Verbs ending in -ing

reviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process

English contains many ways to form new words, which affects sentence structure and communication in general. That is why it creates many challenges for language learners. In this article, you will learn the rules and common mistakes of using verbs ending in -ing. By mastering their usage, you can enhance your writing and speaking, making your English more fluent and precise.

What is the verb ending in -ing

The first fact that surprises many learners is the verbs ending in -ing have two main functions in English. These are gerunds and present participles. 

  • Gerunds. This is how -ing nouns are called. They can be subjects, objects, or complements of a sentence in the English language. For example, "Swimming is my favorite hobby."
  • Present participles. These types of -ing verbs are used to make continuous tenses or adjectives. For instance, "She is swimming in the lake" or “The shimmering stars twinkled brightly in the night sky.”

Each type has many unique rules and common mistakes. Below, you will learn more about them and find the tips to use -ing forms correctly. 

Verbs ending in -ing as gerunds

Gerunds are verbs that end in '-ing' and function as nouns within a sentence. This verb form allows us to discuss processes as activities. Gerunds can play several roles in English:

  • Subject. "Running is exhilarating." (“running” is a subject here)
  • Object. "I enjoy reading." (“reading” is an object)
  • Complement. "Her favorite hobby is painting." (“painting” is a word that is necessary to complete the meaning of a sentence)

These roles form the basic rules of using verbs ending in -ing as gerunds:

  1. After a verb. Some verbs are followed by a gerund immediately. Mostly, these are behavioral verbs like enjoy, suggest, decide, avoid, consider, etc. Here are some examples:
    1. We discussed moving to a new city.
    2. I decided going home.
    3. Jake suggested Bob learning a new language.
  2. After prepositions. When a verb follows a preposition, it is always in the gerund form.
    1. They were accused of cheating.
    2. He apologized for arriving late to the meeting.
    3. They are fond of playing tennis in their free time.
  3. When the verb is used as a subject or an object.
    1. Traveling opens your mind.
    2. I prefer reading over watching TV.

Learners often face the same challenges and mistakes when using gerunds. 

  1. Confusing Gerunds with Participles. Although both forms end in '-ing', their functions differ. Present participles are used to form adjectives or continuous verb tenses, whereas gerunds are used to make a noun from a verb.
  2. Infinitive instead of gerund. A common mistake is using infinitives of the word instead of gerund after some verbs or prepositions. For example, you may say, “I prefer to read,” and people will understand you. Yet it’s clearer and more accurate to say, “I prefer reading.”
  3. Neglecting Gerund Phrases. A gerund can be part of a longer noun phrase. For example, in the sentence, "Reading mystery novels is one of her favorite pastimes," the gerund phrase is “reading mystery novels,” which serves as a subject.

Using ing in English to form gerunds improves communication. Mastering the rules above will also add depth to your speeches, develop your language skills, and allow you to express yourself in laconic ways.

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Verbs ending in ing as present participles

Regarding the -ing form of verbs, present participles may be adjective or verb forms used in continuous tenses. Depending on the function, they might be placed differently in the sentence and follow different rules.

-Ing verbs as adjectives

'-ing' adjectives are formed from verbs by adding '-ing' to the base form of the verb, thereby turning them into words that describe the state of being or the characteristics of a noun. For instance, in the phrase "a running stream," 'running' is an adjective that describes the stream. Such adjectives play several roles in sentences:

  • To describe a noun. In this case, the adjective should be placed before the noun or pronoun it modifies. Such a verb ending in -ing shouldn’t come alone in a sentence. (The smiling child waved.);
  • To indicate the cause of feeling or reaction. In such cases, the adjective can be placed at the end of the sentence or after a predicate. However, an adjective should always correspond to the noun. (The movie was surprising.);

One of the most common mistakes is confusing present participles with past participles. The former forms an adjective or continuous tenses, while the latter is used for passive voice and perfect tenses. The past participle is created by adding “-ed” to the end of the verb or changing the verb form for irregular verbs.

-Ing verbs in continuous tenses

Continuous tenses are formed by using the auxiliary verb 'to be' in its various forms, followed by the main verb with an '-ing' ending. This construction indicates that an action is or was progressing at a specific moment. Continuous tenses include the present continuous, past continuous, and future continuous. Their roles are as follows:

  • Expressing ongoing actions. Continuous tenses are primarily used to describe actions happening at the moment of speaking or around a past or future moment. 
    • I am reading a book.
    • He was cooking when I came.
    • I had been speaking about sharks when she interrupted me.
  • Describing temporary situations. They can indicate temporary behaviors or situations.
    • She is living in Paris this year.
  • Showing future plans. Especially with the present continuous, to talk about arranged future activities. 
    • We are meeting them tomorrow.
    • This time next week, I will be lying on the beach, enjoying the sun.
  • Indicating changes over time. To describe changes happening over a period. 
    • The climate is getting warmer.
    • More people are starting to work remotely, changing the traditional office landscape.

One of the most common mistakes regarding continuous tenses is overusing them. Remember that some words aren’t suitable for continuous forms. Some of the examples are the verbs “know,” “believe,” “love,” and so on. Such verbs describe states instead of actions. So, try to avoid using them in continuous tenses.

Conclusion

Verbs ending in '-ing' are challenging since they may serve different functions. By mastering their rules and avoiding common mistakes, you can significantly reach English proficiency. Like any aspect of language learning, practice is key. Experiment with writing and speaking, using gerunds and present participles in different contexts, and you'll find them becoming a natural part of your conversational skills.

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