§ 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
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
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-
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
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
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-
I found that besides being a philosopher he was an uncommonly
We talked in whispers for fear of disturbing the Smiths.
It was very quiet in the wood except for our feet breaking
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-
"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
He went into the house, with a curious sadnesspressing
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-
b) The night was clean, with a newmoon silveringthe trees
along the road and an energetic wind tidying awaythe
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
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-
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.)