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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



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.



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.

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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!

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,


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.
“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

Hello again Sakura30,

I'm afraid it's difficult for me to say which one is meant without knowing more about the film, but what I understood when I first read it was the first explanation.

I don't get the sense that anyone is justified (in the sense of being right) here. I think 'justify' means something like 'give a reasonable explanation for' in this case. In other words, the kidnappers had a reasonable reason for kidnapping Gibson's child (assuming that they are more concerned about their self-interest than Gibson's or his child's), but this doesn't mean it was justified -- it is, after all, a crime.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk,
Thank you! It makes so much sense now!
Have a wonderful day.