Present Participle

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What Is Present Participle?

Present participle is the form of a verbOpens in new window ending in –ing. A present participle is used in the following ways:

  1. To form progressive and continuous tensesOpens in new window:

    • He’s coming.
  2. It is used as a nounOpens in new window:

    • Home coming.
  3. It is used as an adjectiveOpens in new window:

    • Running water.
  4. It is also used alone in non–finite clauses:

    • Sitting here, I haven’t a thing in the world.

The meaning of Present Participle Verbs

The Present participle with its –ing ending, signifies or expresses an action, or the suffering of an action, or the being, state, or condition of a thing as continuing and progressive.

In the active voiceOpens in new window, the present participle has an active signification.

For example:
  • James is building the house.

In addition to this, it also has a passive signification.

For example:
  • The house was building when the flood started.

In the passive voiceOpens in new window, however, the present participle has only a passive signification, and hints the present existence of an act as completed, but never as in progress.

Consider this sentence:
  • The arrangements being made, he is now ready to proceed.

In the sentence above, the arrangements, are evidently considered as completed.

To represent them as in progress, we would say thus:

  • While the arrangements are making, his superintendence is indispensable”
  • Here, the participle making is used in the passive sense.

The present participle verb is formed by the addition of an –ing ending to the base form of verb:

Base FormPresent

Note that in the present participle forms, if a verb ends in a single consonant preceded by a stressed short vowel, the consonant is usually doubled:

Base FormPresent

However, when a verb ends in voiceless –e, the –e is usually omitted before the –ing ending:

  • come → coming
  • have → having
  • write → writing.

Ways of Using Present Participle Verbs

The present participle can be used in many ways. It is more often used in the progressive tenses after a form of the verb be.

Examples include:
    The workers are having lunch in the cafeteria.
  • They were going to the cinema.
  • I am being delayed.

Although less common, the present participle can be used as a complement of certain verbs:

Examples include:
    • He likes watching the talk show every night.

    “watching” as complement of the verb “likes”

    • I hate driving the car alone.

    “driving” as complement of the verb “hate”

    • They prefer staying together.

    “staying” as complement of the verb “prefer”

Present participles are also used in clauses to indicate the continuous forms of verbs, as:

  • going solo, riding bare bareback

The present participle can also assume the role of nouns known as gerundsOpens in new window:

  • Don’t make fun of my dancing.
  • Swimming can be fun.
  • John’s occupation is schooling.

Difficulties with Present Participle

Non–native speakers of English language sometimes encounter complications when using a present participle with a pronoun. Most people especially non-native speakers of English are uncertain as to which type of pronounOpens in new window to use before a particular participle.

The rule is that, if the participle has its own subject (meaning that the participle is actually a gerund, acting more like a noun than a verb), then the possessive pronoun is appropriate.
Observe this sentence:
  • How about my bringing something to eat?

If the participle is acting more like a verb than a noun, then the possessive form should not be used:

  • Do you mind me singing?
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