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What Are Present Participles?

What Are Present Participles?

Present participles are formed from verbs. Present participles (just like past participles) can be used as adjectives or used to form verb tenses. For example:

The verb: to laugh
The present participle: laughing
The present participle used as an adjective: The laughing boy
The present participle used to form a verb tense: The boy was laughing.

There are two types of participles:
  • The Present Participle
  • (ending -ing)
  • The Past Participle
  • (usually ending -ed, -d, -t, -en, or -n)
Present and past participles are classified as verbals. (A verbal is a verb form that functions either as an adjective or a noun.)

Examples of Present Participles Being Used As Adjectives

Here are some examples of present participles being used as adjectives:

The VerbThe Present Participle
To runrunning water
To flourishflourishing business
To discouragediscouraging glance

Present Participles in Participle Phrases

It is really common to see present participles in participle phrases. A participle phrase also acts like an adjective. In the examples below, the participle phrases are shaded and the present participles are in bold:
  • My mother is next to the lady wearing the red hat.
  • (The participle phrase wearing the red hat describes the lady.)
  • I know a pond teeming with fish.
  • (The participle phrase teeming with fish describes a pond.)
  • Frantically shuffling through her coppers, Jackie hoped to find another silver coin.
  • (The participle phrase Frantically shuffling through her coppers describes Jackie.)
  • Relying on Mark's inability to cast accurately, Lee plonked his bait exactly where Mark had just caught the small pouting.
  • (The participle phrase Relying on Mark's inability to cast accurately describes Lee.)
Read more about participle phrases.

More Examples of Present Participles Used as Adjectives

Here are some real-life examples of present participles (shaded) being used as adjectives:
  • Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual. (Terry Pratchett)
  • Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped. (Sam Levenson, 1911-1980)
  • Love is the big booming beat which covers up the noise of hate. (Margaret Cho)
  • All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one. (Hugh Macleod)

Present Participles Used in Verb Tenses

As well as being used as adjectives, present participles are also used to form verb tenses. Here are the verb tenses (present participles shaded):

The 4 Past Tenses Example
simple past tense I talked
past progressive tense I was talking
past perfect tense I had talked
past perfect progressive tenseI had been talking
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I talk
present progressive tense I am talking
present perfect tense I have talked
present perfect progressive tense I have been talking
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will talk
future progressive tense I will be talking
future perfect tense I will have talked
future perfect progressive tense I will have been talking

Do a test on verb tenses

Do Not Confuse Present Participles with Gerunds

Present participles should not be confused with gerunds,which are nouns formed from verbs. Gerunds also end -ing. For example:
  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. (Shirley Temple)
  • (This is a gerund not a present participle.)
Interactive Test
Click on the present participles:



 

Note

Forming the Present Participle (Regular Verbs)

A present participle is formed like this:

Add "ing" to most verbs:
  • play > playing
  • shout > shouting

For verbs that end "e", remove the "e" and add "ing":
  • prepare > preparing
  • ride > riding

For verbs that end "ie", change the "ie" to "y" and add "ing":
  • lie > lying
  • untie > untying

For verbs whose last syllable is written [consonant-vowel-consonant] and is stressed, double the final consonant and add "ing":
  • run > running
  • forget > forgetting