We make the -ing form by adding -ing to the base verb and adjusting the spelling as necessary:
- work → working
- sit → sitting
- smoke → smoking
We use the -ing form in various ways as shown below.
-ing Form for Continuous Tenses
The -ing form is used in past, present and future continuous tenses, for example:
- Anthony was fishing.
- The boys have been playing tennis.
- We will be working when you arrive.
-ing Form as Subject, Object or Complement
We can use the -ing form as the subject, object or complement of a clause, for example:
- Smoking costs a lot of money.
- I don’t like writing.
- My favourite occupation is reading.
Sometimes the -ing form can also have an object itself. In this case, the whole expression [-ing + object] can be the subject, object or complement of a clause or sentence.
- [Smoking cigarettes] costs a lot of money.
- I don’t like [writing letters] and I hate [reading emails].
- My favourite occupation is [reading detective stories].
-ing Form with Adjectives and Determiners
- pointless questioning
- a settling of debts
- the making of this film
- his drinking of alcohol
Note that when we use the -ing form with an adjective or determiner, it does not usually take a direct object. Compare these sentences:
- Making this film was expensive.
- The making of this film was expensive.
The making this film
-ing Form after Preposition
If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be in -ing form. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition. So, for example, we say:
- I will call you after arriving at the office.
I will call after to arrive at the office.
- Please have a drink before leaving.
- I am looking forward to meeting you.
- Do you object to working late?
- Tara always dreams about going on holiday.
-ing Form after Certain Verbs
We sometimes use one verb after another verb. Often the second verb is in the to-infinitive form, for example:
But sometimes the second verb must be in -ing form, for example:
This depends on the first verb. Here is a list of verbs that are usually followed by a verb in -ing form:
- admit, appreciate, avoid, carry on, consider, defer, delay, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, escape, excuse, face, feel like, finish, forgive, give up, can’t help, imagine, involve, leave off, mention, mind, miss, postpone, practise, put off, report, resent, risk, can’t stand, suggest, understand
Look at these examples:
- She will consider having a holiday.
She will consider to have a holiday.
- Do you feel like going out?
- I can’t help falling in love with you.
- I can’t stand not seeing you.
- I like to play tennis. / I like playing tennis.
- It started to rain. / It started raining.
-ing Form in Passive Sense
We often use the -ing form after the verbs need, require and want.
In this case, the -ing form has a passive sense.
Look at these example sentences. Notice that this construction can be in any tense:
- I have three shirts that need washing. (need to be washed)
- I sent it back to the shop because it needed fixing. (needed to be fixed)
- This letter requires signing. (needs to be signed)
- The contract will require signing tomorrow. (will need to be signed)
- The house wants repainting. (needs to be repainted)
- Your hair’s wanted cutting for weeks. (has needed to be cut)
Note that the expression “something wants doing” is used more in British English than in American English.