'-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


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Hello sir, in the following sentence does 'watching' act as a noun and 'soothing' as an adjective (soothing sunset) or should soothing be considered a part of the finite verb is? Thus , 'watching' as nonfinite(gerund) and 'is soothing' as finite. •Watching the sun set at the beach is soothing to eyes. Thank you.

Hi amrita,

Yes, 'watching' is a gerund (a noun derived from a verb) and 'soothing' is an adjective. The structure of the sentence is a simple copula: 'X is Y'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir , in the following sentence , can you please tell me if 'hurt' and 'ill-fated' are both Non finite ( past participles ) ? The hurt passengers of the ill-fated train were admitted to the nearby hospital .

Hello amrita_enakshi,

The words have the form of past participles but are functioning as adjectives in the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi I am really confused about "ing" form when it is used as a gerund or as a verbal noun or as an adjective in a sentence. I want an article to separate these and help me. For example in this: "Game changing delivery" (why not game change delivery or changing game delivery) what is the structure and meaning(or maybe mean) of every word in the sentence above especially "ing: ? Where do we use verbal nouns in a sentence and what is used before and after that(ex:adjective or noun)? There are a lot of phrase in ing forms and I am really not know about the structure of ing form so I am really confused. Thanks in advance.

Subido por Peter M. el Sáb, 07/04/2018 - 06:22

En respuesta a por mehransam05

Enlace permanente

Hi mehransam05,

The phrase 'game-changing delivery' (it is usually hypenated) has a compound adjective (game-changing) modifying a noun (delivery).

English is a very flexible language and a word fulfil many different roles in the sentence. To identify which role an ing-form has you need to look at the sentence in which it is used. This is why we provide the examples on this page. If the ing-form is the subject or object in the sentence then it is acting as a noun. If it describes a noun then it is acting as an adjective.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team Could you please tell me what the -ing forms 'learning' and 'knowing' function as in the following sentence: Her parents said that learning English meant she would be able to make friends with people all over the world, and knowing Spanish meant that she could talk to grandma Garcia, who could not speak English. Would it be correct to say they are gerunds? Thanks for your help, Lexeus

Hello Lexeus,

The two forms you ask about function as nouns, and yes, they are gerunds, i.e. words formed from verbs that are used as nouns.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi What is the differences between these in meaning and usage: 1) A)a moving vehicle B)a movement vehicle 2) A)cementation damage B)cementing damage 3) A)treatment fluid B)treating fluid Thanks

Hi mehransam05,

1a is an acceptable collocation (word combination) in standard British English, but 1b is not. A moving vehicle is a vehicle that is moving at the time you're talking about.

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any of the other word combinations. If I had some idea what they meant, then I could recommend one over the other, but without some context I can't really say. Sorry.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, you mentioned that the '-ing' form of the verb can be used as an adjective. In the example given- "He saw a woman lying on the floor ". Isnt lying a verb here and not an adjective?

Hello Anshu,

The phrase 'lying on the floor' here is adjectival as it describes the noun phrase 'a woman'. You can think of it as a reduced relative clause:

He saw a woman (who was) lying on the floor.

The -ing form is formed from a verb but in this sentence it has an adjectival function.


Note that this use of the -ing form comes after the noun, not before. Thus:

He saw a woman lying on the floor - correct

He saw a lying on the floor woman - incorrect



The LearnEnglish Team

hi which one is correct ? 1. governments are looking to rein in capital spending in the wake of the collapse in oil prices . 2. governments are looking to rein in spending capital in the wake of the collapse in oil prices . thanks in advance
Hi, Can you help me admin please ! He can't be having lunch .Is this sentence correct if not what is wrong here? Thanks in advance.

Hello BillerrrThome,

The sentence is grammatically correct but I can't say whether it is used correctly without knowing the context. We would say 'He can't be having lunch' when we cannot believe that he is (in the middle of) eating lunch as we speak. For example, we might say this when the person should be doing something else and we are surprise that he has chosen to have lunch instead, or when something makes lunch very unlikely such as it being too early in the day.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there: I want to know whether the following sentence is correct: The simultaneous practice of two languages helps them to nurture their talents making them competent and confident personally. My one more question is: what is/are the rules of using verb-ing (i.e. here 'making') in English?

Hello zahid51,

Yes, it is correct, but I'm afraid -ing forms are used in so many different ways I cannot explain them all. In this case, the clause beginning with 'making' is an adverbial participle clause. You can read more about them on the page I linked to as well as this BBC page. If you have a more specific question about them, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir We lernt that the verb after (to) must be in base form, but in the following sentence, the verb after (to) is in -ing form: "We look forward to meeting him tomorrow." Could you help me sir! Thank you in advance

Hello Yasser Azizi,

In the phrase 'look forward to', 'to' is a preposition, not part of an infinitive. Verbs after prepositions always go in the -ing form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs, Thank you very much for your response to my yesterday's comment. I would like to ask you about noun modifiers. My question is about expressions such as "patent department", in which the noun is modifyiing another noun and I suppose the "s" indicating plural falls before the noun, is that correct? or should we write patents department? Thank you

Hello again Sonial03,

If you're talking about multiple patents, then yes, the first noun can be made plural ('patents department'), though actually often it remains singular in English -- for example, even though there are many cars in one, we don't say 'cars park' in English, but rather 'car park'. Making the second noun plural ('car parks' or 'patent(s) departments') would of course mean you're referring to more than one place.

I've done a quick web search and have found examples of both 'patent department' (or 'patent office') and 'patents department'. As far as I can tell, they refer to the same kind of department, but please be aware that I'm not knowledgeable enough about this area to be able to say that for sure.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I have two questions about the "-ing form" of the verb. Which option do you consider more correct? 1) a rotary shaft about its first axis 2) a shaft rotating about its first axis. The sentence means that the shaft rotates about its first axis. And the other question is, which is the most correct expression? 1) driving means 2) drive means To indicate a means for activating a mechanism Thank you

Hello Sonial03,

Of the first two, 1 doesn't seem correct to me, since there is no verbal form in it. Perhaps 1 could work in a certain context, but I can't imagine one off the top of my head.

For the second two sentences, I'd really need to see the more complete context -- and perhaps know more about mechanical engineering -- to say for sure, but I suppose 1 as the -ing form makes a verb into a noun.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi peter Thanks for your answer to my previous question,although I did not understand your answer to my first example. To clear it,I have another question.I know the difference between adjectives ending in ed and ing.my question is: Where do we use pure noun before a noun and where do we use gerund or adjective ending in ing before a noun?and what is the difference in meaning(or means(I do not know which one is correct?)) Let me give u an example: I don't know the differences between these : A:water flooding and water flood(if it is correct) B:the learn English team(in your page) (Why not>the learning English team or the English learning or English learn team) Please specify the structure of these phrases. Kind regards.

Hi mehransam05,

Your question really is about the use of present and past participles as adjectives, whether by themselves or as part of larger phrases or clauses. We actually have a page on this with a lot of examples - you can find it here.

The phrase 'water flooding' is likely to mean 'water which is flooding' - in other words, it describes water which is in the process of flooding. The phrase 'water flood' is not one we use. You could say 'water flooded' in certain contexts with a meaning of 'water which has flooded', however. The context is important here.

'LearnEnglish' is a name and not a normal grammatical construction - the fact it is written as one word shows this. We would not use in a sentence other than as a name, and we would not use 'learning' as an adjective before 'English' in any case as English can be learned but cannot learn anything itself!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have a big problem with words ending in ing. For example: what is the difference between link and linking in these two phrases: A:linking words B:link words Why do not we use link instead of linking in two sentences above. Or for example "infected areas" and "infecting areas" or "infectious areas"?please help me.I am very confused. Thanks in advance.

Hello mehransam05,

English often uses different forms for the same purpose. Both 'link verbs' and 'linking verbs' are names for the same thing.

There is a difference between adjectives ending in -ed and -ing and we have a page devoted to this which you can find here. In general, we use -ing to describe something which causes an effect and -ed to describe something which the effect happens to. For example:

The man is boring! [other people are not interested in him]

The man is bored! [he is not having fun]


In your examples 'an infected area' is one where the infection has taken hold. The area has been affected by the infection - it is, if you like, a victim. By contrast, 'infecting areas' are areas which can make other places (or people etc) catch the disease.

'Infectious' has a similar meaning to 'infecting' but it refers to the characteristic rather than the action. In other words, an infectious area is one which can infect but may at the moment be safe (because of quarantine, for example). An infecting area is one which is actively infecting others.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Good afternoon (day, morning, evening, as the case may be), I bumped into a question that I struggled to answer regarding ~ing forms as adjectives. The phrases: 1) The running girl is Kana. 2) The girl running is Kana. I feel that the first one is incorrect, and it sounds strange when I say it aloud, but for the life of me I can't put my finger on why that is. Regards.

Hello tankenka,

I would say that both sentences are grammatically correct, but the first formulation is rarely used. You may remember a Schwarzenegger film from the 1980s titled 'The Running Man', for example.


The -ing forms here have different grammatical functions. The first sentence uses 'running' as an adjective before the noun. The -ing form in the second sentence also modifies the noun but it is part of a reduced relative clause (phrase) as follows:

The girl [who is] running is Kana.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team, You said: We can use the -ing form of the verb: • as a noun: I love swimming. Swimming is very good for your health. You can get fit by swimming regularly. Can I say that "swimming " is modal? Thank you very much team.

Hello fahri,

No, the -ing form of a verb (e.g. 'swimming') is not a modal verb. When they are used as nouns, -ing forms are sometimes called 'gerunds'. Is that what you mean perhaps?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have a pretty tricky question. I teach English and recently one of my students asked: So, you can say "I like to run" and you can say "I like running". What is the difference? I've thought about it for a while and while these two expressions do seem different to me (I had some extensive practice with native speakers) I'm struggling to explain the difference from a grammar point. Maybe you can help me out here? Thanks!

Hello Oddus,

In most circumstances, there is no difference in meaning between the two forms. But if you're speaking about only one occasion, the -ing form is the correct one.

For example, 'I like running in the park' and 'I like to run in the park' mean the same thing. But if you speak about running in the park with Natalia last weekend, then -ing is the form you should use: 'I liked running in the park with Natalia'.

By the way, you might be interested in our TeachingEnglish site, where there are lots of free resources for teachers. I encourage you to check it out.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Why we use for example studying while we have the noun study as the subject or object of a sentence?? I mean many action verbs have their noun but why we use the ing form? Many thanks

Hello mahsa bvnzhd,

Could you please give a specific example? That will make it easier for us to help you effectively.

Thanks in advance.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have question about using verb+ing. Verb+ ing could be used as adjective like 'managing' such as managing director and also could be used as noun like 'building' such as character building or The old building is being renovated by owner. Can I used managing or building as object ? Example : Managing finance is very important in trading business. Building character for kid should be started since in junior high school. or can I use such as; I enjoy managing people in my office. The worker has already finished building the station. Thanks in advance

Hello Lianop,

Yes, you can use a gerund (the name an -ing form has when it is used as a noun) as both a subject and as an object. Your sentences are correct -- well done!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk. Many thanks for your comment, I wrote first two sentences are only for example.You can assume that Playing football is the best sport as you stated.It is no matter.My intention is playing football or football playing which one is better usage and why.If it is different,let me know why for difference between two words Playing football and Football playing.if it is same,explain me .the reason for being same. Best regards Aung BoBo

Hello Aung BoBo,

The normal and correct word order is 'playing football'. It might help to think of it this way: 'playing' is like a verb and 'football' is the object of the verb. Although people would understand 'football playing', it is not correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Playing football is the best playing. Football playing is the best playing.What should I write playing football or football playing?Let me know which one is used for what with grammartically.

Hello Aung BoBo,

'Playing football' is the normal order. I'm afraid I don't completely understand your sentence, however -- the word 'playing' at the end confuses me. Do you mean 'Playing football is the best sport'? If you can explain it a bit, we can help you choose another word.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have a sentence here "Talk to it, calling it by name, when it show up" I wonder why they used "calling" instead of "call" and what is that structure ? thank you very much
In the sentence: You will pass the exam by studying a lot and doing all the activities. What's the ing rule there? Is it possible to omit the "by"? Thanks in advance