The present participle form of English verbs is among the most versatile in the language. Using this form expands the writer’s vocabulary and versatility.
Look up any verb in a good dictionary, and you will see in the entry the participial forms of that verb: both the past participle form and the present. Knowing these forms of the verbs instantly adds to one’s vocabulary and fluency. Present participles also enable the English user to talk about an activity.
Forming the Present Participle
The present participle of all English verbs is formed by adding the suffix -ing. The only complication is spelling: what to add or delete before adding the -ing. The dictionary will tell you. But in brief, here are the spelling patterns for adding the suffix, -ing.
- If the verb ends in the letter ‘e’ drop the ‘e’ and then add ‘ing.’ Examples: complete-completing relate – relating dance-dancing invite – inviting
- If the verb is one syllable and is a consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) syllable, double the final consonant and then add ‘-ing. Examples: chop – chopping wrap – wrapping sit – sitting cut – cutting
- If the word is a cvvc word, do NOT double the last consonant. Examples: meet – meeting seat – seating repeat – repeating bait – baiting
- If the word has more than one syllable, and the stress does NOT fall on the final syllable, do NOT double the final consonant. Examples: benefit – benefiting travel – traveling counsel – counseling
The Present Participle as Adjective
The present participle is often used as an adjective, in front of a noun. Often, these participles describe something that causes a feeling. Consider this passage:
The children went to an amusement park. They went on many exciting rides, including a huge roller-coaster. The thrilling rides made them scream and laugh. The laughing children enjoyed their day at the amusement park. Only one disappointing thing happened: they didn’t have enough money to go on all the rides.
The present participle often follows a linking verb. In this case, the participle describes the subject (becomes a predicate adjective). Consider the following revision of the preceding example:
The children went to an amusement park. The rides were exciting and thrilling. However, the children didn’t have enough money to go on every exciting ride at the park. That was disappointing.
The Present Participle as Subject
Present participles can also be used as nouns, and therefore as the subject of a sentence. This usage comes in handy when one is trying to write or talk about an activity. Read the following passages:
Raising children requires patience and confidence. Knowing when to firmly say “no” to a child without anger creates safe boundaries and limits. Giving in to every demand or desire of a child can spoil the child, and fails to teach healthy boundaries. Sometimes, saying ‘yes’ is easier, but doing so might not benefit the child in the long term.
Exercising, as we all know, is essential to health and fitness. But we all have to find the particular form of exercise we enjoy enough to do on a regular basis. For some people, dancing satisfies that requirement. For people who prefer to be outdoors, hiking and bicycling are more satisfying forms of exercise. Whatever form it takes, exercising regularly provides many benefits.
Present Participle as Part of a Verb
And finally, of course, the present participle can be used as part of a verb, specifically the verbs in the progressive tense. The Progressive Tense is composed of two parts: the helper verb To Be, plus the participle. By itself, a present participle is not a verb, and cannot be a verb.
Examples of the progressive tense:
Sarah is eating. (Present progressive tense)
Alan was eating. (Past progressive tense)
Sylvia will be eating. (Future progressive tense)
Practice Using Participles
To increase sentence fluency and versatility, practice using the participle in various ways. Making mistakes is to be expected: Sometimes the present participle cannot be used as a subject, or its use as an adjective may be inappropriate or improper. Only by trying out various uses of present participles will the English learner discover when to use this versatile word form.