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.