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Verb Function 3 - Present-Participial Phrase (-ing Phrase)

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Every verb has a present participle. Just add ‑ing as an ending. If a silent ‑e ends the word, then drop it: write, writing. If a consonant ends the word, you’ll sometimes have to double it: beginning, occurring (check the dictionary).

The present participle, which I call the ‑ing verb, shows up in verb conjugation. Add it to any form of the verb to be and you get the progressive tense (also called the progressive aspect):

We are studying ways to improve our writing styles. We should have been studying grammar in high school.

But the ‑ing verb also serves other vital roles. It can form the present-participial phrase, which can then act as a noun, an adjective, and sometimes an adverb. When the ‑ing verb acts as a noun, it gets a special name: gerund. Let’s take a look at examples of each:

Present-Participial Phrase Function
Running five miles a day improved the woman’s health. noun, subject of sentence
The woman running five miles a day improved her health. adjective, modifying woman
Running five miles a day, the woman improved her health. adjective modifying woman
The woman improved her health running five miles a day. adverb, modifying improved
The woman improved her health by running five miles a day. noun, object of the preposition by

 

Above you can see the amazing versatility of the verb form. We can take the same words—running five miles a day—and simply by manipulating the location of the ‑ing phrase and the structure of the sentence produce different sentences with different functions of the phrase.

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