Same Form, but Different Functions: Various Meanings of Verb+ing and Verb+ed

Smoking is harmful.

She is smoking now.

Choosing correct verb forms can be challenging, especially because depending on the context, the same form can have more than one function. For example, the two sentences above contain the identical form smoking, but grammatically this form functions differently since it appears in different parts of the sentences. It is important to be aware of various functions of verb+ing and verb+ed to know what grammatical rule to apply in a particular sentence. This handout outlines various functions of verb+ing and verb+ed and points out to the resources that describe a particular function in detail.


Two main grammatical categories related to verb+ing are gerund and present participle. The main distinction between the two is that a gerund always functions as a noun, while a present participle functions as a verb or an adjective.







As a noun

Reading is important.

He avoids drinking coffee.

If the -ing form is a gerund, it should answer the question “what?”.

What is important? – Reading

What does he avoid? – Drinking coffee

Present Participle



To indicate the progressive aspect

(in 6 tenses)

I am going

I was going

I will be going

I have been going

I had been going

I will have been going

Present Progressive

Past Progressive

Future Progressive

Present Perfect Progressive

Past Perfect Progressive

Future Perfect Progressive

As an adjective

We saw an interesting show.


The show was interesting.

If the -ing form functions as an adjective, it should describe some characteristics of a noun.

As a part of a reduced relative clause

Students living abroad receive valuable experience.

Full form:

Students who live abroad receive valuable experience.

As a part of a reduced adverb clause

(While) walking to class, he met his old friend.

Full form:

While he was walking to class, he met his old friend.


Before examining the functions of verb+ed, it is important to revise the principal forms of a verb. The table below is also helpful because it shows the distinction between regular and irregular verbs.


Base (Infinitive)


2nd form

Past Participle

3rd form

Regular verbs

(verbs that take -ed in the past and past participle forms)







Irregular verbs

(verbs that take a variety of forms and suffixes)








As you can see, only regular verbs take the -ed ending in the past and past participle forms. Since the purpose of this handout is to outline the functions of verb+ed, the table below focuses on the regular verbs only. It is important to note, however, that irregular verbs have the same functions as the regular verbs.







As the past simple tense

I cooked.

The 2nd form of the verb.

Past Participle



To indicate the perfect aspect (in 3 tenses)

I have graded

I had graded

I will have graded

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

Future Perfect

As an adjective

He is proud of the finished product.


The product is finished.

If the -ed form functions as an adjective, it should describe some characteristics of a noun.

As a part of a reduced relative cause

The students selected for the contest were happy.

Full form:

The students who were selected for the contest were happy.

As a part of passive voice

This process is called conduction.

Passive formation:

be (in any form) + Past Participle


Identify the functions of the underlined verb-ing and verb-ed forms below.


People's beliefs about their own life-expectancy have not been extensively studied mainly due to the lack of data. Very few people actually have consistent beliefs about their own chances of survival at any time, and even if they do, measuring them in a meaningful and convincing way is difficult.

The life-cycle hypothesis makes a simple prediction about the relationship between a person's perceived risk of death and their consumption: those thinking they are less likely to die will have less consumption growth over time. Simply put, people expecting to live a long time will conserve resources early in life in order to have enough later. This means earlier consumption will be lower for those thinking that their chances of survival were worse. In this way, a higher expected chance of survival should have the same effect as a higher interest rate or a lower degree of impatience.

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) has elicited subjective life-expectation data from its respondents since the study was incepted in 1992 (12 waves of the HRS have been completed 1992-2002, every two years). The following question was asked: What is the percent chance that you will live to be 75 or more?

The HRS, however, did not elicit consumption data from respondents. Instead, it provided measurements of assets, income, and capital gains. These can be used to deduct a consumption level for the time periods between survey interviews. This process leads to a large amount of measurement error, though, as the assets, income, and capital gains are all measured with non-trivial measurement error to begin with.

Practice exercise adapted from Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers. (2009). Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan.       

Extra resources

To learn more about some of the verb forms outlined in this handout, please see the following Writing Center handouts:

Active and Passive Voice

Choosing Between Infinitive and Gerund: “To do” or “doing”?

Using Reduced Relative Clauses to Write Concisely

Verb Tenses


Last updated 11/28/2017