What Is a Present Participle? | Examples & Definition

A present participle is a word derived from a verb that can be used as an adjective and to form the continuous verb tenses. It is one of two types of participles, along with past participles.

The present participles of both regular and irregular verbs end in “-ing” (e.g., “traveling”).

Examples: Present participles in a sentence
Jessica found skydiving to be a terrifying experience.

Running to catch his bus, Darren tripped and fell.

I would love to go to the concert, but I’m working this weekend.

Sara has been planning a trip to Machu Picchu for the last few weeks.

How to form present participles

The present participles of most regular and irregular verbs are formed by adding “-ing” to the base form of the verb (e.g., “imply” becomes “implying”).

Examples: Past participles of regular and irregular verbs
Feeling sympathy for Martin, Daryl offered to help.

It’s not my fault we’re lost. The map is confusing!

Max is running for mayor again, in spite of his many defeats.

Note
The present participles of some words are formed differently depending on whether you’re writing US or UK English:

  • In UK English, the present participles of two-syllable words that end in “l” are typically formed by doubling the “l” and adding “-ing” (e.g., “model” becomes “modelling”).
  • In US English, the “l” is doubled only when the final syllable is stressed (e.g., “control” becomes “controlling,” but “model” becomes “modeling”).

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Using a present participle as an adjective

Present participles can be used as adjectives to modify a noun or pronoun.

Examples: Present participle as an adjective
Denise finds public speaking overwhelming.

The book has a boring, gray cover.

The work is exhausting, but it’s also satisfying.

Participial phrases

A participial phrase is a phrase that begins with a participle and functions as an adjective. Participial phrases are used to modify a noun or pronoun in the main clause of a sentence.

A participial phrase at the start of a sentence should always be followed by a comma. Participial phrases in the middle of a sentence are set off by commas unless they provide essential information.

Examples: Participial phrase in a sentence
Awaiting the judge’s verdict, the defendant took a deep breath.

Rishi, looking for his wallet, retraced his steps.

The man hosting the event is a well-known socialite.

Note
In order to avoid a dangling participle (i.e., a grammatical error caused when a participial phrase modifies the wrong noun or pronoun), place the noun or pronoun being modified immediately after the participial phrase.

  • Walking across the road, a car almost struck Jeff.
  • Walking across the road, Jeff was almost struck by a car.

    In the first example, the mistake suggests that the car was walking across the road. Placing the correct noun (“Jeff”) immediately after the participial phrase resolves this issue.

    Present participles and continuous verb tenses

    The continuous verb tenses (also called progressive verb tenses) are formed using a conjugated form of the auxiliary verb “be” along with a present participle.

    There are three main continuous tenses:

    • Past continuous (used to describe an ongoing past event, often interrupted by another event)
    • Present continuous (used to describe an event that is currently taking place)
    • Future continuous (used to describe an event that will take place over a period of time in the future)
    Examples: Present participles and continuous verb tenses
    I was doing my homework when you called.

    Roman is fixing the broken boiler.

    Lori will be discussing the implications of her research in a series of lectures.

    Note
    The perfect continuous tenses are formed using a conjugated form of the auxiliary verb “have,” the past participle of the verb “be” (i.e., “been”), and a present participle (e.g., “I have been painting,” “she had been hiking,” “they will have been driving all day”).

    These tenses are less commonly used than other continuous tenses, but they’re still fairly common.

    Present participles vs. gerunds

    Both present participles and gerunds use the “-ing” form of a verb, but they have different grammatical roles:

    • Present participles are used as adjectives and to form the continuous verb tenses.
    • Gerunds function only as nouns.
    Examples: Present participles vs. gerunds
    I am reading a fascinating book.

    Exercising is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.

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    Other interesting language articles

    If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

    Frequently asked questions about the present participle

    What is the “-ing” form of a verb?

    The “-ing” form of a verb is called the present participle. Present participles can be used as adjectives (e.g., “a thrilling story”) and to form the continuous verb tenses (e.g., the present continuous: “We are partying”).

    Gerunds also use the “-ing” form of a verb, but they function only as nouns (e.g., “I don’t enjoy studying”).

    What is the present participle of “be”?

    The present participle of the verb “be” is “being” (e.g., “you are being callous”). The past participle of “be” is “been.”

    What is the present participle of “lie”?

    The present participle of the verb “lie” is “lying.” The present participles of verbs ending in “ie” are usually formed by replacing “ie” with “y” and adding the suffix “-ing.”

    Sources in this article

    We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

    This Scribbr article

    Ryan, E. (2023, September 25). What Is a Present Participle? | Examples & Definition. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/verbs/present-participle/

    Sources

    Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

    Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

    Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.