'-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

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-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:

amusing
boring
disappointing
interesting
surprising
tiring
worrying
exciting
frightening
shocking
terrifying
annoying
-ing form as an adjective

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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

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-ing form as a noun or adjective 2

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Soumis par Wrakshamara le jeu 14/10/2021 - 13:43

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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,
Kirk
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Hassan le mer 06/10/2021 - 21:44

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Risa warysha le lun 20/09/2021 - 05:50

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

Soumis par Risa warysha le lun 20/09/2021 - 05:37

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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

Soumis par Nevı le sam 18/09/2021 - 11:48

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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!

Hello Nevi,

The possessive adjective is my rather than mine.

 

It's possible to use either form here but the gerund is far more common. I think the infinitive is more often used in a conceptual sense, to describe the idea of something rather than the activity itself.

I wrote a little about this in an answer to another user:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/video-series/word-on-the-street/york/york-scene-2-language-focus#comment-171197

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nevı le mer 04/08/2021 - 10:33

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Hi there brilliant team! I am writing to find out more about following sentences -I like eating Pizza and -I like Pizza I really wonder why someone can say first sentence 'I like eating Pizza'. For me, 'I like Pizza' is more logical.Because I can't find any reason why someone likes the action of eating. You like foods not eating. I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion. Best wishes!

Hi Nevı,

Actually, it's fine to simply say I like eating (pizza). 'Eating' means 'consuming food', so food is already part of its meaning.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nevı le sam 15/05/2021 - 13:59

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Hi magnificent team! I am confused about sth about present participles. I saw following sentence "After packing all the packages, we continued our journey" And information below the sentence says 'You will sometimes see a conjunction or preposition followed by the participle clause' Before I didn't know that information, I was sure 'packing' in the sentence is a gerund. Thus, I am shocked. Which one is true for 'packing' gerund or present participle. You'd be doing me a huge favour.

Hi Nevi,

Many modern grammarians of English see this distinction (gerund vs present participle) as inappropriate for English and so prefer to simply use the term '-ing form' and identify different uses of a single form rather than trying to identify two distinct forms. Thus, I would simply say that 'after' is followed by an ing-form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nevı le mar 13/07/2021 - 08:49

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Thanks for your reply teacher. I wonder if the subjects of actions(to pack and to continue) must be the same(ın the sentence, for example, we) when we use conjunction or preposition+Ving You'd be really helping me out.

Hello again Nevi,

Yes, in these kinds of sentences the performer of the action described in the participle clause is the same as the subject of the verb in the main clause. The time reference is also the same. For example:

Talking to John, you changed your mind. [the conversation with John is in the past]

Talking to John, you'll change your mind. [the conversation with John is in the future]

 

You can read more about this on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/participle-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Parikenan le sam 01/05/2021 - 03:33

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I want to know the difference between these two sentences below, 1. Neither does it explain if there is the difference between net cash flow and net income. 2. Neither does it explain if there is a difference between net cash flow and net income. Is using "the difference" after "there is" grammatically correct ? Thank you very much, Parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

No, that's not correct. It's clear from the sentence that the speaker (and listener) are not familiar with whatever difference there may be as the if-clause tells us that it is not even certain that there is a difference. Therefore 'the' is not appropriate.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Parikenan le dim 18/04/2021 - 02:38

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I want to know the difference between these two expressions below, 1. The company operational 2. The operational of the company Do they both have the same meaning ? Thank you very much, Parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

I'm afraid neither of those phrases is correct. If you mean 'company operations' and 'operations of the company', in general those mean the same thing.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

The complete sentence is like this below, "Cash flow analysis can help a company to make all necessary adjustments to keep the company operational in the face of financial difficulties." Does "operational" function as an adjective that modifies "the company" ? Could you elaborate "the company operational" in the sentence above please ? Thank you very much, Parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

OK, now that I see the full context I understand. Yes, 'operational' is an adjective. The verb 'keep' is often used with a noun and adjective in this way. In this case, it means something like 'to cause the company to stay operational' -- in other words, the company has a better chance of surviving financial difficulties.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nevı le sam 17/04/2021 - 09:40

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Hi great team, I am confused by one thing about gerunds. For example, when I search some gerunds such as reading, swimming, smoking, I can see the definitions in the dictionaries. But When I wrote a gerund such as believing,trespassing,etc.I couldn't see their definitions. Could you explain me why dictionaries don't show all gerunds' meanings? and show some gerunds'? Thank you. And best wishes!

Hello Nevı,

That's a very good question. I suppose it has something to do with how common the activities the words refer to are, but I'm afraid I'm not completely sure about that. If you can find a place to ask this question on the Cambridge Dictionary blog, they might be able to help you with the answer there.

If you find anything out, please let us know!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nevı le dim 28/03/2021 - 20:04

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Hi team, I want to ask something about past perfect continuous. Can I write these sentences without any meaning differences? "While I had been watching Tv for 2 hours , my friends dropped in. " or " I had been watching TV for 2 hours when my friends dropped in. " I am confused about when can I use this tense. Thank you! Best wishes.

Soumis par Jonathan R le lun 29/03/2021 - 06:00

En réponse à par Nevı

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Hi Nevı,

Sentence 2 is fine! In sentence 1, while doesn't fit the meaning of the sentence. While introduces things happening at the same time, but I had been watching (past perfect continuous) shows this happened before the friends dropped in. I'd use the past continuous (was watching) here, or change while to after.

  • While I was watching TV, my friends dropped in.
  • After I'd been watching TV for two hours, my friends dropped in.

Does that make sense?

Have a look at these links for more explanation of the past perfect and past continuous.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par IjajKhan le sam 20/02/2021 - 16:21

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❝After having spent 6 hours at the hospital, the finally came back home.❞ ❝After being helped by the volunteers, they could came back home.❞ Are this sentences correct & what is the difference between these? Could you please explain?!

Hi IjajKhan,

A couple of corrections are needed.

  1. After having spent 6 hours at the hospital, they finally came back home.
  2. After being helped by the volunteers, they could come back home.

Also, in sentence 2, it would be more common to use 'were able to' instead of 'could'. Have a look at our Past ability page for more explanation about this. (See the 'Ability on one occasion – successful' section.)

About the differences, do you mean in the After + verb+ing part? Sentence 1 has a perfect participle, which emphasises that the action of 'spending 6 hours' is complete. Using a present participle would be fine here too (After spending 6 hours ...), and means the same thing. Sentence 2 has a present participle in the passive. You can find more information and examples about these structures on our Participle clauses page.

I hope it helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sai_Krishna1011 le mer 10/02/2021 - 17:06

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I enjoy getting dressed as a barbie doll. Here "getting" is the object of the verb, enjoy and "dressed as a barbie doll" is the clause following the object. Is that correct?

Hello Sai_Krishna1011,

I'd call 'getting dressed as a barbie doll' the noun phrase that is the object of the verb. You could further break down this noun phrase, of course.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Aysn le mer 10/02/2021 - 13:30

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Hi team, I want to learn 2 things which make me confused 1)Can we add'-ing' to any verb to make a gerund? Or the verb which we add "- ing" must be an action verb? For example can I add "- ing" to verb 'promise' and it would be "promising" Could you tell me? 2)Some nouns which end with "-ing" has a special meaning such as drawing,training, meeting etc.But not all gerunds have a special meaning. Why some gerunds have a special meaning others do not have?

Hello Aysn,

1. As far as I know, yes, you can making a gerund from any verb. 'Promising' can be used as a gerund, e.g. 'Promising you everything will be fine is not something I can honestly do'.

2. As far as I know, this is a matter of usage. In other words, it's just the way people have come to use these words over time.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sai_Krishna1011 le mer 10/02/2021 - 13:00

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He saw a woman lying on the floor. Here " lying" is adjective or verb?. We enjoy learning English. Here "learning" is noun or verb?. Some people are not interested in learning English. Here "learning" is noun or verb?.

Hello Sai_Krishna1011,

It's important to distinguish between form and function. The form of all of these words is the same, but the function in the sentence is different.

In traditional grammars a distinction is drawn between the present participle (which can function as a verb or as an adjective) and the gerund (which functions as a noun). However, in most modern grammars this distinction is not seen as particularly useful and the term 'ing form' is preferred to describe the form, with the function is described according to each example.

 

In your first example, I think it's better to see 'lying' as a verb, heading a participle phrase with an adjectival function in the sentence. You can see the sentence as being a reduced relative clause: '...a woman who was lying...'

 

In your second sentence, 'learning' functions as a noun and is the object of 'enjoy'.

 

In your third sentence, 'learning' functions as a noun, and is the object of the preposition 'in'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sai_Krishna1011 le mar 09/02/2021 - 17:21

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Hello team, I am trying to find the lessons about participles as nouns, adjectives, adverbs. Could you help me in finding that lesson? Thank you sai

Soumis par Nuro le sam 30/01/2021 - 09:46

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Hi team, I am confused about one topic. How can I be sure the using of "to" in any sentence? I mean for example the verb -encourage- one of the patterns is encourage somebody to do something the -to infinitive - must be in this pattern. On the other hand, sometimes -to infinitive- is used for expressing purpose. And I always mixed that -to-is the part of the pattern of verb or using of expressing purpose. Could you tell me how can't I mix both of them ? Could you tell me diffrences?

Soumis par Jonathan R le mer 03/02/2021 - 15:35

En réponse à par Nuro

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Hi Nuro,

The main way is to look at the words and try to work out (1) if it's part of a verb pattern (e.g. learn to swim, prefer to arrive early, want to go home), where the meaning comes from the combination of the two verbs together, or (2) it answers the question 'Why?' or 'For what purpose?' In that case, it's the infinitive of purpose. For example:

  • I went to the shop to buy bread. (Contains the answer to 'why did you go to the shop?')

You can find more explanation and examples on this page about 'to' infinitives. I hope it helps :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par BobMux le ven 29/01/2021 - 04:59

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Hello The LearnEnglish team, I would be greatful if you could help me! In a book named Mygrammarlab, it is said that "-ing" form a verb can has its own object, so "Meeting new people" is right, but they say "The giving presents" is incorrect, according to them " The giving of presents" should be instead of it. I cannot understand that "Meeting new people" and "The giving presents" are almost the same thing but "The giving presents" is in correct..

Hi BobMux,

Yes, they look similar, but there is a structural difference. If you say (for example): 

  • Giving presents is a tradition.

'Giving' is the -ing form of a verb, with the direct object 'presents'. It functions as a noun: 'Giving presents' is the subject of the sentence. But, it also keeps some characteristics of a verb. For example, it has the direct object, 'presents' (a noun, however, cannot take a direct object, unless there is a preposition). It can also take an adverb (e.g. Giving presents generously is a tradition). So, 'Giving' is noun-like and verb-like at the same time.

 

If you say:

  • The giving of presents is a tradition.

'Giving' is more noun-like and less verb-like, compared to the previous example. It has an article, which only nouns (not verbs) can have. It's more likely to take an adjective than an adverb (e.g. The generous giving of presents is a tradition). And, a noun needs to have a preposition before an object. That's why 'of' is added.

It's complicated :) But I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Parikenan le jeu 28/01/2021 - 02:08

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I want to know the difference between these two sentences below, 1. They know exactly how much to pay without a word being spoken. 2. They know exactly how much to pay without a word is spoken. Do they both have the same meaning ? And are they both grammatically correct ? Thank you very much, Parikenan.

Hello Parikenan,

The second sentence is not grammatical. 'Without' is a preposition and requires an object; 'is spoken' cannot be an object here, so the gerund 'being spoken' is required.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the explanation, Peter. If I try to rewrite sentence no. 1 like this, They know exactly how much to pay without a word spoken. Is it still grammatically correct ? And, do they both still have the same meaning ( without a word being spoken and without a word spoken ) ? Thank you very much.

Soumis par Parikenan le dim 24/01/2021 - 08:30

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Hello LearnEnglish Team, I want to know the function of the word "using" in these three sentences below, 1. Language is the ability to communicate using words. 2. Those transactions must add up to a lot of money spent using credit cards. 3. People can shop now using gadgets like smartphones and tablet devices. Do they ( the word "using" in those three sentences above ) work as a participle ? If so, can I write a sentence with the same meaning for each of them above like this ? 1. Using words, people are able to communicate. 2. Using credit cards, people spent a lot of their money. 3. Using gadgets like smartphones and tablet devices, people can shop now. Could you please elaborate it for me ? Thank you very much.

Hello Parikenan,

Yes, using is a (present) participle in all of those examples.

Your rewritten sentences are all grammatically correct, though they do not mean exactly the same as the original sentences. For example, the first sentence tells us what language is; the rewritten version tells us what people (are able to) do.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You are right, Peter. Thank you very much for correcting my sentences. I wasn't rigorous enough when I tried to rewrite those sentences. It is clear now that "using" works as a (present) participle in all my example sentences. Thank you very much. Parikenan.

Soumis par Ykilic34 le ven 08/01/2021 - 22:56

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Hello LearnEnglish team Could you help me these sentences 1)He denied having stolen the money 2)He denied that he stole money 3)Do you mind my using your laptop to check my emails 4)Do you mind if I use your laptop to check my emails Are 1-2 and 3-4 same meaning or not I am confused about these gerunds Thank you