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Present Participles of English Verbs

Present participles, or -ing participles, are a nonfinite verb form in English that perform verbal, adjectival, and nominal functions. The following sections explain how to form present participles and how to use present participles in English and include examples to illustrate form and function. Present participles are also referred to as -ing participles, active participles, progressive participles, continuous participles, imperfect participles, and gerund-participles.

Forming Present Participles

To form the present participle of most verbs in English, simply add the suffix -ing to the base form of the verb. The base form of a verb is defined as the infinitive without the preposition to infinitive marker. For example, the following list includes the infinitive, base form, and present participle of some common English verbs:

  • to ask – ask – asking
  • to be – be – being
  • to go – go – going
  • to sleep – sleep – sleeping

Some English verbs require some slight spelling changes between the base form and the present participle. For verbs that are spelled with a “silent” e on the end of the word, remove the “silent” e and then add the ­-ing suffix. For example:

  • to become – become – becoming
  • to give – give – giving
  • to have – have – having
  • to take – take – taking

For most verbs that are spelled with an ie at the end of the word, change the ie to a y and then add the ­-ing suffix. For example:

  • to die – die – dying
  • to lie – lie – lying
  • to tie – tie – tying
  • to vie – vie – vying

For one-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant other than w, x, and y, double the last consonant and then add the ­-ing suffix. For example:

  • to get – get – getting
  • to fit – fit – fitting
  • to put – put – putting
  • to run – run – running

For two-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant in which the second syllable is stressed, double the last consonant and then add the ­-ing suffix. For example:

  • to admit – admit – admitting
  • to format – format – formatting
  • to prefer – prefer – preferring
  • to regret – regret – regretting

For the few verbs spelled with a letter c at the end of the word, add a k after the c and then add the ­-ing suffix. For example:

  • to frolic – frolic – frolicking
  • to mimic – mimic – mimicking
  • to panic – panic – panicking
  • to traffic – traffic – trafficking

Using Present Participles

Present participles are prototypically used within progressive aspect and perfect-progressive aspect verb phrase constructions. For example, the following italicized verbs are present participles:

  • The conservation technician is repairing the book. (active present progressive)
  • My baby was crying all night. (active past progressive)
  • The scores had been being tabulated by an outside agency. (passive past perfect-progressive)
  • The children have been misbehaving today. (active present perfect-progressive)

Present participles also perform one adjectival function and six nominal functions in English grammar. The seven other functions of English present participles are:

  1. Noun phrase modifier (adjectival)
  2. Subject (nominal)
  3. Subject complement (nominal)
  4. Direct object (nominal)
  5. Object complement (nominal)
  6. Indirect object (nominal)
  7. Prepositional complement (nominal)
  8. Appositive (nominal)

For example:

  • The man mowing his lawn was my first grade teacher. (noun phrase modifier)
  • Swimming is a low-impact exercise. (subject)
  • My favorite activity is reading. (subject complement
  • Some house cats enjoy roaming outside. (direct object)
  • My grandfather considered his favorite pastime observing nature. (object complement)
  • The woman gave washing her car some consideration. (indirect object)
  • I object to painting the house green. (prepositional complement)
  • I hardly have time for my favorite hobby, reading. (appositive)

Present participles that perform nominal functions are sometimes referred to as gerunds.

Present participles in English are formed by adding an -ing suffix to the end of the base form of the verb. Some English verbs also require slight spelling changes to create the -ing participle. Present participles are used in progressive and perfect-progressive verb phrases as well as perform eight other grammatical functions.

References

Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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