Present participles are an essential aspect of English grammar. Here we'll look at the definition of present participles and explore their functions, with examples.
We'll also look at present participles phrases and how gerunds differ from present particles.
Present particles are derived from verbs and they are used to form the continuous tenses or to form adjectives.
If you take any base verb and add "-ing", you generally derive the present participle of that verb. For example, the verb "run" becomes "running", and "eat" turns into "eating".
Verbs, by themselves, denote actions. When a verb changes into its present participle form, it has the ability to express ongoing actions or states of being.
Now, moving on to how present participles help in making verb tenses.
Verbs in their base form alter into present participles to indicate continuous or progressive verb tenses. For instance, in "I am running", "running" is the present participle suggesting the ongoing nature of the action.
Let's take a look at some examples:
So we use the present participle to form the continuous tenses. But present participles aren't just confined to verb tenses. Amazingly, they also function as adjectives.
When a verb transforms into a present participle, it describes the subject or noun with a certain attribute or action. For instance, in the sentence "The running water was cold", "running" (from run) acts as an adjective to describe the state of the water.
Here are some other examples of present participles used as adjectives:
Switching gears, you should also be aware of how present participles can be used in participle phrases to act as adjectives.
A participle phrase is a group of words that starts with a present participle. Like an adjective, it provides more information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence.
Here's an example:
The phrase "Running down the street" begins with the present participle "running", and it explains more about the boy’s action.
The following are additional examples of present participle phrases:
Dynamic as they are, present participles often create confusion due to their similarity with gerunds. Both are formed by adding -ing to a verb, but don't be deceived, they have different functions!
While we've been discussing how present participles describe ongoing actions, function as adjectives, or form participle phrases, gerunds, on the other hand, behave like nouns. They can act as subjects, objects, or complements in a sentence.
Here's an example illustrating the difference:
"Running" acts as the object of the verb "love", hence it's a gerund. Compare this to when a present participle is used:
"Running" depicts the ongoing action of the subject ‘I’, making it a present participle used to create the present continuous tense.
Learning to differentiate between gerunds and present participles can be tricky. You might find it helpful to remember that, in a nutshell, if the "-ing" word is doing something or experiencing an action, it's a present participle. If the "-ing" word is being something, it's a gerund.
To further cement your understanding, here are more examples illustrating the difference:
Test yourself in this Gerund or Present Participle Quiz >>
English grammar is a complex system with many intricate aspects, and present participles form one of those critical parts. As you refine your understanding and get comfortable with using present participles, your proficiency in English increases and you can express yourself more fluidly and vividly.
The correct use of present participles can add depth and diversity to your sentences, while enhancing the precision of your communication. Be it forming verb tenses, acting as adjectives, or developing participle phrases, present participles allow for a wide range of functions, thus greatly enriching the English language.
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