John Larrysson's Column: -ING Endings

NG is one of the English sounds that do not have a letter. In my last article ( I showed how it is usually found at the end of a word. This time I will explore the suffix (word ending) -ing. The -ing suffix marks verbs (action words), so that they can be used as nouns (things) or adjectives (describing words). It is also used to associate a place with an old tribe. The -ing ending is actually three different Old English suffixes, now spelled the same way.

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The first form of -ing is attached to verbs to mean their (noun) action, result, material and so on.



She is good at swimming.


That is an ugly painting.

He used Smarties comics as a wrapping for the gift.


The origin is the Old English suffix -ing (also sometimes spelled -ung.)

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The second -ing suffix allows verbs to be used as adjectives.



You will need amazing luck.


They are charming girls.

Do not go into a burning forest.


The Old English origin is the (present participle) now-obsolete suffix -ende. French speaking writers during the Middle English period confused the -ende suffix with the -ing suffix. During that period French-speaking invaders ruled England and were most of the literate people. The present participle of a verb ends in -ing in modern English and is used in continuous tenses (present continuous, past continuous etc)

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Note: When making verbs into adjectives, the -ing ending (present participle) shows a cause, the past participle (usually ending -ed) shows an effect e.g. The rule is confusing; the students are confused.


The third Old English -ing suffix was used to show a personal, tribal or family origin. It is found today in English place names such as Abingdon, Bickington and Birmingham. The original meaning of these place names is AEbba's hill, Britric's farm, Beorma's village.

There are several different -ing word endings all spelled the same way. It can be added to a verb, such as swim, to use it as a noun. It can be used to make adjectives, such as burning, out of nouns or verbs. It is used in some place names to show historic origin.


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Other Phonics Articles:


PH in Suffixes and Prefixes

The F sound: FF & GH

The F Sound

The Oi/Oy Sound

Silent D Is Not Always Silent




Stranger Pronunciations of C


The Letter C is Useless

The letter B

The aw-sound

The Schwa Sound

The Magic-e

The Letter A a


by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


NOTE:Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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