How to Use the -ing Form in English

While it sounds like you can use the -ing form for anything, there are specific ways to use it in different situations. Find out how (and when) to use the -ing form of a word in English.

The -ing form of a word can be used like a noun, a verb or an adjective.

The noun form of -ing

When the -ing form is used as a noun, it modifies (or gives context to) a verb.

✓ Nohelia loves dancing. (used as an object; verb + -ing form)
[Note: If the sentence says "Nohelia loves dance", then it is talking about dance as a concept, not as an action.)
✓ She knows a lot about dancing. (used as an object; verb + -ing form)
✓ Dancing is a good way to release stress. (used as a subject; -ing form + noun)

In all of these examples, dancing is a noun that the verb is referring to.

The adjective form of -ing

When it is used as an adjective, the -ing form describes another noun. (-ing form + noun)

✓ That movie had a surprising twist. (surprising describes the plot twist)
✓ He's a very exciting player to watch. (exciting describes the player)
x He's a very excite player to watch.
✓ I read an inspiring book. (inspiring describes the book)
x I read an inspire book.
[Note: You could say "I read a book that inspired me."] 

The verb form of -ing

When it is used as a verb, it signals that the tense is progressive, or continuous. It is used with the verbs "to be", or "to go". (verb + -ing form)

✓ I am walking as fast as I can! (this sentence is spoken while walking)
x I am walk as fast as I can!
✓ Alain was sitting on the bench over there. (he sat for a length of time in the past)
[Note: If you write "Alain sat on the bench over there.", it would mean he had been on the bench at some point in his life, rather than during a specific situation/time.]
✓ She will be baking cookies tonight. (she will bake cookies for a length of time in the future)
x She will be bake cookies tonight.  [Note: "She will bake cookies tonight" is fine.]

Generally, when speaking about a physical activity that you will do at a certain time, use "to go" + the -ing form:

✓ I'm going running after class.
x I'm go run after class.
✓ Matteo goes shopping when he's stressed.
x Matteo go shop when he's stressed.
✓ David will go bowling with his cousins this weekend.

Just as a reminder, here is how you conjugate the verbs "to be" and "to go"
Learn about the most commonly used irregular verbs.

to be to go 
present simple past present simple past
I am I was I go I went
you are you were you go You went
he/she is he/she/it was he/she/it goes he/she/it went
we are we were we go we went
you are you were you go you went
they are they were they go they went

Has this guide cleared up how and when to use the -ing form of words? If you have any questions about specific uses, ask in the comments below!

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