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Understanding a Present Participle (Definition, Examples, Grammar)

What is a present participle? How is it it used in English? How are they formed? And what are the grammar rules that govern them? These are all common questions that will get answered in this complete English grammar guide. Continue reading to start learning!

Present participle
Present participle

What is the present participle?

The term “present participle” refers to a form of the verb in English that expresses an action that is taking place at the moment (or in the present). And can be altered by different verb tenses to indicate whether the action is ongoing or finished. A noun phrase.

Adjective phrases, nouns, or adjectives can all be modified by the verb. Additionally, a present participle can be used in four different verb tenses (as seen below) and employed as an adjective to modify another noun or adjective.

Present participle used as an adjective

The present participle can also be coupled with the adjectives, as shown below. Because a participle can function as an adjective, it can also produce an adjective phrase, or “participial phrase,” in this instance. Participial phrases, like other adjective phrases, are collections of words that begin with a participle and serve to characterize a noun.

  • It was an alluring scene.
  • The game was satisfying.
  • We checked the horrifying notes.
Present participle
Present participle

Present Participle With Verb Tenses

By altering the present participle with various verb tenses, including the present progressive, simple present tense, present perfect, and present perfect progressive tense, it is possible to demonstrate various points in the timeline.

Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense indicates something is happening in the story’s current context. This present participle is the same as the present tense of the verb without any additional modifiers or helper verbs (e.g., talk).

Example sentences:

  • I can talk for the whole day with my best friend.
  • When I am bored with my studies, I like to write poems from my imagination.
  • I am going to study as my semester exams are coming at the end of this week.

Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense demonstrates that an action began in the past and is still in progress now. The present participle in this form complements the present tense of the verb “have” (e.g., have talked).

Example sentences:

  • I have to go to the museum today, as a new show will be shown there.
  • She has done her homework.

Present Continuous Tense

The present progressive tense depicts some continuing or ongoing activity that is happening right now but hasn’t necessarily finished. This present participle matches the present tense of the verb “to be” and ends in -ing rather than -ed (e.g., am talking).

Example sentences:

  • I am currently studying for my exams.
  • My dog is eating the food, after which he will go for a walk.
  • I am dancing in the hall.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The present perfect progressive tense depicts an ongoing activity that started in the past, was finished, but is still relevant in the present. When used with the present passive form of the verb had, this present participle form ends in -ing rather than -ed and might represent a duration for the activity (e.g., have been talking for three hours).

  • I have been eating for 2 hours.
  • She has been crying for the last two hours.
Present participle
Present participle

Making Present Participle

Normal Verbs

Regarding the present participle, two tenses (present progressive & present perfect progressive) end most frequently in -ing. One (present perfect) ends in -ed, and one form is highly similar to the infinitive (simple present).

Regular verbs form the “generic” case for the present participle, & most verbs are expected to adhere to the straightforward guidelines mentioned above.

Irregular Verbs

Regular verb usage does have certain exceptions, which we refer to as “irregular,” like with most English grammar. This is the problematic element of the language that must be learned by heart for various nouns, adjectives, and verbs. The list of frequent irregular verbs and their present participle forms is provided below.


  • Present: Talk
  • Present participle: I talk/I am talking/I have talked
  • Present: bite
  • Present participle: I bite/I am biting/I have bitten

It becomes apparent from the examples in the preceding section that the present participle is a grammatical construction that is quite widespread, whether or not one is aware of its name.

The majority of the time, it is said or written correctly, but irregular verbs are the ones that tend to cause the most confusion. The present participle is easier to think about than the past or future participles because there are fewer variations of irregular verbs to remember. And one may be sure that even more irregular verbs fall under the general category.

Present participle vs. Gerunds

While both can look similar, a gerund will only act as a noun. In contrast, the present participle acts as an adjective or verb. When you add ‘ing’ to a verb, it becomes a gerund.

You can add excitement and information to your sentences by using participle phrases. Any additional modifiers you may offer are beneficial since readers like to know more about what is happening in a sentence.

However, be careful where you place those participle words, and make sure they aren’t left hanging as modifiers!


What is an example of a present participle?

Every English verb has a form, one of which is the present participle, also referred to as the gerund. We take the verb’s basic form and add -ing to make it. Take the word Eat as an example. The present participle would be ‘eating.’

What is the present participle’s grammar rule?

Adding the suffix -ing to the root form creates the present participle for most verbs. For instance, exhibiting is the present participle of the verb ‘exhibit.’

What distinguishes the present tense from the present participle?

The verb’s present participle is one of its forms, namely its -ing form. A verb tense is present continuous (also known as progressive). The present continuous tense is created by combining the present participle with the corresponding form of to be. ‘Reading’ is the present participle of the verb “read.”

Why are present participles used?

A present participle can express one of two simultaneous activities that the same thing or person carries out. The initial action might be expressed with a present participle when it occurs rapidly after another action performed by the same person or thing.

Can a present participle be used to begin a sentence?

In most cases, the present-participial phrase serves as an adjective. It may appear at any point in a sentence—at the start, middle, or conclusion. Make sure the grammatical subject of the sentence is the one carrying out the verbal activity when you begin a sentence with a present-participial phrase.

What kinds of participles are there?

Present participles & past participles are the two categories of participles. The perfect tenses are expressed using the past participle, while the continuous tenses are expressed using the present participle. Both are adverbial terms.


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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