Present Participle

The present participle of most verbs has the form base+ing and is used in the following ways:

a. as part of the continuous form of a verb


  • I am working
  • he was singing
  • they have been walking


b. after verbs of movement/position in the pattern: verb + present participle



  • She went shopping
  • He lay looking up at the clouds
  • She came running towards me

This construction is particularly useful with the verb 'to go', as in these common expressions :

to go shopping
to go ski-ing
to go fishing
to go surfing

to go walking
to go swimming
to go running
to go dancing

c. after verbs of perception in the pattern:
verb + object + present participle


  • I heard someone singing.
  • He saw his friend walking along the road.
  • I can smell something burning!

NOTE: There is a difference in meaning when such a sentence contains a zero-infinitive rather than a participle. The infinitive refers to a complete action, but the participle refers to anincomplete action, or part of an action.


  •      I heard Petra singing (= she had started before I heard her, and probably went on afterwards)
  • I heard Petra sing (= I heard her complete performance)

d. as an adjective


amazing, worrying, exciting, boring.

  • It was an amazing movie.
  • It's a bit worrying when the police stop you
  • Dark billowing clouds often precede a storm.
  • Racing cars can go as fast as 400kph.
  • He was trapped inside the burning house.
  • Many of his paintings depict the setting sun.

e. with the verbs spend and waste, in the pattern:
verb + time/money expression + present participle


  •      My boss spends three hours a day travelling to work.
  • Don't waste time playing video games!
  • They've spent the whole day shopping.

f. with the verbs catch and find, in the pattern:
verb + object + present participle:

With catch, the participle always refers to an action which causes annoyance or anger:

  •      If I catch you stealing my pears again, there'll be trouble!
  • Don't let him catch you reading his diary.

This is not the case with find, which is unemotional:

          We found some money lying on the ground.

  • They found their mother sitting in the park.

g. to replace a sentence or part of a sentence:

When two actions occur at the same time, and are done by the same person or thing, we can use a present participle to describe one of them:

  • They went out into the snow. They laughed as they went. - They went laughing out into the snow.
  • He whistled to himself. He walked down the road. - Whistling to himself, he walked down the road.

When one action follows very quickly after another done by the same person or thing, we can express the first action with a present participle:

  • He put on his coat and left the house. - Putting on his coat, he left the house.


  • She dropped the gun and put her hands in the air. - Dropping the gun, she put her hands in the air.

The present participle can be used instead of a phrase starting as, since, because, and it explains the cause or reason for an action:

  • Feeling hungry, he went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
    (= because he felt hungry...)
  • Being poor, he didn't spend much on clothes.
  • Knowing that his mother was coming, he cleaned the house.