§ 209.The ing-form in the function of subject usually express- es permanent or recurrent actions simultaneous with the action expressed by the predicate verb, e.g. Lookingafter one man is really enough, but two is rather an
undertaking. Passing a law about equal rights doesn't necessarily mean
that women get them.
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
Sentences with the ing-form as subject have certain structural peculiarities:
1) We find the ing-form as subject only in declarative sentenc- es. It is never used in interrogative sentences.
2) The ing-form as subject is always placed at the head of the sentence. It is never preceded by any secondary parts.
3) The ing-form as subject is occasionally found in sentences beginning with there is, but its use is restricted to negative sen- tences where it is usually preceded by no. This pattern is common in spoken English.
e.g. There was no arguingwith her about it when she had made
up her mind.
Well, there is no avoidinghim now. Of course, I am scared to hell. There's no denyingthat.
On the whole, however, the use of the ing-form as subject is mainly found in literary English but even here it is not of fre- quent occurrence.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 181 and 235.)
Theing-form as Predicative
§ 210.The ing-form as predicative is usually used after the link-verbs to be, to mean and to look and has appositive meaning.
e.g. The important part is helpingpeople so that they can live
I can't ask him for help. That would mean tellinghim every- thing about you and myself.
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
The ing-form as predicative is often preceded by like. It also has appositive meaning here, but the explanation is made by way of comparison.
e.g. To read his novels was like swimmingin a lake so clear that you could see the bottom.
At the time their quarrel looked like goingon for ever. Andrew looked like a small boy being teased.
Instances of the ing-form as predicative are scarce. Note. The ing-form as predicative is sometimes adjectivized.
e.g. That must be enormously exciting.
The journey was slow, rough and tiring and took us eleven days.
Hugh's tone got more and more insulting.
If the ing-form, were not adjectivized it would be taken for a continuous form. e.g. The quarrel ought to be stopped. They are insulting each other.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 182 and 236.)
Theing-form as Predicate § 211.The ing-iorm, as predicate is restricted to two sentence
1) interrogative sentences beginning with what about and how
about and implying suggestion,
e.g. What about going to London?
How about seeing what they are doing now?
2) exclamatory sentences expressing indignation, e.g. But lettinghim do it!
Sentences of both kinds are quite common in spoken English. (For comparison with the infinitive see § 183.)
The ing-form as Part of a Compound Verbal Predicate § 212.The ing form is lexically dependent in this function — it is used after a number of verbs denoting motion or position. They are: to come, to disappear, to go, to go out (round, around, about), to lie, to sit, to sit around (round), to stand, to stand around (round).
e.g. They came rushingin, laughing.
They had often gone fishingin those days. Are we going out dancingtonight?
He went about sniffing the air but there was no trace of gas.
They all sat around feeling very proud.
"I'm ready," he said to Maurice and stood waiting.
Next morning I woke early and lay listeningto the clatter of
dishes in the kitchen. He disappeared walking,there was no noise, nothing.
The two verbs of the combination form a close sense-unit. The first component has a weakened meaning and mainly serves as a fi- nite verb, while the meaning of the ing-form is quite prominent and determines the meaning of the whole combination.
e.g. In that mood I entered the bedroom, where Sheila was lying
reading, her book near the bedside lamp.
Sometimes she fell into despondency and sat doingnothing at all, neither reading nor sewing for half an hour at a time.
Note. Note the following set phrases:
e.g. I burst out laughing, and the others followed. All at once she burst out crying.
(For comparison with the infinitive see § 184.)
The ing-form as a Second Action Accompanying
the astion of the predicate verb. the Action of the Predicate Verb
§ 213. The ing-form may express a second action accom- anying the action expressed by the predicate verb. The subject of the ing-form is the same as the subject of the sentence. The ing-form in this function refers not to the predicate verb alone but to the whole predicate group. It does not form any close sense-unit with the predicate verb and can be found with verbal as well as with nominal predicates. The ing-form is not lexically dependent in this function.
e.g. They ran up the stairs brimming with excitement.
ou can't just sit there being talkedabout. I felt uneasy beingalone with him in that large house. Martha was upstairs getting ready. When I looked up he was still there waiting for me. She was sitting in the doorway of the tent reading.
As a rule, the ing-form follows the predicate group (see the examples above). But it may also be placed at the head of the sen- tence or between the subject and the predicate, e.g. Cominginto my office one evening in the autumn, he said
shyly: "Doing anything tonight?" Watchingthem with bold, excited eyes, Simon discussed their
I made to go out, but Roger, frowning,shook his head. In the taxi going home, Margaret, holdingmy hand against
her cheek, said: "You made a mistake, you know."
Note 1. When the ing-form is used to denote a second action, it is often sepa- rated by a comma from the rest of the sentence.
Note 2. The ing-forms of certain verbs have come to be used as prepositions or conjunctions. Care should be taken to distinguish them from the real ing forms.
e.g. Several officials, includingme, had been invited.
He says he willbe at the meeting place for three nights running next week
beginningon Monday. Well, considering that Hector's a politician, you can't say that he's altogether
Presuming the old man gets better and comes back to the job, then what?
Supposing you sold the land, what could you get for it?
"That will be all right, barringaccidents" I told him at once.
Note 3. Note that taking all things into consideration (account) has become a set phrase, e.g. Taking all things into consideration,I decided to tear my letter up.
In the vast majority of sentences we find a simple ing-iorm which expresses an action simultaneous with that of the predicate verb (see the examples above). Yet if both the predicate verb and the ing-form are expressed by terminative verbs, the action of the ing-form precedes that of the predicate verb. The ing-form in this case is placed before the predicate, e.g. Turningto his hostess, he remarked: "It's been a nice day."
(=He first turned to his hostess and then remarked.) Recovering from his excitement, he became practical again. Smith, turningto him, gave a serious contented smile. The use of the perfect ing-form,though quite possible, is not of frequent occurrence. It shows that the action of the ing-form
precedes that of the predicate verb. The Perfect ing-form is often placed before the predicate verb. e.g. Havingduly arrivedin Scotland, he took a train the next day to Manchester.
Having cuther dirty bandage, John started tying her hand.
Havinggradually wastedhis small fortune, he preferred to live on the generosity of others rather than work. Francis was there before me, havingcome by the morning train.
Norman, having lookedat his watch, slapped the play-script shut and put it on his chair.
As has been said, the subject of the ing form is usually the person or thing denoted by the subject of the sentence (see the ex- amples above). Occasionally, however, we come across instances of the ing form whose subject is expressed elsewhere, for instance, by one of the secondary parts of the sentence.
e.g. Walkingbeside his friend, it seemed to Normanthat life was not so bad after all.
But back in his office, lookingdown at his desk, hissense of well-being left him.
I love you like hell, Bridget. And, lovingyou like hell, you can't expect meto enjoy seeing you get married to a pot- bellied, pompous little peer who loses his temper when he doesn't win at tennis.
But searchingfor i's not dotted, t's uncrossed in his letter, it came to himthat all he had written were lies, big lies poured over the paper like a thick syrup.
The above use of the ing-form is not common. Since usually the subject of the ing-form is the same person or thing as the sub- ject of the sentence, it is not easy to identify the subject of the ing-form in sentences of the above kind. Hence, the term dangling or unattachedis applied to this ing-form in grammar.
The ing-form denoting a second action in the kind of sentences illustrated above is typical of literary style where its use is quite extensive, but it is hardly ever used in spoken English.
However, the ing-form denoting a second action is quite com- mon in spoken English after certain predicate groups. Here belong
the verbs to spend and to waste when they are followed by the noun time or some other expressions of time, and also after to have a good (hard, jolly, etc.,) time, to have difficulty, to have trouble and some others, e.g. She did little typing herself, but spent her time correcting the
work of the four girls she employed. Are you going to spend your life saying "ought", like the
rest of our moralists? She told me that she would often spend a whole morning
working upon a single page. Well, I'm sure I don't know why I waste time cooking a big
meal for this family if no one wants to eat it. He had a good time dancing at the club. They had difficulty finding his address.
In spoken English there is another sentence pattern in which the ing-form denoting a second action is also quite common. The sentence pattern includes the verb to be followed by an indication of place: to be here (there), to be in, to be in the room (kitchen, garden, office, etc.,), to be out, to be upstairs (downstairs) and the like.
e.g. Mother is out shopping.
Pat is downstairs talking to Father. Miss Smith was in her office typing.
(For comparison with the infinitive see § 185.)
The ing-form as Object
§ 214. The ing-form may be used as a direct object of a verb. It is lexically dependent in this function and found after the fol- lowing verbs: to admit, to avoid, to begin, to cease, to consider, to continue, to delay, to deny, to endure, to enjoy, to escape, to fin- ish, to forget, to give up, to go on, to hate, to intend, to keep, to keep on, to leave off, to like, to love, to mention, to mind (in neg- ative and interrogative sentences), to neglect, to postpone, to pre fer, to propose (= to suggest), to put off, to quit, to recall, to rec- ollect, to regret, to remember, to resent, to resume, to risk, to start, to stop, to suggest, to try and some others.
e.g. English grammar is very difficult and few writers have
avoided making mistakes in it. The rest of us had finished eating, but Cave had cut himself
another slice of cheese.
Roger went on speaking with energy, calculation and warmth. He kept on smiling at her and speaking. He drank his beer and resumed reading his paper. I was in low spirits and even considered going away. David Rubin did not much like being" called Professor.
In addition to the verbs mentioned in the list above, the ing- iorm as object is used after certain modal phrases in the negative form: can't bear, can't face, can't fancy, can't imagine, can't re sist, can't stand and can't help.
e.g. They can't bear being humiliated.
He could not face being talked about.
Later in the day she couldn't resist calling Mrs Spark to find
out the details of the tragedy. He couldn't help asking me: "Isn't there anything else you
can do for Roger?"
Besides, the ing-form is also used after the set phrase to feel like.
e.g. He felt like giving up the whole affair.
I didn't feel like talking to him after what had happened.
The subject of the ing-form in this function is the same as that of the predicate verb.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 186 and 237.)
§ 215. The ing-form may also serve as a direct object of an ad- jective. It is lexically dependent in this case and found only after two adjectives — busy and worth.
e.g. The foreman was busy shouting orders and instructions.
The children were busy doing all the things they had been
told not to do.
He thought my idea was worth trying. It was not a witticism worth repeating.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 187 and 238.)
§ 216.As a prepositional object of a verb, the ing-form is also lexically dependent. It is found after verbs that take a preposition- al object. These verbs may be divided into three groups:
1) verbs followed by one prepositional object,
2) verbs followed by a non-prepositional object and a preposi- tional object,
3) verbs followed by two prepositional objects.
I. The verbs of the first group are closely connected with a preposition whose meaning is often weakened. The following is the list of the most commonly used verbs: to admit to, to agree to, to aim at, to apologize for, to approve of, to believe in, to bother about, to care for, to come of, to come round to, to complain of, to confess to, to consist of/in, to count on, to despair of, to dream of, to end in, to forget about, to feel up to, to get to, to get down to, to go back to, to grumble about, to hesitate about, to insist on, to lead to, to long for, to mean by, to persist in, to plan on, to reckon on, to refrain from, to return to, to result in/from, to save from, to succeed in, to take to, to talk of, to tell of, to think of/about, to threaten with, to worry about and some others.
e.g. What did she mean by boastinglike that?
I didn't think twice about tellingher: we had no secrets. It does not seem impossible that the biologist will in the fu- ture succeed in creatinglife in his laboratory. The readers of a book insist on knowingthe reasons of action. Let's get down to signingthe papers. Towards the end of the summer, they visited me together
several times, and then Norman took to comingalone. I had never been on an aeroplane and worried aboutbeing
strappeddown. I must apologize for having interrupteda conference.
Here also belong certain set phrases, such as: to find excuses for, to have no doubt about, to look forward to, to lose time in, to make a point of, to plead guilty to, to take pride in and some others. e.g. I took pride in makingmy lodgings pretty and comfortable. He was taking risks in speakingin that tone to them. I expect you are looking forward to seeingyour fiance again- Special attention should be given to set phrases with the verb to be which are treated as verb equivalents.
e.g. Would you be up to playingwith us this afternoon?
She was just on the point of goingaway when Betty Vane came in.
"Would you be in favour of investigatingthe matter?" Mon- ty asked.
The subject of the action expressed by the ing-form is generally the person denoted by the subject of the sentence (see the examples above). But occasionally we find an ing-complex (see "Verbs", §66).
e.g. I don't in the least object to your playingpractical jokes on
other people. She complained about the porridge beinglumpy.
The use of an ing-complex seems to be generally required by the verbs to approve of, to disapprove of, to grumble about and some others. (We usually approve of or grumble about some other people's actions — hence the agent of the ing-form is expected to be a person or thing other than the one denoted by the subject of thesentence.)
e.g. He could not approve of Guy's hidinghimself away. We can't grumble about things beingdull, can we?
II. Verbs requiring a non-prepositional and prepositional object are in general less numerous. Besides, not all of them take an ing- form as their prepositional object (e.g. to explain something to somebody, to dictate something to somebody, etc.).
Of the verbs taking a non-prepositional and prepositional object expressed by an ing form, the most commonly occurring are: to ac- cuse somebody of, to amuse somebody with, to ask somebody about, to charge somebody with, to coax somebody into, to give something to, to give something for, to invite somebody into, to keep some body from, to mutter something about, to persuade somebody into, to remind somebody of, to restrict oneself to, to save somebody from, to say something about, to stop somebody from, to suspect somebody of, to talk somebody into/out of, to tell something about and some others.
e.g- I am prepared for anyone to accuse me of beingcowardly.
It had been easy to coax Margaret into invitingthe Morgans to stay with us for a week.
Did she suspect them of trying to cheat her?
I hope you won't let Peg talk you out of joining me?
It is lack of imagination that prevents people from seeing
things from any point of view but their own. Will you be able to keep those fellows from making any more
Of all the prepositions there is one that acquires particular importance in this construction as it may be found with a consid- erable number of verbs and is, consequently, of frequent occur- rence. It is the preposition for. It generally serves to indicate the cause of the action denoted by the predicate verb.
For is found after the following verbs: to blame somebody, to excuse somebody, to forgive somebody, to hate somebody, to like somebody, to love somebody, to pay somebody, to reprimand some body, to reproach somebody, to scold somebody, to thank somebody and some others.
e.g. I thought you had just been blaming me for being neutral. I'm not going to reproach you for interrupting the rehearsal. I was going to thank you for looking after him till I came. The major reprimanded him for being late. He scolded me for not having let him know. The subject of the ing-form in this sentence pattern is the per- son denoted by the direct object, as in She tried to talk him into doing it (see also the examples above).
After verbs of speaking we often find an ing-complex.
e.g. I told them about Gustav's wanting to come with me.
I said something about Jane being in love with him, but he
would not talk about her. I muttered something about its being a pity.
III. The number of verbs requiring two prepositional objects of which the second is an ing-form is limited. The ing-form is also in- troduced by the preposition for, as with some verbs above, e.g. I entered the classroom and apologized to the teacher for be- ing late. I should have been vexed with you for thinking me such a
§ 217. The ing-form as a prepositional object is also found af- ter various kinds of adjectives — adjectives proper, predicative
adjectives and adjectivized participles. The most commonly occur-
ring of them are: absorbed in, (un)accustomed to, afraid of, amused at, angry with, annoyed at, ashamed of, aware of, (in)capable
of, careful about/in, careless of, certain of, clever at, (un)conscious of, content with, delighted at, different from, embarrassed at, ex cited about, far from, fond of, fortunate in, frightened of, furious at, given to, good (better) at, grateful for, happy in/at, interested in, irritated at, keen on, miserable at, nice about, pleased at, proud
of, responsible for, right in, scared at/of, set against, set on, sick of, skilled in/at, slow in, sorry for, successful in/at, sure of, sur- prised at, thankful for, tired of, touched at, upset at, (un)used to, worried about, wrong in, etc.
e.g. If only I were capable of doing that!
We were never very careful about taking precautions.
"You look for trouble, don't you?" "Only because I'm pretty
certain of finding it.
" I was fairly content with letting things go as they were. Somehow I wasn't too interested in trying to get back into
I was tired of doing much the same thing every day. "I'm sorry for giving you so much trouble," she said. I felt that he was excited about showing me his new car. He was unconscious of Anna standing beside him.
For means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 187 and 238.)
§ 218. The ing-form may serve as object of a verb in a special sentence pattern with it as a formal subject. The use of the ing- form in this sentence pattern is found after a very limited number of verbs and set phrases (which are verb equivalents) but it is typical of spoken English.
e.g- He said to his wife: "It doesn't matter much being liked, for
this kind of life."
When it comes down to getting a job with a living wage at- tached to it, he's prepared to put his theories in his pocket.
She was, as her colleagues said, "good on paper", but when it came to speaking in committees she was so apprehensive that she spent sleepless hours the night before. For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see § 166.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 189 and 239.)
§ 219.The ing-form may be used as a direct object of an adjec- tive in a sentence pattern with if as a formal subject. This kind of object is also lexically dependent — it regularly occurs after it is worth.
e.g. It is worth rememberingthat he has once been a boxer. It is worth findingit out.
Sometimes the ing-form is found after a number of other ad- jectives such as amusing, banal, comfortable, difficult, dreary, easy, great, hopeless, lovely, nice, odd, pleasant, strange, tough, useless, wonderful, etc.
e.g. It was difficult getting him to do it.
It won't be easy findingour way back. There's not much moon. It will be rather nice seeinghim again. It was useless arguingwith Jane.
But the ing-form occurs after these adjectives only in spoken English, and such sentences are often emotionally coloured. As a general rule, we find an infinitive here (see "Verbs", § 190).
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see § 166.
§ 220.The ing-form is sometimes found in a sentence pattern with it as a formal object of the verbs to find, to make and to think. The formal it in this case is followed by an adjective.
e.g. He found it worth remindingher of her promise. He thought it very odd my leavingwhen I did.
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denote by the ing-form see § 166.
(For comparison with the infinitive see § 191.)
The ing-form as Subjective Predicative
§ 221.The ing-form as subjective predicative is lexically de- pendent. It is found after a limited number of verbs in the pas- sive. These verbs are: to catch, to find, to hear, to leave, to no- tice, to report, to see, to set, to show, to watch.
e.g. I felt I had been caught boasting.
The baby was found sittingon the floor.
The old woman was heard shriekingin short bursts like a ship in the fog.
When the door closed, Monty and I were left lookingat each other.
About that time a hurricane was reported movingout of the Caribbean in our direction.
Here also belong a few verbs after which the ing-form is intro- duced by as. They are: to accept, to consider, to explain, to guaran- tee, to mention, to regard, to take, to treat, to understand, Here also belong the verbs to speak of and to think of which retain their prepositions in this sentence pattern.
e.g. The Browns did not entertain and were spoken of in the dis- trict as being"poor as church mice".
Janet and I became very friendly, and at school we were con- sidered as goingtogether.
The use of the ing-form as subjective predicative is not of fre- quent occurrence.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 192 and 240.)
The ing-form as Objective Predicative
§ 222.The ing-form as objective predicative is lexically depen- dent — it is used after a number of transitive verbs in the active followed by an object which is expressed by a noun or a pronoun. The following are the most frequently used verbs taking a direct object: to call, to catch, to discover, to feel, to find, to hear, to get, to imagine, to keep, to leave, to (dis)like, to notice, to picture, to see to send, to set, to stop, to watch, to want.
e.g. I felt him lookingat me now and again.
When he arrived he found me reading Tom Jones.
Just as I got to the end of the corridor, I heard my telephone
Ellen had noticed me talking with the landlady. He saw me watching him. One afternoon in August I saw something that surprised me
and set me thinking.
This construction is also found after two verbs taking a prepo- sitional object — to listen to and to look at. e.g. We opened the door for a moment and looked out at the
windy night and listened to the trees groaning. He looked at Jane wiping her tear-wet face. Here also belong a few verbs after which the ing-form is intro- duced by as: to accept, to consider, to explain, to guarantee, to mention, to regard, to speak of, to take, to think of, to treat, to un derstand. e.g. You took his statement as being quite in order.
He has spoken of your relatives as though he would never ac- cept them as being his. We always thought of him as being "promising."
With all the above verbs, the object that precedes the ing-iorm is expressed by a noun in the common case or by a personal pro- noun in the objective case, and serves as subject of the action de- noted by the ing form. But there are a number of other verbs after which the object may be expressed either in the above described way or by a noun in the genitive case or a possessive pronoun. These verbs are: to appreciate, to dread, to excuse, to fancy, to for- get, to forgive, to hate, to have, to imagine, to mind, to miss, to par- don, to prevent, to recall, to remember, to resent, to (mis)understand and also can't bear, can't help and to catch sight of. e.g. Forgive my (me) interrupting you, Mr Passant, but with a school record like yours I'm puzzled why you don't try for a university scholarship?
I appreciate your (you) coming to my defense. Do you recall Bayard's (Bayard) doing that? (For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 193 and 241.)
The ing-form as Adverbial Modifier
§ 223. The ing-form can serve as an adverbial modifier of a verb. In this case it is preceded by a conjunction or a preposition which lend it adverbial meanings, such as time, concession, condi- tion, attending circumstances, manner, cause and some others. The adverbial meaning of the ing-form is determined by the mean- ing of the preceding conjunction or preposition. The ing-form is not lexically dependent here — it may be used after any verb. For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
§224. The ing-form may be preceded by the conjunctions while, when, once, if, as though, as if, though, than, as well as and the correlative conjunctions as...as and not so...as.
While and when lend the ing-form the adverbial meaning of time, emphasizing the idea of simultaneousness of its action with that of the predicate verb. While shows that both actions are tak- ing place at a given moment or period of time (a); when usually serves to express recurrent actions simultaneous with the action of the predicate verb (b).
e.g. a) He continued to speak while walking down the path.
The photograph showed himself, shielding his eyes against
the sun while sitting on a swing.
b) She picked up Butler's heavy spectacles which she em- ployed always when reading and put them on. Often, when boasting of his deceits, he sounded childlike and innocent.
The conjunctions as though and as if serve to show that the person denoted by the subject of the sentence appears to be per- forming the action indicated by the ing-iorm: there is something in the manner or in the behaviour of the person that gives the im- pression that the action is being performed by him/her.
e.g. Lena gave me a very long look indeed as though seeing me
for the first time. Much of the afternoon I looked out of the window, as though
thinking, but not really thinking. He listened as though brooding. She stopped speaking as if waiting for him to speak.
The use of the other conjunctions is infrequent.
e.g. Himself a man of little or no education, thoughpossessing
remarkable shrewdness, he placed little value on what he
called book knowledge.
He always dropped in if passing by their house on a wet night. I've got a comfortable home to take you to, and you'll be your
own mistress, which is much better than beingin service. Mary brought in the coffee and when she had gone he inhaled
the steam of it. It was as good as drinking it. Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern.
The use of the ing-form in this function is found mainly in lit- erary style and even there it is not frequent.
Note. The ing-form may acquire adverbial meaning even when it is not preced- ed by a conjunction. But this use of the ing-form is still less frequent. For example, in the sentences below the ing-form has the following meanings:
cause — Seeing their uneasiness Mrs Norris softened and smiled.
Knowinghe could not go to Alice he tried to telephone her. time — I know we shall break our necks one night walkingacross the field, manner — They walked by the lake holdinghands.
concession — But why did he marry her, feelingas he did about everything? condition — Oh, do go upstairs, Lizzy! You'll only catch a cold, hanging around the passage.
§ 225. The ing-form may be preceded by the prepositions after, before, besides, by, except for, for fear of, for the sake of, from, in, instead of, on, on the verge of, through, without and some others The most frequently used of them is without showing that an ac- tion which may be logically expected to accompany the action of the predicate verb does not take place.
e.g. The bus passed us without stopping.
Ina mutter he thanked her without raisinghis eyes. I watched her for a little while without being seen. Then he left us without sayinggood-bye.
As is seen from the above examples, the ing-formis placed af- ter the predicate verb. Its position at the beginning of the sentence or between the subject and predicate, though possible, is unusual.
e.g. Slowly, without turninghis head, he pulled himself to a half- sitting position.
Roger, without turningto me, said in a curt, flat and even tone, "There may possibly be trouble."
A synonymous construction with not preceding an ing-iorm does not imply the idea that the action is logically expected. Like any other ing-iorm, it simply denotes a second action. Only in this case it is in the negative form (see "Verbs", § 213).
e.g. I returned to the drawing-room, and stood preoccupied, not noticing acquaintances about the room, with my back to the fire.
We had both sat for a long time, not speaking;in the quiet I knew she was not reading.
The ing-form preceded by not is typical of literary style, whereas the ing-form preceded by without is in common use in lit- erary as well as in spoken English.
Another frequently occurring preposition which may precede the ing-form is by. In this case the action denoted by the ing-iorm expresses a means or a method of performing the action of the predicate verb. It may also indicate the manner in which the action of the predicate verb is carried out.
e.g. You begin learning a language by listeningto the new sounds. He greeted me noisily, but I cut him short by giving him the
I don't want to distress her by tellingher that you have be- haved like a cad.
"I have my dignity to think of." "One often preserves that best by puttingit in one's pocket."
This ing-form is generally placed after the predicate verb, though its front position is occasionally possible.
e.g. By keeping quiet, she might save herself a lot of trouble.
The ing-form introduced by instead of is also in common use. It is characterized by a clear-cut meaning, owing to the preposition
itself. Its position with regard to the predicate verb is not fixed.
e.g. Why do you tuck your umbrella under your left arm instead
of carrying it in your hand like anything else? You positively help them instead of hinderingthem.
He bought pictures instead of buying me the things I wanted. I persuaded my uncle that it would be very good for my
lungs if instead of staying at school I spent the following
winter on the Riviera.
The use of the ing-form with other prepositions is less common.
The ing-forms following the prepositions before, after and on express time relations between the action of the predicate verb and that of the ing-form.
Before shows that the action expressed by the ing-form follows that of the predicate verb. It is usually placed in post-position to the predicate verb.
e.g. He waited a long while before answering.
He had given her two pots of geraniums before leaving for
London last week. They were sitting there now before going out to dinner.
After indicates that the action expressed by the ing-form pre- cedes the action expressed by the predicate verb.
e.g. After glancing at his watch he said, in a businesslike tone:
"You've made me a bit late." After staying away eighteen years he can hardly expect us to
be very anxious to see him. But after hesitating a moment or two, Jiggs knocked on the
On expresses the same relations as after. But on emphasizes the idea of an immediate succession of the two actions — the ac- tion of the predicate verb begins at the moment the action of the ing-form is accomplished. It is noteworthy that we find only the ing-forms of terminative verbs here.
e.g. On arriving at the cottage she found it locked.
On getting up in the morning I found a letter on my doorstep Mr Doyle came in as a man at home there, but on seeing the stranger he shrank at once.
As is seen from the above examples, the ing-form, introduced by after and on is usually placed before the predicate verb.
The meaning of the ing-form introduced by in is not so clear- cut. It may be defined as limiting the sphere of application for
the action denoted by the predicate verb or as indicating a process during which the action of the predicate verb is performed.
e.g. I've done something rather foolish in coming here tonight, I regret it.
In defending myself against this lady, I have a right to use
any weapon I can find. I daresay you have noticed that in speaking to you I have
been putting a very strong constraint on myself. The place of the ing-form preceded by in is not fixed. The use of ing-forms introduced by other prepositions is still less frequent. We find various prepositions here.
e.g. It was a lesson he had learned from having seen so many acci- dents.
I found that besides being a philosopher he was an uncommonly good writer.
We talked in whispers for fear of disturbing the Smiths. It was very quiet in the wood except for our feet breaking twigs.
They were political link-men who added to their incomes through leaking secret information to the press.
As for staying with your uncle for a while, I'm convinced you'll enjoy every minute of it.
It should be noted that the use of the ing-form described above is stylistically neutral — it is found in literary as well as in spo- ken English. However, care should be taken to remember that ing- forms preceded by after, before and on are not in common use. Adverbial clauses of time are much more frequent.
Note. Note that in the following sentences we are dealing with set phrases: e.g. He said in passing that money didn't matter much, since his wife was so rich.
They were to do nothing for the time being.
It goes without saying that healthy men are happier than sick men.
(For comparison with the infinitive see § 195-201.)
§226. The subject of the ing-form in the adverbial functions described above is the same person or thing as denoted by the sub- ject of the sentence. But the ing-form may have a subject of its own with which it forms the so-called absolute construction.
e.g. He gave an intimate smile, some of the freshness returning
to his face. His study was a nice room with books liningthe walls.
There are two parallel actions in this sentence pattern — one of them is expressed by the predicate verb, the other by the ing- iorm. Each action has its own subject.
Absolute constructions may be of two kinds: non-prepositional and prepositional, introduced by the preposition with. They are both lexically independent.
The non-prepositional construction and the prepositional con- struction are synonymous.
Absolute constructions, while serving to denote a second ac- tion parallel to that of the predicate verb, acquire at the same time adverbial meanings and thereby stand in specific relations to the main part of the sentence.
The most commonly occurring meaning of the absolute con- struction is to describe the appearance, the behaviour or inner state characterizing the person denoted by the subject of the sen- tence. Non-prepositional (a) as well as prepositional (b) construc- tions serve this purpose. This meaning of the absolute construc- tion may be called descriptive circumstances.
e.g. a) Finally she stood back and looked at him, herface radiant- ly smiling.
"Butit's so ridiculous that we don't know what to do," William told them, his voice risingin indignation.
She kept on running, her heart thumpingfuriously, her
steps quickening inpace with her heartbeats, b) The man was leaning forward in his seat, with his head restingin his hands.
He struggled on, panting for breath, and with his heart beatingwildly.
He went into the house, with a curious sadnesspressing upon him.
Another meaning of the absolute construction is to describe the circumstances attending the action of the predicate verb, serving as its background, as it were. It may also be expressed by non-prepositional (a) and prepositional (b) constructions.
e.g. a) When we entered the sitting-room she was sitting with her sister before an open fire-place, theglow of a lamp with a red-flowered shade warmly illuminatingthe room. Then they were out in the cold night, fresh snow crunch- ingnoisily underfoot.
b) The night was clean, with a newmoon silveringthe trees along the road and an energetic wind tidying awaythe clouds. With a hurricane approaching,we prepared to stand a seige.
Absolute constructions may acquire the adverbial meaning of cause, when the action denoted by the absolute construction indi- cates the cause of the action denoted by the predicate verb. This meaning is also expressed by non-prepositional constructions (a) and prepositional constructions (b).
e.g. a) Deathbeing contrary to their principles, the Forsytes took
precautions against it.
A room lit up on the third storey, someone workinglate, b) I can't write with you standingthere.
By twelve o'clock, with the sun pouringinto the room, the heat became oppressive.
Finally, absolute constructions can serve as some kind of addi- tional explanation of the statement made in the main part of the sentence. In this case the absolute construction acquires more se- mantic independence — it seems to be on a par with the predicate verb. This meaning is mainly expressed by the non-prepositional construction.
e.g. Everyone in the house was busy: Nessie frowningover her les- sons, Mumma deeply engaged in her novel, Grandma sleep- ingin her armchair.
There were two serious accidents in the West Country, one in- volvinga coach and a car.
English words can be classed as variable and invariable, the latter beingmuch more numerous than in the other Euro- pean languages.
Absolute constructions are generally characteristic of literary style where their use is quite extensive. In spoken English we mainly find the prepositional absolute construction. (For comparison with the infinitive see § 202.)
The ing-form as Attribute
§ 227.The ing-form in the function of attribute is found in different constructions.
The ing-form may immediately precede its head-noun. In this case it expresses an action which is performed by the person or thing denoted by the head-noun (i.e. the head-noun is the subject of the action expressed by the ing-iorm). The ing-form is always a single word in this case, not an extended phrase. This attribute is not lexically dependent — it may modify any noun.
e.g. There was nothing to be seen or heard, not even a barkingdog. Passing the Comedy Theatre I happened to look up and saw
the clouds lit by the settingsun.
I reached for a cigarette with trembling hands, and lit it. Singingpeople, arm in arm, filled the streets.
This kind of attribute is not of frequent occurrence in En- glish. However, ing-forms appear to be quite common as at- tributes when they are used metaphorically.
e.g. They delivered their views on the burningquestions of the day. Arthur gave a creakinglaugh.
"Hungry," said Mrs Nenneker, in a trumpetingvoice. Carbury cocked an inquiringeye at him. Hewatched it with despairingincredulity.
It is characteristic of the ing-form in this function to become adjectivized — the ing-form is devoid of the idea of action in this case and its lexical meaning is often changed as compared with the meaning of the corresponding verb, e.g. a charming girl means 'a very nice girl,' an amusing story is 'an interesting, funny story,' a promising writer is 'a talented writer' (For adjectivization see also "Verbs", §172).
e.g. We had a very good view of all the surroundingscenery.
A desolate loneliness settled on me — almost a frightening
loneliness. In her ringingvoice, she turned to the man on her right:
"Reggie, what do you think I ought to do?" They were preoccupied with the comingdebate.
Such adjectivized ing-forms are in common use in English. An- other peculiar feature of the ing-form in this function is its ten-
dency to form, in combination with its head-noun, a set phrase, e.g. the reading public, the presiding magistrate, a racing man, working people, a fighting officer, a leading politician, revolving doors, running water, a booking office, a publishing house, closing time, walking shoes, etc.
§ 228. The ing-form as attribute may closely follow its head- noun. It also expresses an action performed by the person or thing denoted by the head-noun (i.e. the head-noun is the subject of the ing-iorm). But unlike the ing-form in pre-position to the noun, it I is a more or less extended group, not a single word. This kind of attribute is not lexically dependent — it may modify any noun. Yet its use is structurally dependent when it serves to modify a noun after there is (are).
e.g. There are some people comingin here now. There is a lot of work waitingfor me to do. "Aren't you coming to the music room?" "Not if there is any
music going on." "There was a man hurryingdown the street in front of me.
We find the structurally dependent use of the ing-form in coming on (in, up) when it modifies a noun which is an object of the verb to have (to have got).
e.g. I saw at once he had an attack of malaria coming on.
Sam thinks that he ought to return home by the next boat. He
has got his exams coming on. You've got too many things coming upto get involved in such
This kind of attribute is used in literary as well as in spoken English.
Note. It is noteworthy that running in post-position to a plural noun is used in the meaning of 'one after another', 'in succession'.
e.g. He says he has received three telegrams runningfrom them.
§ 229.In all other instances the use of the ing-form as at- tribute in post-position is free. It is a loose attribute in this case and, hence, may be separated from its head-noun by a pause. In all other respects this attribute is similar to the structurally depen-
dent one: the head-noun is also the subject of the ing-form and the ing-form is generally part of a more or less extended group.
This kind of attribute is neither lexically nor structurally de- pendent — it can modify any noun and the noun can have differ ent syntactic functions in the sentence.
e.g. I could hear the voices of the kids waitingfor the school bell
They stumbled on the snow turningto icy water. Then I picked up a booklet depictingvarious scenes of Navy life.
The loose character of the ing-form in this function is always marked off by intonation, and it may also sometimes be indicated by the use of a comma.
e.g. The wardrobe was empty, except for one dress, swingingon a hanger.
The door was opened by one of the man-servants, bearingan envelope, addressed to me in Collingwood's bold hand.
This loose attribute is frequently used in literary style but is not typical of spoken English.
§ 230. The ing-form in the function of attribute may be pre- ceded by a preposition. In this case it always follows its head- noun and is generally part of an extended phrase. The ing-form is lexically dependent here.
In most cases the ing form is preceded by the preposition of and the attribute acquires appositive meaning, i.e. serves to ex- plain the meaning of its head-noun. That is why it can modify only certain abstract nouns that admit of and sometimes even require an explanation of their meaning. The number of nouns thus used is quite considerable. The most commonly occurring of them are: action, (dis)advantage, adventure, aim, appearance, art, attitude, business, capacity, case, chance, charge, choice, (dis)comfort, com plication, conception, consequence, consideration, consolation, (in)convenience, cost, custom, danger, delight, difficulty, disap pointment, disgrace, effect, emotion, enterprise, evidence, expendi ture, expense, experience, fact, fascination, favour, fear, feeling- gesture, gift, grief, guilt, habit, honour, hope, horror, humiliation.
e.g. He said that he had no chance of learningthe truth. I don't want her to make a habit of beinglate. I have no hope of discussing it, Mr Birling. There was no possibility of takinga walk that day. I had the privilege of meetingyour mother and dad some
weeks ago. The prospect of travellingwith two elderly very dull people
made me regret my hasty decision yesterday. He admired his way of doingthings very much. After a while I began to have a feeling of being watched. Miss Moss gave no sign of having heardhis words. She experienced an unreasonable feeling of having been cheated. Her parents are terribly upset at the thought of her givingev- idence.
The ing-form may also be preceded by the prepositions for, in, at, about and to. But they are by far less common than of. These prepositions are found after a limited number of nouns which reg- ularly require their use:
for — cause, excuse, genius, gift, grounds, motive, passion,
pretext, reason, reputation, talent;
in — advantage, belief, believer, difficulty, experience, harm, hesitation, ingenuity, meaning, object, participation, pleasure, point, purpose, sense, skill, use;
at — amazement, astonishment, attempt, delight, dismay, ir- ritation, pleasure, satisfaction, shyness, surprise; about — fantasy, obsession, scruples; to — objection, preparation.
e.g. She had a real passion for reading detective stories. Did he have any special reason for doing that? There was no point in going further. I saw no harm in asking a few questions. He felt irritation at being disturbed. I was making up my mind to another attempt at persuading
him to do it. After three months I got an obsession about having a place of
my own. Certainly I should have no objection to working with the man.
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
This ing-form is not restricted to any particular style and is widely used in English.
(For comparison with the infinitive see §§ 203-204, 242.)
§ 231. The ing-form may be used as an attribute in a sentence pattern with it as a formal subject. The ing-form is lexically de- pendent here — it is regularly used only after it is no good and it is no use with appositive meaning.
e.g. It's no use lamenting over things that are past and done with. "It's no use going on like this," he said. It's no good trying to fool yourself about love. It's no good my saying I'm sorry for what I've done. That
would be hypocritical. If she had made up her mind to anything it was no good our
Note. We also find a synonymous construction there is no use followed by an
e.g. There was no use pretending that they were different from the others. There was no use complaining.
This construction is less common than the one with the formal if, still less common is the pattern in which the ing-form is preceded by the preposition in.
e.g. You can see now there's no use in tryingto make him understand.
Sometimes the ing-form occurs after a number of other nouns which are, as a rule, semantically pale, such as thing, business, chance, idea, problem and some others. The nouns are usually modified by an adjective which is semantically more important than the noun.
e.g. In this filthy weather it's the hardest thing in the world get- ting things dry.
I'd like to give it to him myself. It's not the same thing send- ing it in a letter.
It's been a great chance my meeting you like this.
It'll be such a surprise to her seeing you.
It should be mentioned, however, that the ing-form is not common after these nouns. We normally find an infinitive here (see "Verbs", § 206). The use of this ing-form is mainly restricted to spoken English.
For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted I by the ing-form see "Verbs", § 166.
§ 232. The ing-form may also be used as an attribute in a sen- tence pattern with it as a formal object of the verbs to find, to think and to make. The formal it, in its turn, is followed by a noun. It is to this noun that the ing-form serves as an attribute.
e.g. Won't you find it rather a bore having me at home for so long?
It should be noted that this construction is of rare occurrence. (For comparison with the infinitive see § 207.)
The ing-form as Parenthesis
§ 233. The ing-form as parenthesis tends to become a set phrase.
We mainly find here the verbs to talk and to speak. The ing-form as parenthesis serves to denote some sort of reservation on the part of the speaker or else it is used as an introductory phrase, meaning
'incidentally' (compare with the Russian кстати).
e.g. Secrets, generally speaking, are not very well kept nowadays, with reporters and television cameras all around us.
Roughly speaking, it might have been said that youth and hope in women touched him.
Talking about crime, I can lend you rather a good book, as you are interested in the subject.
Of course, strictly speaking, the excuse was not necessary.
The ing form as parenthesis is in most cases placed at the head of the sentence and, in writing, marked off by a comma.
The Infinitive and the ing-form Compared
§ 234. The infinitive and the ing-form sometimes have similar functions in the sentence and it is therefore necessary to define the spheres of their application.
The distinction between the two verbals partly lies in their dif- ferent tense and aspect characteristics. The infinitive tends to ex- press a single action following that of the predicate verb, while the ing-form generally serves to denote permanent actions, simul- taneous with that of the predicate verb. (These characteristics re- fer to the simple forms of the infinitive and the ing-form. Their Perfect forms are infrequent and do not play an important part in distinguishing between the two verbals). But it should be noted that we are dealing here only with tendencies, not with hard and fast rules. For that reason the difference between the infinitive and the ing-form sometimes becomes obliterated.
In most cases, however, the differentiation between the two verbals rests on linguistic tradition which finds its expression in the following:
1) the infinitive and the ing-form have a different frequency of occurrence in certain functions (and the preference of one form to the other cannot be accounted for by any tangible reasons, grammatical or semantic);
2) the infinitive and the ing-form are in certain functions lexi- cally dependent, which means that their choice is determined by their head-word, but not by any grammatical properties inherent in them;
3) the infinitive and the ing-form are sometimes structurally dependent, i.e. their use is determined by definite sentence patterns;
4) the infinitive and the ing-form may become part of a set phrase.
Besides, in some of the functions there are a few additional factors which affect the choice between the two verbals. The in- finitive, for instance, may acquire modal meaning which is never expressed by the ing-form. The ing-form, in its turn, when preced- ed by prepositions (or conjunctions), can express different mean- ings not typical of the infinitive. In certain functions the infini- tive of terminative verbs serves to express accomplished actions, while the ing form shows the action in its progress.