'-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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Hi AbdulMohsin,

I'm afraid I'm not sure I understand exactly what this sentence is to mean, especially 'follow up payment'. Perhaps 'For March only, please pay Contracting Invoices as Trading Invoices are paid'?

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello There!! What is the difference between these 2 sentences: 1. I really hate your having to be away from home so much. 2. I really hate you being away from home so much. Regards

Hello there Abdul,

The first sentence means 'I hate the fact that you must be away...' - in other words, that there is an obligation (from your work, from your boss etc) to be away.

The second sentence means 'I hate the fact that you are not here so much...' - in other words, it does not comment on why the person is away, but rather just states that this is not a good state of affairs.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, can't these activities be downloaded as pdf files instead of using the flash player?
Hi, i m new member and thank you for your attantion service When i read a story, i run across such a sentence_ _ i saw him on the island of the goddess Calypso, with tears running down his face_ I wonder what is duty of 'running' ? And can i change sentence order _ i saw him with tears running down his face on the goddess Calypso.

Hi nazgul.thoth,

The clause starting 'running...' here describes what the tears were doing.  You can think of it as a reduced relative clause: 'with tears (which were) running down his face'.

The order can be changed, yes.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello British council staff,,,,,,,,,,, I managed to buy 3 CDs that the website of learning English for adult , for kids and teaching English they are so great i adore them but how can i get the CD for teens i mean (learn English with teen the purple one) i want to buy it even on line or from the branch in cairo in egypt is that possible thanks
hi, what is the difference between 1) rachel saw david walking with a stick 2)vicky heard someone playing the piano 3)we found matthew exercising in the gym 4)i could feel an insect crawling up mu leg and 1)rachel saw david fall down the steps 2)vicky heard some one close the door 3)let's watch the parade go past 4)we all felt the house shake

Hello ahmed only,

Verbs of perception such as see followed by a -ing form generally indicate that an action was perceived while it was in progress. When they are followed by a base form (i.e. the infinitive without to), this generally indicates that the action was perceived from beginning to end.

So, for example, Rachel saw David walking, but probably not when he began or finished his walk (his walk in progress). She saw David on the steps and saw him stumble, fall down the steps, and land on the ground (the whole action).

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello M.r kirk and M.r peter in my former comment about the question tag of deduction you said that we negate the modal verb directly to form the question tag but an English teacher in another site said some thing different . here what he said ( when we use must with the idea of obligation we use mustn't to make the tag question when we use must with the idea of assumption/deduction we use another auxiliary verb do make the tag qusetion such as to be or do/does. examples: You have worked a lot. You must be tired, aren't you? She must be the new teacher, isn't she? Wow, Robert is a flight attendent, he must fly a lot, doesn't he? I must leave now, mustn't I? (idea of obligation, in this case the obligation is being imposed on you) Students:Teacher, we must bring our homework next class, mustn't we? Teacher: Yes, you must. In your example He must be a teacher, mustn't he? sounds like He has to be a teacher, doesn't he? if the idea of the sentence is of assumption I'd say: He must be a teacher, isn't he?) how about that ?

Hi ahmed only,

I'm not familiar with what the other teacher said, nor have I found reference to it in any of the resources I've checked. As far as I know, the auxiliary verb is repeated in the tag question, as I already explained.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I m a new member.i m not able to use the vocabulary games.can u please help me?

Hi firoza rehman,

What kind of device are you using? Many of our games are currently based on Flash, which is not compatible with some tablets and mobile devices. We're working on a solution to this, but I'm afraid it's not possible to predict when it will be available. In the meantime, please let us know what device and operating system you're using, or try on a different computer.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr kirk & Mr peter I want to speak to anyone of you or any other member of the learn English team to discuss a lot of points in English online is that possible?

Hello ahmed only,

As much as we'd like to be able to help you and other users this way, unfortunately we just don't have the time to be able to give individualised instruction to our users. Could you perhaps find a teacher where you live who could help you? Also, on our facebook page on Fridays, there's a Grammar Clinic where you might be able to get some help.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

dear British council team , I want to thank you for your efforts you exert. you are so cooperative and helpful to us also your recommendations are so helpful . I adore this site and all the people who run this site
another consultant please a teacher had said to me that it depends on the verb after must have like when i say (he must have bought a car , didn't he) or i say (mustn't he?)

Hi ahmed only,

I'm not familiar with that usage. As far as I know, if a sentence has an auxiliary verb (which includes modal verbs such as must), that auxiliary verb is the verb repeated in the question tag. Therefore I'd say "mustn't he?" in that question you ask about.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I have searched for question tags but the aren't included here ...........why? do they have different name ? When we say (he must have been ill , didn't he? is that right?

Hello ahmed only,

The correct tag for this question would be '...mustn't he?'

You can find information on question tags on this page.

You can also find many exercises on question tags through the search window.  If you type 'question tags' into it and click 'Search' then you'll see results like this.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there, First of all I'd like to congratulate you on your brilliant work. Your prompt answers are most helpful and very much appreciated. Now, I have a question about the verb "to try" and its different nuance in meaning when followed by a "to+ infinitive" or by an "-ing form": 1) We tried to ring the doorbell, but it was broken. (we weren't able to ring the bell) 2) We tried ringing the doorbell, but there was no answer. (we rang, but with no result) If the -ing form indicates how something is carried out, the attempt we make at something, is the implied meaning of the question:"We tried (to get in by) ringing the doorbell..."? I still find it a bit hard to fully understand the difference between the two constructions. Thank you in advance.

Hi Knightrider,

Thanks for your kinds words - it's always nice to hear appreciation!

try + ing is used to talk about an experiment, i.e. when the result is not certain. try + infinitive and try + ing are used to talk about making an effort to do something.

Sentence 1 indicates exactly what you describe - that an attempt was made, but it failed due to the doorbell being broken. Since there is no mention of the doorbell failing to ring in sentence 2, the more probably meaning is that we weren't sure whether the people were at home, and decided to ring the doorbell to see if they were.

As you can see, the context in which try is used is important to understanding what exactly is meant, and sometimes, even with context, there can be ambiguity.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Mr.Peter, Can I ask you another question sometimes after preposition comes ing or tion or infinitive of verbs Can you explain that for me please, because I feel confused sometimes, and can you advise me How can learn English as soon as possible please, because I work as sale manager sometime face problem to write email for my client. Thanks for your support

Hi Rami,

Prepositions take a noun phrase as their object. Sometimes the noun phrase is a simple noun phrase (e.g. after the film) and sometimes it's a noun phrase headed by a nominalised verb, i.e. a verb transformed into a noun (e.g. after watching the film). I can't think of any instance when a preposition is followed by an infinitive - if you have seen this, then please send it to me so I can clarify it for you.

I'm afraid there's no magic bullet for learning English - it's a matter of persistent and careful practise, plus a lot of patience. We plan to add a section on writing email to LearnEnglish in the future, but I'm afraid there's no way to say when that will be published. In the meantime, there are a few pages on writing that you might find useful on the ESOL Nexus. I'm sure you could find some other useful sites by doing an internet search for "ESOL writing emails".

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr.peter I'm confused about this as the object of a preposition ex: what about getting her a box of chocolates. and your example: (Some people) +(are not)+ (interested )+(in )+(learning English). (sub)+ (verb to be) + (adj) + ( preposition)+(noun+ing.....) as object

Hello Rami Reath Diab,

I'm not sure exactly what is confusing for you in these examples.  The object of the preposition in each sentence is the noun phrase headed by the -ing form or gerund - i.e. 'learning English' and 'getting her a box of chocolates'.

If you're still confused, or if that hasn't answered your question, please reply to this and I'll be happy to explain futher.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I agree with you after preposition comes ing noun but in this example getting is not object becaue there is no subject and verb before this preposition . many thanks for your prompt replying.

Hello Rami Reath Diab,

Thank you for replying and now that I look at your example again I see that I have indeed misread it.  I rememember when I was studying English grammar it was presented as an example of ellipsis with the full sentence being 'What do you think about...?', but this is 'think' used as an intransitive verb, without an object. Nowadays, 'what about' is generally taught as an idiom followed by a noun or gerund, without deeper analysis.

Once again, thank you for your reply and my apologies for the confusion.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I have many questions for you because I have been 2 months studying English form this website ,it's the best website I have ever seen in my life , I share it to all my friends in Jordan Thanks for all teams and your great support and patience .

im really having a hard time in knowing what is the adjective, simpla past, how to use to adverb. Everything :( please help me. 

Hi melcosay,

Are you referring to the -ing form, or do you mean these different aspects of English in general? I would recommend that you work through our pages on adjectives, the past simple and adverbials. If you have questions about any of those, please ask them - the more specific, the better - on the appropriate page and we'll be happy to help you!

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

what is the difference between present participle & gerund? would be grateful if you explain with precise elaboration.

Hello fassain,

Both of these are names for the same form, which is usually nowadays termed 'the -ing form'.  The present participle is a verb form used in certain tenses and participle clauses, while the gerund is a noun made from a verb (and sometimes called 'a verbal noun') which can be the subject or object of a sentence, just like any other noun.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Which one is correct? The boy is talking to Angela is her younger brother. The boy talking to Angela is her younger brother. Thanks

Hi sensikarami62,

"The boy talking to Angela is her younger brother" is the correct sentence - the other one is not correct.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

In this sentence " he made a rather surprising remark " what dose " rather " mean ??? and how do we use it ???


Can you explain This sentence ? Why does it use affect+ing ? Oils left in a pan after cooking can turn rancid affecting the food that is cooked next. Thanks.

Hi thananun,

In the sentence "Oils left in a pan after cooking can turn rancid affecting the food that is cooked next.", the words affecting the food that is cooked next are a participle clause. These are explained on our participle clauses page - I would suggest that you look especially at the With the present participle section.

After working through that page, please don't hesitate to ask us a question there if anything's not clear.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Firstly I want to say that if you want to learn foreing language you must know your interior language that is your mother language.Thank to all of your group who are try to teach people on english. 


"sleeping all day and doing work at night" is this sentence correct if i want to describe present situation or i will say "sleep all the day and do work at night".?

if both sentences are correct, do they contain the same meaning ?

plz help



Hi rashed 1234,

I'm afraid which you use depends on the rest of the sentence.  The first one ('sleeping...') is what you would use, for example, if you want to make a sentence with this as the subject:

'Sleeping all day and doing work at night is normal for me.'

On the other hand, the second example 'sleep' is what you would use if you want it to be the verb in a sentence:

'I sleep all day and do work at night.' [without 'the']

So, I am afraid, the choice depends on what you are trying to say, and there is no simple right or wrong answer.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Mr. Peter,

Thank you for your explanation. now it's bit clear. problem is english isn't my native language so before writing anything in english first i arrange it in my own language that's why most of the time i feel confused in selecting tenses and expressing actual thoughts.

Could you suggest me any way out to overcome this problem.


Hi rashed1234,

I hope you don't mind that I'm replying for Peter.

I expect that almost every learner of another language has the same feeling as you do. I would suggest that you not view the differences between your language and English as a problem, but as opportunities to learn. With practice, I'm sure you will learn a lot and feel more confident about your English.

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team