'-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


Average: 3.7 (42 votes)
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Submitted by libero on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 15:52

‘Something flying in the sky hit him’ is ‘flying’ used as an adjective after a noun in this sentence? Can I say ‘something was flying in the sky and hit him’

Hi libero,

In this sentence, 'flying' is a present participle used to make a reduced relative clause. As you suggest, it is a reduced form of 'Something that was flying in the sky hit him'. Good work!

You can see an explanation of this on our defining relative clauses page -- look for the last example sentence on the page, just above the exercise.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SONIAL03 on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 08:08

Hi! I would like to ask you about the use of prepositions at the end of the sentences. I have been taught that each and every preposition of phrasal or prepositional verbs should appear in the sentence, even at the end. Is that still correct, given that I have read some texts in which the sentences do not end with the required preposition. Thank you

Hi Sonia,

In general, yes, you should use the particle or preposition of phrasal or prepositional verbs. It's difficult to generalise about this; if there's a specific sentence you'd like to ask us about, feel free to do so.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SONIAL03 on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 08:05

HI! I would like to ask you a question on the possessive "whose" for introducing relatives clauses. At college, I was taught to use the possessive "whose" for animate entities and "which" for inanimate entities. However, I also know that "which" is also accepted to indicate possession of animate entities, is that correct? Or do you prefer to keep the distinction between them? Thank you


The rule of whose for animate entities and which for inanimate is a good rule of thumb, but you are correct that which can be used in certain cases. This is actually a relict of how English used to be used several hundred years ago. Today it is very uncommon and generally considered a non-standard form, I would say. You can see which used in place of collective nouns describing people: the group (of people) which I saw or the class (of students) which I taught.

If you have any particular example in mind then we will be happy to comment on it, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SONIAL03 on Mon, 07/05/2018 - 10:17

Good morning, I have a doubt regarding the use of the Saxon genitive in the following expression: “Taiwanese colleague clients”: would it be right to say “Taiwanese colleagues’ clients” or would it be better to use the “of” form-Clients of our Taiwanese colleagues? Thank you, Sonia

Hello SONIAL03,

I think both forms are possible:

our Taiwanese colleagues' clients

the clients of our Taiwanese colleagues

Which you choose is really a question of style. The second may be easier to understand and be less likely to be misunderstood but both are perfectly correct.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ali boroki

Submitted by Ali boroki on Fri, 27/04/2018 - 05:42

Hello dear brirtish council leraning English. I need your help to learn "infinitive and gerund,i feel confused about them ,can you give me some advice that i find easy way to learn them... Best regards Ali.

Hello Ali boroki,

The infinitive is a verb form which is used in a number of ways. You can read about them and see examples on this page and this page.

The gerund is a verb formed with -ing used as a noun in the sentence. You can read more about these on this page and on the page we are on here.

You can also use the search facility to look up 'infinitive' and 'gerund' to find relevant pages. If you have any questions about particular examples then we will be happy to explain, of course.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Fri, 06/04/2018 - 15:16

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.
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 07/04/2018 - 16:44

In reply to by amrita_enakshi


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

Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Thu, 05/04/2018 - 21:42

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

Submitted by mehransam05 on Thu, 05/04/2018 - 20:51

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.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 07/04/2018 - 06:22

In reply to by mehransam05


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

Submitted by lexeus on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 02:30

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
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 07:21

In reply to by 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

Submitted by mehransam05 on Sat, 31/03/2018 - 16:28

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
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 31/03/2018 - 18:23

In reply to by mehransam05


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

Submitted by Anshu on Tue, 13/03/2018 - 16:00

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

Submitted by ibrahemyacoup on Mon, 05/02/2018 - 16:45

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