rewrite the above sentence, which would it be? ”Yeah, (it must have been nothing much,) but (something which is) enough to justify somebody kidnapping your child to keep your mouth shut) ” meaning that it was a good reason for somebody to kidnap the child. Or “Yeah, but (there was) enough (of something inside for you) to justify somebody kidnapping your child” meaning that Bob knows why his child was kidnapped. What I’m confused here is, who was Justified? Is it Bob or the Somebody(kidnapper)? Thank you again, for your kind attention Sakura30