THE PRESENT PARTICIPLE
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
(See continuous tenses in VERB TENSES)
I am working,
he was singing,
they have been walking.
b. after verbs of movement/position in the pattern: verb + present
l She went shopping
l He lay looking up at the clouds
l 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 an
incomplete action, or part of an action.
I heard Joanna singing (= she had started before I heard her, and probably went on
l I heard Joanna sing (= I heard her complete performance)
d. as an adjective
amazing, worrying, exciting, boring.
l It was an amazing film.
l It's a bit worrying when the police stop you
l Dark billowing clouds often precede a storm.
l Racing cars can go as fast as 400kph.
l He was trapped inside the burning house.
l Many of his paintings depict the setting sun.
e. with the verbs spend and waste, in the pattern:
verb + time/money expression + present participle
l My boss spends two hours a day travelling to work.
l Don't waste time playing computer games!
l 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:
l If I catch you stealing my apples again, there'll be trouble!
l Don't let him catch you reading his letters.
This is not the case with find, which is unemotional:
l We found some money lying on the ground.
l They found their mother sitting in the garden.
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:
l 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...)
l Being poor, he didn't spend much on clothes.
l Knowing that his mother was coming, he cleaned the flat.