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Verb Forms and Verb Tenses: Verb Forms and Verb Tenses (#5): The -ing Form

Dennis Oliver
Verb Forms and Verb Tenses (#5):

The - ing Form

English verbs have five basic forms: the base form, the - S form,
the - ing form, the past form, and the past participle form. The
- ing ending for English verbs is used in several different situations:


The -ing ending is used to show the progressive
aspect (progressive / continuous verb tenses).

The progressive aspect shows that an action is / was /
has been / had been / will be (etc.) in progress at a
particular time or during a particular period of time.
It often suggests that the action is / was / has been /
had been / will be (etc.) long or uninterrupted.

All of the English tenses can use the progressive aspect--
and in both active and passive sentences. Progressive
aspect always has at least two parts: the verb 
be (which
is often contracted) and an 
- ing verb:

He's studying.

They were going home when I saw them.

You've been working too hard!

We'd been talking about you before you called.

At 1:00 AM, I'll be sleeping.

John might be working. I'm not sure

The operation is being performed right now.

The letters were being typed when I left.


The -ing form is also used for gerunds (verbs which
are used as nouns).

Gerunds can be used as nouns for subjects and
subject complements:

Learning a language isn't easy.

Talking to Bill was a lot of fun.

Communicating by e-mail has become
very common.

His hobby is collecting stamps.


Gerunds can also be used as nouns for 
of verbs and prepositions:

They dislike studying.

For exercise, he recommends swimming.

He doesn't care about being on time.

They're tired of listening to you.

Did he succeed in solving the problem?


The -ing form is also seen in participles (verb forms
which are used as adjectives).

Participles are commonly used as adjectives which
modify nouns:

The movie was boring.

That was an exciting game.

His explanation was confusing.


Participles are also used in phrases which modify
parts of sentences or entire sentences:

Whistling happily, he began to work.

He entered the room, whistling happily,
and began to work.

Holding his hands in the air, he surrendered.

He surrendered reluctantly, knowing that
he had no other choice.


The -ing form is also used after go in many expressions
showing leisure-time activities--including

go bowling, go dancing, go diving,
go drink
ing, go fishing, go hiking,
go horseback rid
ing, go jogging, go skating,
go swimm
ing, go shopping, go skiing



Special Notes:


After to, base forms are generally used, but when
to is part of a 
phrasal verb and when to is used as
preposition, it is followed by an - ing form:

I want to see you. /
I look forward to 
seeing you.

Are you able to do it by yourself? /
Are you up to 
doing it by yourself?

He used to smoke. /
He's used to 


If phrases with participles are at the beginning of
a sentence, they should modify / describe the 
noun or pronoun in the sentence:

Whistling happily, he began to work.
("Whistling happily" modifies "he.")

Holding his hands in the air, he surrendered.
("Holding his hands in the air" modifies "he.")


If a phrase with a participle is at the beginning of
a sentence and doesn't modify / describe the first
noun or pronoun, the meaning will not be clear.
In this situation, rewrite the sentence.

wrong--needs to be rewritten:

*Whistling happily, the work was
easy for him.

wrong--needs to be rewritten:

*Holding his hands in the air, the policeman knew
that the criminal wanted to surrender.


Both present participles (- ing forms) and past
participles can be used as adjectives, but they have
different meanings:

The movie bored me. --->
The movie was bor
ing. / I was bored.

That game excited me. --->
That was an excit
ing game /
I was excit
ed by that game.

His explanation confused me. --->
His explanation was confus
I was confus
ed by his explanation.


The combination go + an - ing form is not used for
all leisure-time activities:


*I go watching TV on weekends.

*I go playing tennis on weekends.

*I go sleeping late on weekends.

*I go relaxing with my friends on weekends.


Some verbs which combine with other words are
followed by an -ing form (gerund), not to and
a base form:

I regret saying that.

He admitted stealing the money.

I recommend seeing a doctor.

He considered taking a vacation.

They proposed taking a break.

Did she suggest cheating?

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