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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 tell me the difference between these two sentences
1. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo.
2. Amelia Eahart became the first woman flying solo.

From the sentence, which one is the more appropriate, using to fly or flying?

Thank you.

Hi Risa warysha,

The correct form here is 'to fly'.

We can use verb-ing in this kind of sentence to explain how a person achieved something. For example:

John earned a lot of money acting in science-fiction films.

Here, 'acting in science fiction films' explains how John earned a lot of money.


Your second sentence would mean that flying solo was how Amelia Earhart became the first woman, which obviously does not make sense. There were a lof women before Amelia Earhart!


You can read more about this structure on this page:

Participle clauses



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much,sir

In the sentence "he started practising ahimsa" .Here we know that ahimsa is a noun.Please clarify whether practising is noun or adjective?

Hello Surigi Jhansee
In this case, 'practising' is a gerund, i.e. the noun form of the verb 'practise'. Since the gerund is a kind of verb form, it can have an object (here, it is 'ahimsa').
It might be useful to point out that in British English, 'practise' is a verb and 'practice' is a noun. In American English, both forms are spelled with a 'c', i.e. 'practice' is the spelling for both verbs and nouns.
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

I Learnt That Verbal Adjectives Make Use Of The Past Participle Or Present Participle Of A Verb, In Sentences. When Should Know When To Use The Present Or Past Participle In Sentences. For Example:
(1) Her Crying Attitude Appauls Me.
Why Not The Past Participle "Cried".

(2) To Live In The Days Of Fallen Heroes Are Unbearable.
Why Not The Present Participle "Falling".

(Though Out Of Context, Am I Supposed To Put A Period After A Quotation Mark?)

Hello CIJO,

You can find a general explanation of this on our Adjectives with -ing and -ed page, though it also depends on the specific adjective you are using.

Please note that not all present participles and past participles are used as adjectives, and sometimes they have a meaning that is different from the meaning of the verb. For example, 'crying' means 'needing urgent attention'. I would probably say something like 'her whiny attitude' instead.

'fallen heroes' is correct. 'falling' would have a present meaning and 'fallen' has a past meaning, which is appropriate here.

Where exactly a full stop is put after a quotation is a matter of style, i.e. sometimes it is put inside and other times outside.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team,

You have a good, useful site here. But I think you need to expand on this section here. I'm a native English speaker and I think this must be one of the most difficult parts of English grammar.
For example, grammatically speaking, there's no such thing as "-ing verb form". It's either a gerund or a present participle. And to confuse matters even more, it can be a pure adjective or a pure noun.
For example:
"Shouting loudly is rude". (shouting here is a gerund, "shouting loudly" acting as a noun and the subject).
"I saw a man shouting at the store clerk" (shouting here is a present participle, acting as an adjective modifying "a man")
"Loud shouting is not good manners (shouting here is a pure noun, modified by an adjective, correct?)
"The shouting match lasted for half an hour". (shouting here is a pure adjective?)
And what about "it was a very exciting game". Is "exciting" a pure adjective here or a present participle? I was under the impression that if we take the present participle of many/most verbs, they become an adjective by themselves (i.e. "to excite"-->"exciting").

Thank you in advance for any feedback.

Hello sunsetlover,

Thanks for your comment. We are in the process of revising the English grammar section and hope to be able to publish the new version in the next few months. So please keep your eye out for this update.

This section, as well as the revised version we are working on, were written to serve as a general reference on what its writer (Dave Willis) considered to be the most essential English grammar for learners. It is not intended to be comprehensive and, as you've noted, doesn't always use technical terms which he did not consider essential to learning to use the language (as opposed to describing it or parsing it for more specialist use).

As for your questions, we don't normally go into this level of detail but I'll tell you what I think. I agree with your first three statements. As for the fourth, I'm honestly not sure, though I'd probably say that it's a gerund being used adjectivally, i.e. as a sort of noun + noun combination with 'match'. Finally, I'd say 'exciting' is a pure adjective in this case.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I didn't get reply for this one. Please respond to this query. Thanking you in advance.
'Reasonably good research exists about the muslim bourgeoisie anchoring the league.'
'Surely, it was not the first time the state has been brought to its knees by rampaging zealots.'

Sir, why was comma not used after 'reasonably', while it was used after 'surely'? Does it make any difference if we put or don't put comma after these adverbs? Does the meaning change if we remove the comma after 'surely'? Sir, please enlighten us about this.