-ing form (‘gerund’)

  • Gerund or participle
    Words like smoking, walking are verbs. But we can also use them as adjectives or nouns. Compare:
      You ‘re smoking too much these days, (part of a verb)
      There was a smoking cigarette end in the ashtray, (adjective)
      Smoking is bad for you. (noun: subject of sentence)

    When -ing forms are used as verbs or adjectives, they are called ‘present participles’. When they are more like nouns, grammars call them ‘gerunds’.
    For the use of gerunds, see this section and the next two.

  • Subject, object or complement of a sentence
      An -ing form can be a subject, object or complement.
      Smoking is bad for you. (subject)
      I hate packing (object)
      My favourite activity is reading (complement)

    The -ing form subject, object or complement is still a verb, and can have its own object.

      Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.
      I hate packing suitcases
      My favourite activity is reading poetry
      We can use determiners (for example the, my) with -ing forms.
      the opening of Parliament Do you mind my smoking?
      (OR, not so formal’.Do you mind me smoking?)
  • After verb
    After some verbs we can use an -ing form, but not an infinitive.
      I enjoy travelling (NOT I enjoy to travel)
      He s finished mending the car (not to mend . . . )

    Common verbs which are followed by an -ing form are:

    avoid forgive practise
    consider give up put off
    delay go risk
    dislike (can’t) help (can’t) stand
    enjoy imagine spend time/money
    excuse keep suggest
    feel like mind understand
    finish miss
      I dislike arguing about money.
      Forgive my Interrupting you.
      Let’s go swimming I can’t understand his being so late.

    After some verbs, we can use either an -ing form or an infinitive. For example: like, start, try, remember, forget.

      How old were you when you started to play/playing the piano?

    With some verbs, the two structures have different meanings.

  • After verb (passive meaning)
    After need and want, an -ing form has a passive meaning.
      Your hair needs cutting (= … needs to be cut.)
      The car wants servicing (= … needs to be serviced)
  • After preposition
    After prepositions we use -ing forms, not infinitives.
      Check the oil before starting the car. (NOT . .’. before to start . .. )
      You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
      You can get there faster by going on the motorway.
      When to is a preposition, we use an -ing form after it.
      I look forward to hearing from you. (NOT . . . to hear from you.)
  • it … -ing
      We can use it as a ‘preparatory subject’ for an -ing form
      It’s nice being with you.
      This is common in the structures It’s no good . . . -ing and It’s no use . . . ing.
      It’s no good talking to him — he never listens.
      It’s no use expecting her to say thank-you.