Present Participles

A form of the verb ending in -ing is traditionally called a present participle, or occasionally an -ing participle. Although we will use the traditional term, note that "present" does not mean that the participle has a tense of its own. Phrases formed with present participles are not limited to appearing in present-tense sequences: (36) Reaching the summit of the mountain, Bob let out a shout of triumph. In the example above, the act of reaching the summit does not occur in the present. It occurs simultaneously with the action of shouting, which is in the past tense. To form a present participle, all you need to do is take the base form of the verb and add –ing: spend + -ing = spending be + -ing = being make + -ing = making As the final example shows, there may be a minor spelling change, but that should not obscure the basic regularity of the whole process. Present participles are completely regular in English. Every verb forms it exactly the same way, even the so-called irregular ones. Although every present participle ends in -ing, not every word that ends in -ing is a present participle: (37) The painting on the wall is a copy of a Rembrandt. (Noun) (38) The host was charming to her guests. (Adjective) (39) Veronica was charming her guests. (Participle) While painting in the first sentence is clearly a noun (among other things, it follows a determiner), the other two may need glossing. In the second sentence, charming is an adjective. It denotes a quality of the host, and thus the verb is simply was. In the final example, Veronica is doing something to her audience; i.e., charm is a transitive verb. Notice that while you can add the degree adverb very to the adjective in (38), you cannot do so to the participle in (39): (38b) The host was very charming to her guests. (39b) *Veronica was very charming her guests.