What is a Present Participle? Difference between a Gerund and a Present Participle


In this lesson, I will mainly discuss the present participle what is similar in word structure, but quite different in their uses, for which it becomes difficult to recognize if it is a participle or a gerund.

-What is a participle?

Participles are verbal adjectives. That is when a verb word having an ‘ing’ or ed, -d, -t, -en, or -n at its end and performing the role of an adjective, is called a participle. As a participle is formed from a verb, it will have the characteristics of both verb and adjective.


  • I need some boiling water.
  • I found a destroyed bridge over a small river.

-Types of Participle:

Participles are of three types. They are:

  1. Present participle
  2. Past participle
  3. Perfect participle

-What is a Present Participle?

The verbs which do not have their own adjective form, take ‘-ing’ at their end, and function as an adjective is called a present participle.


  • This is an interesting story.
  • We love the sight of the setting sun.
  • William is a boring person.
  • What an amazing idea you have had!
  • My friend got a tiring job last month.
  • We saw a running bus going towards New York City.

-Uses of Present Participle:

Present participles can be used in a variety of ways in clauses and sentences.

  1. To form continuous tenses
  2. Used in front of a noun to function as an adjective
  3. Used after a noun to indicate the running state of that noun
  4. Used after a noun or an objective form of a pronoun
  5. Used to describe two actions happening at the same time
  6. Used to explain the reason behind doing something
  7. Used to express an action done continuously

1. – To Form Continuous Tenses:

To form all kinds of continuous tenses, the present participle form is needed.


  • The students are coming to school.
  • They will be reading at this time.
  • He was reading at that time.
  • The cricket players will have been playing tomorrow.

2. – Used in Front of a Noun to Function as an Adjective:

A present participle can be used in front of a noun to tell something about a noun or the running state of that noun.


  • The crying man is asking for help.
  • William is a boring person, I don’t like him.
  • The dancing lady conquered the heart of all the audience through her fascinating dance.

3. – Used After a Noun to Indicate the Running State of that Noun:

A present participle can be used to indicate the running state or action of that noun. That is, the action of that noun has not been completed.


  • The boys coming toward me are all my students.
  • The man talking to us is a University professor.
  • The students playing in the field are from this school.

4. – Used After a Noun or an Objective Form of a Pronoun:

After a noun or an objective form of a pronoun, a participle is used. The verbs that are used in this pattern are:

See, look, hear, sound, feel, taste, catch, find watch, smell, spend, waste, etc.


  • We saw him teaching English.
  • I heard them singing the national anthem.
  • Everybody watched him helping the old man.
  • I caught him stealing my cell phone.
  • My mother found some money lying under the bed.
  • I felt something crawling over my body.
  • My mother smelt something burning in the kitchen.
  • My friend spent the whole day playing cricket.
  • He wasted money buying some unnecessary things.

5. – Used to Describe Two Actions Happening at the Same Time:

A present participle can be used to describe two different things happening at the same time.


  • Reading books he gathered this knowledge.
  • Walking down the road I found my childhood friend.
  • Arriving late the job seeker realized he has missed the interview.
  • Driving to work I practice learning English.

6. – Used to Explain the Reason Behind Doing Something:

A present participle can be used to explain the reason behind doing something different action.


  • Being very poor, he could not bear the expenses of his studies.
  • Knowing that he failed the test, he planned to take better preparation.
  • Feeling bad, he left the place.
  • He is studying very hard thinking he might fail the test again.

7. – Used to Express an Action Done Continuously:

A present participle is often used to express an action done continuously at the time of performing the main action of the subject.


  • The school children came running to meet their teacher.
  • All the boys went away laughing.
  • We immediately got to talking to each other.
  • The singers entered the room singing a beautiful song.
  • They went laughing out of the room.

-Difference Between a Gerund and a Present Participle:

Both a gerund and a present participle look the same, so often it becomes somewhat difficult to recognize if it is a gerund or a participle. To identify which is what you are to look at what role they are playing in a sentence. The major differences between them are:

  1. A gerund acts like a noun in a sentence. A present participle acts like an adjective.
  2. A gerund can be the subject of a verb. A present participle cannot play the role of a subject of a verb.
  3. A gerund can be the object of a transitive verb. A present participle cannot play the role of an object of a verb.
  4. A gerund can be the object of a preposition. A present participle cannot be the object of a preposition.
  5. A gerund is used after a possessive adjective or possessive case. A present participle is used after an objective pronoun or an objective case. [Gerund: I saw his crossing the river. Present participle: I saw him crossing the river.]
Gerund and Present Participle

6. If the ‘-ing’ verb is used to make a compound noun, it is a gerund. And if ‘-ing’-verb is used to denote unfinished or ongoing work, then it is a present participle.

Rezaul Karim

Hi, my name is Rezaul Karim. I am an English teacher and founder of LearnEnglishWithRezaul.com. I work with non-native English learners to help them understand English grammar from basic to intermediate. I also help them improve their conversation skills, and communication ability and reduce their accent. I hope you may like my posts on this website, and if you really really feel that this page/website is useful for English learners, please happily share it for others to know.

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