'-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


Average: 3.4 (8 votes)
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Submitted by AboodKh9 on Mon, 04/09/2023 - 19:18


Hello instructors!
I have a question about affixes or derivation (suffix and prefix): How do I know the right affix to add to a word. For example: I want to transform these words “ direct, enjoy, decide” If I don’t know the noun of these words, how can I choose the right suffix? There is a rule? Or I have to consult a dictionary? I know that there are rules for spelling, but here I want to know if there are rules to know the right affix to add to any new word I come across?

I will be thankful for you if you help me know about this topic.

Hi AboodKh9,

You need to check a dictionary. To form a noun (for example), there are many possible suffixes. You can refer to this Cambridge Dictionary page (linked) for a full list.

The reason for choosing some suffixes is related to the meaning of the word. For example, adding -ism to a word (e.g. capitalism) makes the noun for a way of thinking or philosophy, and adding -er/-or makes the noun for a person (e.g. painter/actor). However, this does not mean that those suffixes can be added to any word (e.g. a person who makes art is an artist, not arter), so although knowing these meaning patterns can help you to remember the nouns, it is not a predictable system and it's best to refer to a dictionary.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Hosseinpour on Sat, 26/08/2023 - 14:17


Dear team,
All that is required is a computer with internet access, making expanding one's social circle uncomplicated and efficient.
Please tell me how the "making" has become shorter, I mean, what has been deleted.
Thank you
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

You could rephrase the sentence as follows:

All that is required is a computer with internet access, which makes expanding one's social circle uncomplicated and efficient.

Note that the comma is important here as it is a non-defining relative clause.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fenris on Thu, 29/06/2023 - 12:01


Hey, I've been wondering what grammar there is behind this dialogue: "
– I make mestakes all the time.
– That spelling BEING one such instance". Namely, why is the verb "to be" used like that? What grammar rule does it follow?

Hello Fenris,

I guess the dialogue is humorous as 'mestakes' is a (presumably deliberate) spelling error.

'Being' here is a participle, which is a non-finite verb form (see here for information on non-finite verbs). Generally, a sentence requires a finite verb rather than a non-finite verb, and so this sentence should really be part of the previous sentence, as follows:

I make mestakes all the time, that spelling being one such instance.

Now the sentence is harmonious grammatically: the non-finite verb is not part of an independent clause and takes its time reference from the finite verb in the earlier clause. In your example, the second line is best understood as the second speaker finishing the first speaker's sentence for him/her as an ironic comment.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Araliya on Sat, 17/06/2023 - 11:35


0I. have already started following a course.

There are two verbs in thise sentence.what are the grammar rules for thise?

Hello Araliya,

There are a number of verbs (like 'start') that can be followed by a verb in the '-ing' form. Actually, there are a small number of verbs, like 'start', that can also be followed by an infinitive form (for example, 'it started to rain'). But most verbs are not so flexible.

There are several pages here on LearnEnglish that you can read to learn more about this:

The sections on 'go' and 'do' on our Delexical verbs page might also be useful.

Hope this helps you. Please let us know if you have other questions.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khoshal on Mon, 12/06/2023 - 14:11


Hello teacher,
I have seen the following sentence somewhere online, but I'm not clear about it. Could you explain it what kind of pattern they have used it?
Example: I’m going to go see a movie tonight.
go see = What kind of pattern it is?

Hello Khoshal,

This is a very informal form used in spoken English, and it is a reduction of another informal form. Let me explain the second informal form first.

1. In informal speaking, people often use 'and' like after the verbs 'go' and 'come'. For example, sentences like the following are very common:

I need to go and get some milk.
Can you come and help me with my homework?
You should go and ask her!

Note that this can be used with any tense (not just 'be going to' + verb), but only with the verbs 'go' and 'come'.

2. In very informal speaking, people sometimes omit the word 'and' (after 'go' or 'come'):

I'm going to go see a movie tonight.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by BellaDunst on Tue, 30/05/2023 - 06:45


Hello there,
I go swimming everyday.
Is swimming here is a gerund or a participle?
Thanks in advance for your explanation.

Hello BellaDunst,

This is a more complicated question than you might think, and you could argue either way. You can read such a discussion here:



In modern English grammar we generally don't distinguish between gerunds and infinitives and see them as terms not really appropriate to English. Instead, we use a term like -ing form which covers all uses (this is referred to in the discussion I linked to). So my answer is that this is the -ing form :)



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mikrobik on Mon, 27/03/2023 - 12:42


I would very appreciate if you explain the next sentence:
I do the cooking.
As I know, the verb cooking in this sentence as a noun. In some cases it is possible. Could you , please provide more explanation in what situations the verb will become a noun and , particularly with DO?
Thank you.

Submitted by Shirley Wang2008 on Thu, 16/03/2023 - 06:42


Hi teachers,
I recently met a sentence ,it says like this:
It shows the complete process of the leading actors finding out possible criminals.
I can't understand the phrase after "of" , is that sentence correct?
can we use structure : prepositions+nouns+verb ing ?
In the sentence above ,it seems "the leading actors" is not an object of the
preposition 'of"
Could you please give me a reply ?

Hi Shirley,

I'm not sure where this is from, but this sentence sounds a bit unnatural to me, so I'm not sure I'd look to it as a model. Having said that, the structure you ask about is correct and it is correctly used in this case.

'of' is the head of a prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase could be short (e.g. 'the complete process of cellular development') or, as in this case, more complex. The complex phrase here is subject noun phrase + verb-'ing' + object noun phrase ('the leading actors finding possible criminals'). Another example of a similarly structured phrase is 'of how the protagonist successfully navigates a complex and difficult situation'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by khomychvitaliia on Sun, 19/02/2023 - 17:07


Hey there!

I read here such an example 'I love watching my son play football'.
Could you explain me, please, why don't we use in this sentence 'plays' instead of 'play'?

Thanks in advance.

Hello khomychvitaliia,

The pattern here is watch (see, hear, observe etc) someone do something, where 'do' is not a present simple form but is rather the base form (infinitive without 'to'). You can see this is you use the verb 'be':

I love seeing him be so happy.

You can read more about various verb patterns here:




The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sajatadib on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 14:02


Hello Sir.Relating to the same issue ,I saw in adverts: If you are looking for a free course all you need to do is sign up in our website and enroll for the course.
Shouldn't it be like: all you need to do is signing up in our website ...
Thank you already.

Hello Sajatadib,

What you suggest makes sense, but I'm afraid what people actually say is what the adverts say. In other words, when a verb comes after 'All you need to do is', it goes in the base form.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sajatadib on Mon, 07/11/2022 - 16:02


Hello sir, in the news I heard : My priority is making sure we deliver the economic stability that our country needs.
Could you please help me understand the difference between the following?
My priority is to make sure ...
My priority is make sure ...
My priority is making sure ...

Hi Sajatadib,

Good question. Here are some comments:

  • "To + verb" is often used to show the purpose of something (i.e., something that the speaker intends to do). This fits the meaning of this sentence well because this speaker is explaining his/her purpose (i.e., delivering economic stability).
  • "make sure" - this would probably be considered a grammatical mistake.
  • The -ing form of the verb ("making sure") makes the verb function like a noun. Unlike the "to + verb" structure, it does not by itself show a purpose. It just shows an action. However, in the context of this sentence, the action is clearly the speaker's purpose.

I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Sun, 23/10/2022 - 18:44


Hello sir ,
I have a question and i’m sorry it’s out of this topic it’s about grammar itself .

My question is do i need really learning English grammar so deeply like where is the place of object and clause in sentence to speak and read English fluently please answer my question .

Hi g-ssan,

Understanding this aspect of grammar will help you to understand the meaning of what you read better. It will also help you to speak in grammatically standard ways and communicate more clearly. Also, some books, websites and other learning materials will use these ideas when they explain grammar structures. So, if you want to extend your learning, I would definitely recommend trying to learn at least some basic ideas.

However, it's hard for me to answer this question without knowing why you are learning English. If you are learning because you want to pass a difficult exam, for example, then it's probably useful to learn, because accurate understanding/speaking is important in exams. But if you do not have any particular target, or if you feel you already communicate and understand well enough, then it might not be necessary - or at least, it may not be a high priority.

So I guess an important question is: how important is grammatical accuracy for you, in the situations where you use (or want to use) English?


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Hassan on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 16:46


Hello Teachers
my teacher wrote this sentence "I can't afford buying this car ".
is it correct to use a gerund after the verb afford?

Hi Ahmed Hassan,

I'm sorry to disagree with your teacher but I would use "to" + infinitive after "afford" (e.g. I can't afford to buy this car).


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HieuNT on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 23:06


Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

We're all taught that the "-ing" form of a verb can function as a noun (in this case, it is a gerund).

But sometimes, I don't know whether I should choose a gerund or a noun. For example, in this question:

> "Sign language is a visual means of ____ using gestures, facial expression and body language. (communicate)"

My teacher told me that the blank should be "communication", but when I goolged the whole sentence, I saw the word "communicating" was used.

Grammatically speaking, I think both "communication" and "communicating" can be used here. But are there any nuances between "communicating" and "communication"?

And so, when it comes down to choosing between a noun and a gerund, is there a good rule of thumb to tell us which one we should pick?

Thank you,
Hieu Nguyen.

Hello HieuNT,

In general, the -ing form (gerund) tends to refer to the activity (speaking, communicating) while the noun refers to the subject or concept (speech, communication). Often both forms are possible, as in your example, and sometimes only one form exists (writing, reading etc).



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr. Peter M.,

Thank you for your answer. So, I understand that the choice of words (a gerund or a noun) will depend on what writers want to emphasise (the action or the subject), right?

In my example, the meaning of the sentence is literally the same for a non-native speaker like me, regardless of whether "communicating" or "communication" is used. Does it sounds the same for you as a native speaker?

Hieu Nguyen

Hi again Hieu,


Yes, in the context you provided there is no difference. If you were talking about a subject of study, however, you would need to use the noun ('communication').



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Wrakshamara on Sat, 26/02/2022 - 12:35


''Fearful of how the security forces might react, the local police balked at registering an FIR.''

Has 'being' been omitted before the 'Fearful' in the above sentence? Or this doesn't require 'being'. What grammar rule does the first clause (Fearful of how the security...) follow, incase 'being' is not omitted? Please explain. Thanks and regards.

PS: I really appreciate the tremendous job you all do on this forum, replying and resolving almost every query by providing satisfactory answer.

Hello Wrakshamara,

'Fearful' is an adjective so I think there are two ways to see a construction like this.

1. The sentence is an example of adjective fronting similar to this: 'Golden and bright, the sun rose over the horizon.'

2. There is a participle clause headed by an adjective ('fearful') with the participle 'being' omitted, as you suggest.

To choose which of these is correct I think we need to look at how the phrase (clause) functions in the sentence. If it is simply descriptive then (1) is the correct explanation. If, on the other hand, it is explaining the cause of the main clause's action then (2) is correct. In my view the latter explanation is the right one: 'Fearful of...' explains why the police baulk and (2) is the explanation.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Wrakshamara on Wed, 23/02/2022 - 10:20


''The house of cards is unraveling, faster than the time it took to put it all together.''

What grammar rule does the latter clause follow? What do we call it? Is it fine to use it in formal writing? Can that be put otherwise?

Hello Wrakshamara,

In your sentence 'faster than the time it took to put it all together' functions as an adverbial.

In terms of sentence structure, 'faster' is an adverb. It describes the verb phrase 'is unraveling'. It is followed by 'than' which in this example is a conjunction introducing the second item of the comparison.

The sentence is grammatically and stylistically fine in both formal and non-formal speech and writing, though I don't think the comma is required.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Wrakshamara on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 13:43


1.Simply put, John does not want Harris transferred.

2. Simply put, John does not want Harris to be transferred.

Which sentence is grammatically correct and why?

Hello Wrakshamara,

Both of these are correct. 2 is the full form and in 1 'to be' has been left but is understood.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Wrakshamara,

There probably are a few other verbs that can be used in the same way, but I'm afraid I can't think of any off the top of my head.

A similar and very useful construction is 'have (or 'get') something done', which we use to speak about actions that we arrange for other people to do. For example, I can say 'I'm going to have my hair cut' or 'She's having her house painted' or 'We're getting our bicycles repaired'. In all of these cases, the subject is not the person cutting, painting or repairing, but they have arranged for other people to do these activities.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Hassan on Wed, 06/10/2021 - 21:44


Hello teachers
can we use the noun "growth" instead of "growing up" in this sentence "This book is about growing up in a village" and the gerund "selling" instead of "sale" in this sentence "This book is for sale"? Thanks in advance.

Hello Ahmad Hassan,

No, I'm afraid neither of those alternative words is correct. I'd suggest looking up all of these words in the dictionary to see how they have different uses and connotations, but in general 'growing up' refers more to the development of a person from a psychological perspective than does 'growth', which tends to focus more on the biological organism.

In general, 'for sale' means it is available to buy; 'for selling' describes the purpose of the book.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Mr.Kirk
What about the infinitives that have the same form as nouns, such as sleep, design ... etc
may I know what I can fill the blanks with?
1-" --------is good for your health." (sleep or sleeping)
2-" ------- well is good for health." (sleep or sleeping)
3-" He woke up after 3 hours of ------- ." (sleep or sleeping)
4-" He woke up after 3 hours of ------- in his bed. " (sleep or sleeping)
5-" She is good at ------- ." (design or designing)
6-" She is good at ------- dresses. " (design or designing)
thanks in advance

Hello Ahmed Hassan,

In these sentences, 'sleep' and 'design' are not infinitives -- they are nouns. Most bare infinitive forms are not also noun forms, but these two are an exception to that general rule.

You could use these noun forms correctly in sentences 1, 3, and 5. The '-ing' forms work best in the other three sentences.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 20/09/2021 - 05:50

Thank you for giving the answer about the difference between to infinitive and gerund. I am sorry for writing it twice.

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 20/09/2021 - 05:37

Hello teachers... Can I use to infinitive instead of -ing form in this sentence "To learn English is not easy" Is there any difference between "Learning English is not easy" and "To learn English is not easy"? Thank you, sir

Hello Risa warysha,

I know you already saw Peter's answer to this question on another page, but I'm adding a link to his response here in case another user has the same question.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sat, 18/09/2021 - 11:48

Hi there brilliant team! I am writing to find out more about 'to+infinitive' and '-ing' clauses For example when I say Mine hobby is swimming, playing basketball, dancing etc. Mine hobby is to swim,to play basketball, to dance etc. Are their meaning the same in this context ? 'to swim'= 'swimming.' to play basketball'='playing basketball' 'to dance'= 'dancing' ? You'd be really helping me out. Fingers crossed!