Humanities › English Present Progressive vs. Present Participle Verb Forms Share Flipboard Email Print Phil Fisk/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated January 10, 2020 Though both end in -ing, the present participle form of a verb isn't the same as the present progressive aspect. These terms can be a little confusing, but the verb forms themselves should be familiar: we use them all the time in speaking and writing. What They Are The present participle is a verb form (made by adding -ing to the base) that can do the job of an adjective: "Carl signed up for the singing competition." But wait, as the infomercials say: there's more that it can do! The present progressive aspect is a verb construction made up of a present form of the verb "to be" plus... a present participle: "Carl is singing his heart out." The progressive usually conveys a sense of ongoing action (and is sometimes called the present continuous). What They Do A present participle by itself can't serve as the main verb of a sentence. For instance, "Sadie, tapping her cane to the music" is incomplete. In this example, "tapping" begins a present participial phrase that tells us something about the noun "Sadie." One way to make this word group into a sentence is by adding a subject (I) and a predicate (remember): "I remember Sadie, tapping her cane to the music." But there's another way to turn this fragment into a complete sentence. A verb in the present progressive aspect may itself serve as the predicate of a sentence: "Sadie is tapping her cane to the music." As we've seen, the present progressive is used for continuing activities; that is, for actions taking place at the moment of speaking and for actions that go on for a short period of time. A Quick Review We could easily have a sentence that contains both a present participial phrase ("tapping her cane to the music") and a main verb in the present progressive ("is singing"): Tapping her cane to the music, Sadie is singing loudly and out of key. In this sentence, tapping is a present participle (unaccompanied by a form of the verb "to be") while is singing (a form of the verb "to be" plus a present participle) serves as the main verb in the present progressive aspect. A Little Practice For each of the sentences below, decide if the -ing word is simply a present participle serving as an adjective or part of a present progressive construction. You'll find the answers at the end of the exercise. The clown is crying. The children laugh at the crying clown. A flying squirrel landed on the porch rail. Stray dogs are barking tonight, and the Rowland boy is lighting firecrackers. Our neighbors' barking dog keeps us awake at night. The Hendersons are moving to the mountains of Washington state. "Happiness," Kinky said, "is a moving target: we're not happy until you're not happy." Answers present progressive (is crying) present participle (crying clown) present participle (flying squirrel) present progressive (are barking and is lighting) present participle (barking dog) present progressive (are moving) present participle (moving target) Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Nordquist, Richard. "Present Progressive vs. Present Participle Verb Forms." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/present-participles-vs-present-progressives-1689701. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Present Progressive vs. Present Participle Verb Forms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/present-participles-vs-present-progressives-1689701 Nordquist, Richard. "Present Progressive vs. Present Participle Verb Forms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/present-participles-vs-present-progressives-1689701 (accessed May 17, 2021). copy citation Watch Now: What Is a Predicate?