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Three ways to use -ING verbs

By Matthew, January 29 2019, 10:28
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Using [VERB] + ing adds more to your sentence and makes your writing more sophisticated. Learn three ways to use the present participle when you write.

To make a modifier (adjective or adverb) from a verb, you should use a participle. English has two participles: the present participle and the past participle.

How to Make the Present Participle

Make the present participle using: 


Some examples:

coming going eating
driving washing sleeping

Note: the present participle looks exactly like a gerund (a verb that works like a noun), but they do different jobs.

Uses of the Present Participle

Present participles are used to do the following:

  1. Make the continuous aspect (sometimes called the progressive - "to be doing");
  2. Modify a noun (like an adjective);
  3. Modify a verb or sentence (like an adverb).

Some examples:

1. The continuous/progressive aspect:

I am sitting in my chair, listening to music.

While I was watching TV, the phone rang.

When will you be coming back?

2. Modifying noun:

I can hear a crying baby.

What an interesting movie!

I really hate going to long boring meetings.

3. Modifying a verb or sentence:

He went running.

She spoke, chewing gum.

Speaking of holidays, I am going to Fiji.

Improve your writing with present participles

Most people know how to do (1) and (2) above and use a participle to make a progressive. However, a sign of more sophisticated writing is using an -ING verb to modify a sentence or verb. Try doing that now and write a few example sentences for a teacher to check!

  1. Both the gerund (e.g. "talking") and the present participle (e.g. "talking") look the same in English. For a learner it is probably best just to think about [VERB]+ing. However, a gerund works like a noun whereas a present participle is a modifier.
  2. Often it is impossible for a learner to know if something is a gerund or a present participle just by looking at it. You must look at the job the word does in the sentence.
  3. Present participles are active; A past participle can be active or passive.
  • Matthew's picture
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

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