'-ing' forms

Learn about the -ing form of a verb and do the exercises to practise using it.

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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Submitted by Sai_Krishna1011 on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 17:06

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I enjoy getting dressed as a barbie doll. Here "getting" is the object of the verb, enjoy and "dressed as a barbie doll" is the clause following the object. Is that correct?

Hello Sai_Krishna1011,

I'd call 'getting dressed as a barbie doll' the noun phrase that is the object of the verb. You could further break down this noun phrase, of course.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Aysn,

1. As far as I know, yes, you can making a gerund from any verb. 'Promising' can be used as a gerund, e.g. 'Promising you everything will be fine is not something I can honestly do'.

2. As far as I know, this is a matter of usage. In other words, it's just the way people have come to use these words over time.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sai_Krishna1011 on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 13:00

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He saw a woman lying on the floor. Here " lying" is adjective or verb?. We enjoy learning English. Here "learning" is noun or verb?. Some people are not interested in learning English. Here "learning" is noun or verb?.

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'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sai_Krishna1011 on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 17:21

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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 sai

Submitted by Nuro on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 09:46

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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 -encourage- 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?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 03/02/2021 - 15:35

In reply to by Nuro

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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,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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 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 ?
Profile picture for user Kirk

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

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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