The present participle is a form of a verb that ends in –ing and follows another verb to form the present continuous tense. This tense refers to actions or events that are taking place now.
- Three balloons are rising steadily into the sky.
- A noisy crowd is watching two cocks fight in a cockpit.
- I saw him stealing from a drawer.
In the above sentences, rising, watching and stealing are present participles. The first two sentences ‘Three balloons are rising steadily into the sky’ and ‘A noisy crowd is watching two cocks fight in a cockpit’ are in the present continuous tense.
More examples of present participle
- It is still raining.
- The dog is barking at the clown.
- She went window-shopping with her friends.
- “What am I doing?” “Can’t you see I am cooking!”
- We saw a small dog chasing a big cat.
Position of present participle in a sentence
The present participle can come before
- an object:
He is scratching his head.
Father and son played catching the ball on the beach.
- a complement:
We are all getting older.Jack and Jill are becoming close friends.
- an object and a complement.
His behavior is making her angry. (Object: her; complement: angry)Mum and dad are buying us ice cream.
- an adverb
They are arriving together.He is jogging alone in the park.
Verb + preposition + present participle
- I had to apologize for stepping on her toes.
- They finally decided on robbing a smaller bank.
- Sometimes Jack and Jill think of going up the hill.
- She’s going to concentrate on passing her exam.
Present participle after conjunction
- Our boss went to play golf in spite of feeling unwell.
- Johnny has not been seen since leaving home.
- He never fails to turn off the light when leaving his bedroom.
- She is paid well for cleaning the office.
- We always have hot drinks after swimming.
Simple verb form + present participle
The simple form of the verb and the present participle can be used in place of each other without significantly affecting their meaning.
- We watched them fighting in the street.
- We watched them fight in the street.
- I saw him walk along the river.
- I saw him walking along the river.
- I heard her sing in the bathroom.
- I heard her singing in the bathroom.
There is no difference in meaning between the sentences in each pair.
The conjunction while could be better used with the above sentences.
- We watched them while they were fighting in the street.
- I saw Jack while he was walking along the river.
- I heard Jill while she was singing in the bathroom.
The use of while indicates an action is still going on (Jill was singing) when another action (I heard) happens.