Present participle / ing-form

(Use and formation of the present participle or ing-form of the verb in English)

What is the present participle and how is it used (explanation)?

The present participle (sometimes also called ing-participle) or simply ing-form can be used in different ways. It is not limited to a specific word category! In general, it is often utilised as follows:

  1. The present participle can assume the role of different parts of speech:
    • As a full/main verb in the ing-form (progressive form) in the continuous tenses:
    • Employment of the present participle as an adjective with reference to a noun:
      • “My trip to South America was an exciting experience.”
      • “The movie was very interesting.”
    • Alternatively, direct use as a noun in the form of a gerund:
      • “My brother is taking driving lessons.”
      • Running a marathon is very difficult.”
  2. The ing-participle serves to connect clauses or parts of sentences with the same subject:
    • Connected structure: “Tony left without saying anything.”
      • “Tony left and didn’t say anything.”
        • Two clauses are joined by the conjunction ‘and’.
      • “Tony left. She didn’t say anything.”
        • two separate sentences
  3. It is also possible to shorten relative clauses in which the relative pronoun is omitted:
    • Shortened structure: “The man living next door is my grandfather.”
      • “The man who lives next door is my grandfather.”
  4. Usage of the ing-form after verbs that express stillness and movement, such as ‘go, come, run, lie, sit, stand, stay’:
    • “The woman ran screaming down the street.”
  5. Also, after verbs that describe senses and perceptions such as ‘feel, hear, see, watch, smell, listen to, notice, find’:
    • “The postman saw the dog sleeping in front of the house.”
  6. Furthermore, the present participle may appear in sentences with ‘there + to be’ (‘is, are, have been’ etc.):
    • “In the city centre, there was a car driving too fast.”
    • There are a lot of people waiting in line at the bank.”
  7. In addition, there is a whole series of verbs that can or must be followed by a verb in the ing-form. In such a case, there may be a difference in meaning between ing- and simple forms:
    • Example verbs that the present participle can follow are ‘start, continue, begin’ etc.:
      • “The teacher continued showing the video.”
    • The ing-form needs to come after specific verbs including ‘finish, avoid, keep on, suggest, enjoy, mind’:
      • “Sue has just finished painting.”
    • Verbs such as ‘stop, regret, remember’ have a different meaning when followed by an ing-form as to when followed by a simple form:
      • “Finally, it stopped raining.”

How is the present participle formed (particularities)?

The present participle is generally formed by adding the suffix ‘-ing’ to the word stem (therefore, it is sometimes called ing-participle). In spite of that, there are some distinctive peculiarities about spelling, which need to be taken into account when forming it. Compare the formation in detail:

  1. In most cases, simply ‘-ing’ is attached to the verb without changing it:
    • talk → talking
    • spy → spying
  2. However, if the verb ends with an ‘-e’, the same is omitted:
    • take → taking
    • move → moving
    • Be careful: If there is a doublee’ at the end of the verb, the vowel stays:
      • see → seeing
  3. If the verb ends with a stressed vowel + consonant, the consonant is doubled:
    • run → running
    • fit → fitting
    • prefer → preferring
    • Be careful: Verbs whose last syllable is not stressed are not subject to a doubling of the consonant (for exceptions see differences in American and British English below):
      • render → rendering
      • reckon → reckoning
    • Similarly, after a double vowel, the consonant is not doubled either:
      • conceal → concealing
  4. For verbs ending in ‘-ie’, the ‘-ie’ is replaced by ‘-y’ in order to avoid three vowels in a row:
    • tie → tying
    • lie → lying
  5. Verbs that have an ‘-ic’ at the end get an additional ‘-k’ inserted before the ending ‘-ing’:
    • panic → panicking

Spelling differences of the present participle in American and British English

There are slight differences between British and American English concerning the formation of the present participle (ing-form) and accordingly its spelling. The following needs to be considered in detail:

  • In British English, verbs that end with a stressed or an unstressed vowel + ‘-l’ double the ‘-l’ and add ‘-ing’ to it:
    • travel → travelling
      • The last syllable contains an unstressed vowel; ‘-l’ is doubled.
    • enrol → enrolling
      • Here, the last syllable contains a stressed vowel, and so the ‘-l’ is doubled here too.
  • In American English, on the other hand, the ‘-l’ is only doubled in verbs that end with a stressed vowel + ‘-l’:
    • travel → traveling
      • Here, an unstressed vowel appears inside the last syllable; accordingly no doubling occurs.
    • enrol → enrolling
      • Stressed vowel at the end, and so the ‘-l’ is doubled.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Present participle’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Use and formation of the present participle (ing-form)’ and may also be helpful: